Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sperm whales, sei whales and dolphins!

Today the island was hidden under fog. We also had a bit of rain, we couldn't see anything. Not ideal conditions to start our adventures because we rely on vigias (onshore lookouts) to find the animals by sight. But we decided to take a chance and we went south, just off the coast of Ponta Delgada. A few minutes into our tour we found a group of common dolphins. After some time with the dolphins and decided to go more to the south where there was not fog. By now the vigias were able to see and within no time we some blows were spotted. There were two sei whales and very close by there were also some bottlenose dolphins! So despite the poor weather conditions to begin with we ended up with a very good tour and everybody was happy with their cetacean sightings.

After lunch it was sunnny so we headed out again. This time we had something different to see. There was a group of sperm whales to the south so we went straight to the area. As well as the sperm whales we had some extra encounters with the sei whales and common dolphins. In the end it was a good day with four different species.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A nice day with sperm whales and dolphins

Today our morning tour was fantastic! We encountered sperm whales which appeared to be fearless and very kind. We had the opportunity to see the tails of two different individuals, both times really close to our boats! After this encounter we saw a large group of bottlenose dolphins, another one of our resident species. They were socialising and approaching our boat, allowing us to get really good pictures and films. In the afternoon it was more difficult to find the animals. We found the dolphins again, but this time they were not so interested in us. First we saw common dolphins and then we encountered the group of bottlenose dolphins that were also seen in the morning. It was a wonderful sunny afternoon so the good weather helped everybody to enjoy their time at sea. 

Monday, May 26, 2008

The last days were sunny days

Sunday 25th May:
Only dolphins…
Yesterday, ours best friends were the dolphins! We encountered common dolphins during our morning tour and bottlenose dolphins in the afternoon.

Monday 26th May:
The return of the whales!
This morning our resident sperm whales returned to the area. A group of sperm whales decided to show up, satisfying our clients on this tour. In the afternoon we were not as lucky as the wind picked up and the whales were not resighted. What we did see in the afternoon was a  really nice and large group of common dolphins.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Two more days of whale watching

Friday 23rd May:
As the sky at night, the ocean had many stars...our resident sperm whales! During the morning trip, we saw different species, mainly sperm whales and dolphins. In the afternoon, the sun cleared away almost all the clouds, giving us a wonderful opportunity to see a large group group socializing and resting near ours boats. We simply observed their natural behaviour. 

Saturday 24th May:
Today, in comparison with yesterday it was very cloudy day and the sun did not make much of an appearance. ...only the common dolphins appeared during the morning trip! In the afternoon we canceled the trip because it was too windy and foggy out at sea.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sei whales again

Today we had another encounter with sei whales, but only during our morning tour. Everybody was able to get a really good look at three sei whales, making it a really nice tour. In the afternoon we weren't so lucky. Our two vigias (onshore lookouts) resighted the sei whales, but we (in the boats) didn't get to see them. Every tour is different because we are working in nature with wild animals, so sometimes these things happen. But when there aren't whales there are usually dolphins to make everybody happy. In the morning we encountered bottlenose dolphins and in the afternoon common dolphins.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Foggy whales

Yesterday a cool front was moving over the island of the Azores. This resulted in a foggy day, making it more difficult for the vigias (onshore lookouts) to spot the whales and dolphins for us. So were were surprised to find a huge group of common dolphins with a lot of babies. In the last three days had been absent, maybe to prepare for today's show. We watched this nice group of dolphins on both our morning and afternoon tours. The dolphins were very curious, following our boat and always staying close to us. The day turned out better than we expected.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A curious sei whale approaches our boat

Recently we have been seeing sei whales, but usually only the blow from far away. Today was very different as we encountered a sei whale that was not shy and actually approached our boat more than once. We got to see the whole body of the large whale, it was simply amazing! As in recent days we also encountered bottlenose dolphins and sperm whales on today's tour. In short we had a very nice weekend and a very good beginning to the new week. Summer is almost here!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lovely whales and dolphins

In the last two days we have had a lot of sun calm waters and a fantastic visibility. These are the ideal conditions for whale watching as it makes it easier to spot whales and dolphins from land. Both yesterday and today we have encountered the same group of sperm whales. It is a group made up of females and calves that we have observed travelling slowly along the south coast of the island. Today we spotted 4 to 6 individuals just outside Ponta Delgada, about 5 - 6 miles off the coastline. After the whales it was time to see a large group of bottlenose dolphins. Their playful jumps alongside our boats brought smiles to all our clients' faces. The last two days were fantastic!!!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friendly sperm whales

The some group of sperm whales continues to be present along the south coast of São Miguel Island. Today they were close to our base in Ponta Delgada so we just had to travel a few miles to get out to them. It was a friendly group made up of several females with their calves and a male that seemed to be controlling the group. The group was travelling calmly at the surface, all the time very curious towards our boats. After a long time at the surface the group decided to dive, one after the other. In the afternoon we had the bonus of also seeing some breaching (leaping out of the water) from the male sperm whale. The male jumped five times in a row, giving us an amazing show. We also encountered dolphins in both the morning and the afternoon. Both common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins were encountered to make our tours more complete. 

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Finally some good weather and great observations

Bottlenose dolphins

Sperm whale diving

Today's encounters were with sperm whales and as always with our resident friends the dolphins (common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins). Since the 6th of May the weather has improved a little bit and allowed us to have some nice encounters. Almost every day we have been with the same family of sperm whales (easily recongisable by their white body marks) south of Água de Pau/Ponta Garça and not far from land. The bottlenose dolphins seem to have taken up a summer residence in the area of Caloura, giving us guaranteed sightings with this species every day. The common dolphins are a little bit far away at the moment, but all the time available to have fun with our boats. We have not seen any baleen whales recently. What a shame!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

There's always sun after rain...

...and rain after sun. Thatºs the kind of weather we had had here since April. We have had two days without any tours due to rain, wind and waves, then finally yesterday we had the chance to go out. We had a nice warm sun and were expecting to see a few whales (like always) but they didn't show up. Instead we had dolphins, many common and bottlenose dolphins for both trips.
Today, once again, the trips have been cancelled. It's the perfect weather to stay at home!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

April 2008 sighting statistics

April has been a great month for whale watching in São Miguel Island, Azores. This is expected this time of the year, as it is the time that the baleen whales (mostly fin whales, blue whales and sei whales) migrate past and we can see many other species that are either passing or resident here. This past month we have seen 9 cetacean species. The above graph shows the sighting frequency (number of days sighted of all the days we went to sea)  for each species for this past month. Below is a list of all species, ordered from the most encountered to the least encountered:

April ends with familiar sperm whales

At last we had both nice weather and whales to observe. In the morning our vigia (onshore lookout)  in Água de Pau informed us that there were sperm whales to see, so we went straight out to the area. On the way we had a brief stop to watch a pod of common dolphins that were feeding with a few Cory's shearwaters flying over them. Further out the sperm whales turned out to be a group of 4 sperm whales that we recognised from other encounters that we had in the last couple of weeks here. We could identify the whales from the patterns of white markings that they have on their bodies. On our return trip to Ponta Delgada we encountered more common dolphins travelling together with a large group of striped dolphins. It was a great show to see the dolphins leaping across the water. It was the perfect end to a nice tour with great weather.

For the afternoon we expect more or less the same...but we were not so lucky. We started with an encounter with a pod of bottlenose dolphins near the marina. After this we headed far out with the sperm whales in mind. We didn't find any whales but we did see a large group of playfull common dolphins near Vila Franca.
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