Saturday, April 19, 2014

A surprise from blue whales, fin whales and a appearance of our resident sperm whales

We had tours both in the morning and afternoon today. Shortly after leaving the marina in Ponta Delgada one of our marine biologists spotted a large blow from a 'mystery whale' we saw the blow several more times and traveled faster to investigate the area. To our delight the blow was that of a blue whale - the largest animal in the world! We watched the whale surface several times admiring the sheer size and grace that this animal possesses, until it was time to move on and leave the area. The blue whale is a migratory species arriving in the waters of the Azores during the months of March to early June. They are traveling from warmer waters in the south where they have spent the winter reproducing and giving birth. These warm waters offer very little nutrition so this forces the whales to migrate north to the colder waters around Norway, Greenland and Iceland.

Continuing the tour our lookout spotted a group of sperm whales, the only resident species of whale in the Azores. We mainly observe females and their calves here. These whales live in large family groups of about 11 individuals. Male sperm whales are more solitary, they migrate from the colder waters in around Norway and Svalbard, only arriving in the Azores in the summer to mate with females. Males are much larger than females, reaching a maximum length of 20 meters. The sperm whales we watched today were displaying a very common behavior called 'logging'. Between dives sperm whales have to replenish the oxygen stored in their muscles and blood by returning to the surface for more oxygen. The whales remain at the surface of the water, resembling logs, and once they have enough oxygen in their blood and muscles they can dive down to great depths to catch deep water squid.

We had blows everywhere, indicating that there were many whales in the area. The afternoon continued in much the same way. Our lookout spotted the blows of several fin whales and blue whales in a relatively small area. During the afternoon tour we encountered a fin whale and a blue whale. During both tours we also enjoyed the company of some common dolphins. It was truly a very exciting day at sea!

Photos from today:

Blue whale (from the morning)

Two sperm whales

Common dolphin

Fin whale (from the afternoon)

Fin whale (from the afternoon)

Blue whale (from the afternoon)

Blue whale (from the afternoon)

The mystery bird from the tour on the 19th has been identified as a sooty shearwater (Puffinus griseus)

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