Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sperm whales return to São Miguel, Azores

This morning we encountered the first sperm whales of the year off the coast of São Miguel island in the Azores. Sperm whales are resident in the Azores, so we can see them here all seasons of the year. However, they have been elusive during recent tours, so today was the first time in a while that we encountered them.  Our vigias (coastal lookouts) did a great job of spotting the sperm whales out in deep water where they were going on deep dives to hunt squid. It took a bit of patient waiting before we had a glimpse of our first whale in the group, but after a while our clients and crew were surprised to see a sperm whale breaching twice out on the horizon. In this area we encountered two sperm whales who dived together and left a chunk of squid at the surface, great evidence that they had been feeding! After just a bit more waiting we encountered an adult female sperm whale who showed us a beautiful tail. It was difficult to match the tail to our catalogue because it had two large pieces removed from the fluke that were new and surrounded by tooth rakes (most likely from an orca/killer whale). However our dorsal photo showed that the whale is number 18 in our catalogue, a whale also known as "Stripes" because of the white stripes on the left of her dorsal fin. 

Just when we though that was it for our whale sightings we came across one more just when we were leaving the whale area. 

As well as the sperm whales we encountered a large group of bottlenose dolphins spread out across a very large area, and for the bird lovers we also managed to spot a great skua flying near our boat.

Our first sperm whale encounter with a whale called "Stripes"

Stripes in our catalogue - notice the absence of marks on the fluke and the white stripes on the dorsal

The last sperm whale of the morning

A chunk of squid that the sperm whales left at the surface

Bottlenose dolphins - not so easy to photograph today!

Great skua

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