Thursday, September 30, 2010

Large male sperm whale known as "Mr Liable"

Today we had another great day of whale watching and swimming with dolphins. In the morning we saw sperm whales, pilot whales, striped dolphins, and Atlantic spotted dolphins. During the afternoon the sperm whale pod had moved too far to the East, but we were able to see a large male sperm whale that was much closer to shore. This sperm whale turned out to be an individual that is very familiar to us, referred to as "Mr Liable". In the afternoon we also came across a very large group of several hundred Atlantic spotted dolphins spread over a very large area, and to top it off we came across a shark, and a turtle on our way back in to the marina.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Some of the sperm whales we saw this afternoon
The last two days we have had a large group of at least 10 sperm whales off our coastline. Yesterday they were a long way out of Ponta Delgada, but today they had moved in much closer. The group consisted of several females with their juveniles and calves, and during the morning they were seen socialising and breaching. In the late morning and afternoon the whales began their long and deep feeding dives, which meant that we were able to see many spectacular tails as the whales went down. We also had encounters with common dolphins, striped dolphins, and Atlantic dolphins. This afternoon we were especially lucky because the Atlantic spotted dolphins stayed with us the whole time that we were in the sperm whale area. Some of these dolphins even came with us to visit the sperm whales on the surface.

Atlantic spotted dolphins that stayed with us for most of our afternoon whale watching tour

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Whales and dolphins put on a show: Breaching, lobtailing, spyhopping, and more...

Here are some photos taken by our crew over the last few days. These are some of the spectacular behaviours that we have seen the whales and dolphins performing as part of their natural behaviour out here in the wild...

The ultimate show: a sperm whale breaching (lunging its body out of the water)
A sperm whale lobtailing (repeatedly slapping its tail on the surface with a lot of force)

More lobtailing!

Large male pilot whale spyhopping
(slowly rising vertically out of the water, enabling it to see above the water)

Risso's dolphin jumping/breaching

Risso's dolphin doing a 'headstand'
(this dolphin suspended itself upside down completely vertical for a few seconds)

Whales and dolphins are very social animals that are amazing to watch interacting in the wild with other members of their group. It's always great when we are able to observe these impressive surface behaviours during our tours.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

2 more great days on the water

Our last 2 days of whale and dolphin watching have been excellent. Yesterday we saw 6 different species (sperm whales, Risso's dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Atlantic spotted dolphins, common dolphins, and striped dolphins). Yesterday was particularly memorable for our passengers that got to experience a lucky close up encounter with a very curious young sperm whale that continuously approached their boat. This morning we saw sperm whales, Atlantic spotted dolphins, and bottlenose dolphins again. There was also a sei whale along our coastline, although we were not able to view this individual. The water is crystal clear today, so it has been perfect for viewing dolphins alongside our boats:

Bottlenose dolphins swimming alongside our catamaran

Standing up the front of the boat our passengers get an amazing view of the dolphins as they bow-ride. Today the experience was really spectacular because the water was extremely calm an clear and you could hear the dolphins echolocating while they were travelling alongside us

Female sperm whale fluking while her calf was swimming just behind her

Our afternoon dolphin swimming tour has just returned from what the crew have just described as "one of their best experiences swimming with bottlenose dolphins". Shortly our whale watching boats will also be returning from their afternoon trip, so hopefully they will also have another success story to share.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Weekly update

Today we are looking forward to another big day of whale/dolphin watching, dolphin swimming, and a full day tour of combined whale/dolphin watching and snorkeling on Vila Franca islet.

During the past week we have been viewing many groups of dolphins off our coastline. However, yesterday we were also able to see sperm whales again, after not seeing them for a few days. During both our morning and afternoon tours we were able to see many individuals that were part of a large pod. We were also saw some very good groups of bottlenose dolphins and Atlantic spotted dolphins. In the afternoon we had a very friendly tern following 2 of our boats and trying to land on them. Here are some photos that were kindly shared by one of our passengers: Mr Jensen from Denmark:

Friendly tern hovering over our boat while we were watching a sperm whale

One of the sperm whales we saw yesterday afternoon

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Choppy seas

Early this morning much of the island was covered in low cloud and rain. However the sky cleared in time for us to go out on our morning whale watching and dolphin swimming tours. Soon after our boats left the marina and the rain had eased we got a great view of a rainbow over Ponta Delgada:

Although the sky has been beautifully clear since this morning, the sea state has been picking up since mid morning. However, we were still able to complete our morning tours and see Atlantic spotted dolphins and common dolphins, despite the white choppy seas:

We were lucky to be able to get these trips in today, as the wind has increased more since, and it is predicted to stay windy for the next few days. Hopefully we won't be kept off the water for too long.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Today the weather and sea are about as good as it gets. The sun is shinning and the sea is like a mirror. The conditions are predicted to remain like this for at least the next few days, so it´s the perfect time to go whale watching or swimming with dolphins. This morning we even had a special guest; a little sparrow that joined us for most of our whale watching tour onboard our new catamaran:

Small sparrow that hitched a ride to come whale watching with us this morning

During the first part of this morning we first came across bottlenose dolphins and pilot whales. A bit later we also found a group of at least 7 sperm whales feeding off our coastline. In this group we instantly recognised an individual we know as "Orca" (featured in the previous blog entry).

One of this morning´s sperm whales raising its tail to go on a deep dive
At the end of this morning some of our passengers were lucky enough to also have a rare encounter with some beaked whales. You just never know when you are going to be able to see these elusive animals. At this moment our boats are back on the water for the afternoon round of whale watching. When they return hopefully they will be able to report back that it has been yet another successful and exiting trip.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Breaching, a rare encounter with a Bryde's whale, and more...

September so far:

Strong winds kept us off the water for the first two days of the month. However, since then, our beautiful summer weather has returned and we have had some great whale and dolphin sightings. So far this month we have seen many common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins, Atlantic spotted dolphins, Risso's dolphins, pilot whales, and sperm whales. This morning the passengers on one of our boats were lucky enough to also experience a rare encounter with a Bryde's whale. Even though not all of us saw the Bryde's whale it was still a great morning for all, as we had a group of sperm whales off our coastline. Some of the young calves in the group were very active, and we saw a couple of them breaching several times:

One of the young sperm whales seen breaching several times this morning
Among the sperm whale pod we also noticed an individual that had very prominent scars in front of its dorsal fin. We decided to nickname this whale "Orca" because the mark resembles the saddlepatch of an orca (killer whale). By comparing the photograph we got of the flukes of this whale we will be able to determine if we have seen this individual in these waters before.

A sperm whale called Orca

Hopefully the remainder of September will be packed full of more great encounters with sperm whales and other cetacean species of the Azores.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

August sighting statistics 2010

On our whale watching and dolphin swimming tours during the month of August we have seen 8 different cetacean species (dolphins and whales). The above graph summarises the percentage of days that we were able to see each species throughout the entire month. The highest sighting rate goes to the Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) which were sighted every day of the month that we went out. As expected, we have also had relatively high sighting rates of our resident dolphins: the bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and common dolphins (Delphinus delphis). August is usually a good month to see many sperm whales in the Azores. Although the sighting rate for sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) wasn´t as high as expected, we still saw them on more than half of the days that we went out. We have also had several good days that we had bonus encounters with striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba), Risso´s dolphins (Grampus griseus), pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) and even some elusive beaked whales (Mesoplodon sp.). Hopefully the next month will bring many more sightings.
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