Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Déjà vu

Today, like yesterday, only dolphins were spotted on our tours. In both the morning and afternoon we encountered common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. We went to different areas but that is all we saw. Our vigia (onshore lookout) on the western point of the island spotted a whale but it was too far for us. Maybe tomorrow we will have something bigger closer to shore...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Dolphins are welcome on all our tours

Today we just went out during the afternoon. The weather was a little sad and grey. The wind was blowing from the east and the sea was wavy. But it wasn't a problem because we were able to go to the west of the island where we were more protected. We just had a bit of strong wind while we were passing Santa Clara, but the rest was all good and we were rewarded with a nice group of common dolphins south of Relva and two groups of bottlenose dolphins near Ferraria.
Let´s hope the wind calms down overnight!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Blue whales, fin whales and dolphins in São Miguel, Azores

Blue whale raising its tail to start a dive

Blue whale coming up to breathe

Today we had a fantastic tour at sea. In the morning our vigia (onshore lookout) spotted two blue whales south of Água de Pau. This is an area where we have been seeing more blue whales in the past few days. The whales we saw today were very large ones, both around 23 meters in length! Just when we thought we had seen it all we hear there were also fin whales about one mile closer to the coastline. Not many people are lucky enough to say they have seen the largest and second largest animals in the world! As usual we also encountered a large group of common dolphins to give make every body extra happy with their tour.

Our afternoon tour began with common dolphins, just sough of Lagoa. The blue whales were just a bit further in the area of  Água de Pau. A few minutes after we arrived to the area we saw a magnificent and unmistakable blow of a blue whale. The whales were a beautiful bright blue colour when viewed through the water, just like the colour of a tropical ocean. On our way back to the marina we found a pod of young bottlenose dolphins to add another species to today's list. We returned to Ponta Delgada with a nice warm sun, just in time for a cold drink.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Unstable weather conditions this April

This year we have had some very unstable weather conditions in April. We have experiences a lot of rain, wind and fog, making it very difficult to spot the whales that must be out there this time of the year. We did have a few lucky days in which it was possible to encounter sperm whales (the 22nd and 23rd of April). Today was another one of those lucky days with a bright sun and good visibility perfect for whale watching. In the morning we saw sperm whales south of Água de Pau. In this area we also encountered bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins and sei whales. A great tour with two whale species and two dolphin species!
For the afternoon trip we knew in advance that we had sperm whales to see, more or less the same area and. The whales were actually closer to land than in the morning, giving us the perfect opportunity to observe them with São Miguel island as a backdrop. This afternoon we also encountered a large group of bottlenose dolphins and two flying fish.

Sperm whale resting at the surface

Sei whale

Sperm whale diving

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Watching dolphins feeding

At last we went out again today. We had two tours with good sea conditions but poor visibility, making it tricky to spot animals. Luckily for us there was a group of common dolphins close to shore between Lagoa and Água de Pau. In the afternoon we saw this group of dolphins feeding at the surface. It was really interesting to observe the dolphins, watching the way that they were working together to surround a ball of fish. It would have been amazing to swim with them to see exactly what was going on beneath the surface..

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bad weather

Today the weather was bad with cold wind, waves and poor visibility. The result...well dolphins! We encountered a very large group of common dolphins south of Água de Pau. The dolphins were very interested in our boats, so it could have been worse. Hopefully the weather will improve soon for our next tours.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Blue whales sighted in São Miguel

Today we only had a tour in the morning because the wind was increasing througout the day. We went to an area near Ponta Garça, where our vigia (onshore lookout) had spotted some dolphins. But before we reached the area another one of our vigias located in Água de Pau saw a blow and told us to change direction. It didn't take us long to see the first impressive blow which was the unmistakable blow of a large blue whale. Everybody was amazed by the huge powerful body and the beautiful bright blue colour of the whale as it was travelling just beneath the surface.  and  and after a moment we had the chance to see a nice blue whale. About 10 minutes later a second blue whale surfaced and this one showed us its massive tail when it went down on its next dive. It is a rare and beautiful thing to see the tail of a blue whale, the largest animal in the world! Before we made it back to the marina the bad weather arrived, making everybody very wet...but still happy with their tour.

Friday, April 11, 2008

More encounters with false killer whales, sperm whales and dolphins

After a few days of bad weather (winds around 100 km/h), the last two days it was finally calmed down enough for us to go out again. Yesterday morning we encountered a very large group of bottlenose dolphins south of Água de Pau. The afternoon was spent with sperm whales, just south of Água d'Alto. It was a family of about 10 whales that we have seen before. One of the whales was an impressive large male. We also saw the regular common dolphins as well as a pod of Risso's dolphins.

Today the sea was even calmer and the sun came out to make the day even more pleasant. In the morning we went to the east where we encountered a sei whale, a fast group of striped dolphins and some friendly common dolphins. In the afternoon we decided to go to the west where we encountered a nice group of  bottlenose dolphins followed by a large group of false killer whales. To summarise, we encountered 7 different species in these last days!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

More false killer whales

False killer whales

Yesterday was the day of the false killer whales.
In the morning the weather was nice and we went to eastern part of the island where our vigia (onshore lookout) had spotted a lot of dolphins: common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and Risso's dolphins. We also received news that the vigia had spotted a group of animals that seemed to be false killer whales. First we observed the common and bottlenose dolphins, then we went further to confirm that it was in fact false killer whales that our vigia had spotted. It was a group of more than 40 individuals, travelling very fast to the west. We had the chance of observing big males as well as females that were very confident with their calves (babies) around the boats. After this incredible encounter we still had time for a quick look at the Risso's dolphins. It was a fantastic morning with four cetacean species!

In the afternoon the weather was not so good, but we headed wet hopping that we could encounter whales again. Luck was on our side as we encountered the false killer whales again, just south of Relva. We also resighted the bottlenose dolphins, so it turned out to be a very good tour, especially considering the deteriorating weather conditions.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April begins with an elusive sperm whale

The morning there was some strong wind blowing from the southeast so the sea was a bit rough, but the vigia (onshore lookout) informed us it was ok to go to sea and there were animals out there for us to see. On the way to the east side of the island, near Lagoa, we found a group of friendly common dolphins. We stayed with them for a while then continued to the area of Ponta Garça where the vigia had spotted a group of sperm whales. Before we reached the area we came across a group of bottlenose dolphins in the area of Caloura. Unfortunately by the time we arrived to the area of the whales (Ribeira Quente) the group had already taken off. A few people on one boat were lucky to see two blows and the body of a big sperm whale, but after its short appearance the whale was not seen again. We did encounter a group of at least 15 Risso's dolphins in the area, so not all was lost.

March 2008 sighting statistics

This year in March we observed 11 different cetacean species. In the graph above you can see the frequency of tours in which each tour was sighted. Below is a list of the species in ordered from most encountered to least encountered:

A perfect end to March!

The last day of March was nice and sunny with a beautiful sea and a lot of animals.
In the morning we went to the east side. Our first stop was to observe some bottlenose dolphins, then we set off again to try to see some whales. Before we reached the area of the whales we made another stop to watch some Sowerby's beaked whales. There were two whales in the area, although we just saw one of them, a large adult. In the end we did not see the sperm whales that were around today, but we did have two more encounters, one with a turtle and the other with common dolphins near Ponta Garça.

In the afternoon our vigia (onshore lookout) informed us that we had sperm whales, pilot whales, beaked whales and dolphins to see. Before our cetacean encounters we spotted a young sunfish (Mola mola). Next we saw the bottlenose dolphins, a large male sperm whale (more than 15 m in length) and a large group of at least 25 to 30 pilot whales. Everybody got the chance to see all the different species spotted by our vigia. On our way back to Ponta Delgada we saw the bottlenose dolphins again, making a perfect end to our tour and the month of March.

One of the pilot whales seen this afternoon
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