Thursday, May 29, 2014

Food for our cetaceans

This morning a mystery whale tested our patience. A few times we saw a blow of this whale, but never close enough to identify the species. The whale was in an area where one of our vigias had spotted a large male sperm whale in the previous two days, so we thought that is what it may have been. Sperm whales usually dive about 45 minutes on average, so we waited in the area hoping that the whale would reappear. We also used our hydrophone (underwater microphone) aboard our catamaran to check if we could hear the echolocation clicks that sperm whales emit while they are diving. Unfortunately we did not detect any whale noises and never saw the whale again. What we did see during the morning tour was a nice group of common dolphins. It was a group of about 20 individuals, including some newborn calves and slightly older juveniles. The whole group was travelling together, often leaping out of the waves in unison. 

Our zodiac boat also came across a large swarm of krill at the surface. Krill are small shrimp-like animals that baleen whales like blue whales, fin whales and sei whales feed on (and they do here in the Azores during the spring time when they migrate past here). We could see that this is what the record number of fin whales have been feeding on here recently. We collected a small sample of the krill that will be used to add to the educational aspect of our tours.

In the afternoon we had an incredible swimming tour with common dolphins very close to shore, just outside of Ponta Delgada. It was a group of about 80 dolphins and they were feeding on a school of mackerel. The dolphins were feeding together with Cory's shearwaters and yellow-legged gulls. It was a feeding frenzy and our swimmers had the luck of witnessing it all beneath the surface (dolphins, fish and birds all together). Our swimmers were surrounded by the dolphins as they were working the fish into a tight ball at the surface and they could actually see the birds diving down and stealing the fish from the dolphins.

Our whale watchers in the afternoon went to the eastern part of the island, in order to observe a group of fin whales the lookout had spotted before. When we arrived to the area we found 3 fin whales: 2 adults and 1 juvenile, apparently feeding. One of the whales literally surfaced  2 meters from our boat, allowing us to have an unforgettable view of its body and fluke size. Afterwards we decided to drive around the islet of Vila Franca do Campo to have a closer look, and later we enjoyed the company of a big group of playful common dolphins.

Photos from the morning:

Common dolphins leaping out of the waves

Common dolphins

Our captain Cocas and crew Leon trying the hydrophone

Our captain with the hydrophone in the water

Aboard Cetus today

A sample of krill (baleen whale food) we collected from our zodiac boat in the morning

Each krill is no more than 2 cm long. A blue whale can eat up to 4 tons of krill per day!

Photos from the afternoon:

 Cory´s shearwaters

 common dolphin

 Cory´s Shearwaters

 Gull and Cory´s Shearwaters

 Cory´s Shearwater

 Swiming with dolphins, cory´s shearwaters, gulls and mackerel

Swiming with dolphins, cory´s shearwaters, gulls and marckerel

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