Friday, April 11, 2014

Thar they blow

If you ever needed bigger proof that the baleen season is well underway in São Miguel then the last two days certainly show it! On our last two tours we have sighted the world's 3 largest animals. Yesterday an incredible encounter with a blue whale, only to be matched today with both fin whales and sei whales. All these species are migratory and visit the Azores during spring until early summer. Travelling from warmer waters in the south they are very hungry due to months of fasting and once they arrive in the temperate rich nutritional waters of the Azores they gorge themselves on krill and small fish such as sardines and mackerel.

Today we observed typical feeding behaviour from fin whales. Diving frequently, averaging around 10 minutes, every time returning to the surface to breathe. Another key indication that the whales are feeding here was the large red patches floating behind the animal, which we identified as whale poo. The whales soon became accustomed to the boats and their natural curiosity drew them in closer, providing our clients with spectacular viewing opportunities.

Our lookout also spotted another blow in a different area, a small whale species that once we arrived we identified them as sei whales. This is the 3rd largest animal in the world and is also a migratory species. There were two whales travelling together, each surfacing at different intervals.

During the past two days our lookout also spotted sperm whales further out in deeper water. However, this time our focus was on the baleen whales rather that the sperm whales which stay here year-round.

Travelling back towards the coastline we also came  across a small pod of common dolphins close to Ponta Delgada Airport. The group was dispersed and small, typical of the spring compared to the summer where these pods can number in several hundreds and on some occasions even thousands

Three fin whales surfacing in front of our catamaran Cetus

Fin whale - one of 3 that we saw travelling together this morning

Fin whale poo - a good sign this individual has been feeding recently!

Two Fin whales travelling together 

 Head of a Sei whale as it comes up to breathe

Sei whale - the third largest animal in the world

Two fin whale blows in the front of our catamaran Cetus

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