Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February sighting statistics

This past month we have sighted 5 cetacean species on our tours: sperm whales, Risso's dolphins, Atlantic spotted dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and common dolphins. Not bad considering we only went out to see 13 days throuhgout the month. January and February are often our weakest months in terms of the number of tours we have and our sighting frequencies, but this year has actually been good compared to past years. This year the Atlantic spotted dolphins stayed here until early February instead of leaving earlier for the winter as they usually do. The other four species we sighted this February are all resident species here, so we can rely on them being in the Azores throughout the whole year. As we enter the spring we can expect some of our migratory or seasonal species to start arriving. During the months of March to June we often see the greatest diversity of species as this is the time that several types of baleen whales pass by on their migration and we also start to see some of our summer species. The Futurismo team is really looking forward to this time and we anticipate that any time soon the baleen whales (such as the blue whale, fin whale, sei whale and humpback whale) will start appearing.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Beautiful sightings

Today we had a bit of a mixed day with very different tours in the morning and afternoon. In the morning we went out in our catamaran and saw several groups of common dolphins spread out across a large area. As usual the dolphins were very curious and friendly and spent most of their time swimming with our boat and surfing the waves beside us. We had some really great moments with the common dolphins.

Our afternoon tour started with a surprise as we stopped to watch our first group of dolphins a flying fish suddenly came out of nowhere, flew straight towards our boat, skimmed past on of our passengers in the front and then landed back in the water on the other side of our boat.

This time we were on one of our smaller rubber boats and we had more luck with bottlenose dolphins and sperm whales (although we saw common dolphins too). First we  saw the bottlense dolphins and it was a really good group. There were at least 70 individuals, and as well as bowriding we got to see some social behaviour from several dolphins, such as the following dolphin playing with its belly up in the air:

The sperm whales were just as great. Our onshore lookout had informed us that there were up to 30 individuals together in a close group to the west of the island. So we went to the area off the coast of Mosteiros where the water quicky drops away to over 3000 meters deep (exactly the kind of place where sperm whales like to feed). After a bit of patience we were rewarded with several sperm whale sightings. At one stage there were up to 10 individuals travelling close together at the surface (and even more individuals further around us). We even got to see 2 breaches (unfortunately as is often the case we did not manage to capture photos of the amazing leaps). After travelling north with the group for a while we finally got to see a few tails as the whales went down on their deep dives, giving us a nice ending to our tour.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Risso's and common dolphins, and turtles

What a beautiful day today! Such a big improvement from the cloudy and drizzly day we had yesterday. To make today even better we had some really good dolphin sighting on our tour this morning. We went out on our catamaran and the sea and visibility conditions were really great. Just a few minutes after we left the marina we had a surpirse encounter with some Risso's dolphins. First we saw a mother and calf pair, then a bit further along were a few more individuals hanging around a small local fishing boat. We often see the Risso's dolphins near these boats and they are actually known to take squid from the fishermen's lines.

Further offshore we encountered many groups of common dolphins spread throughout the area. There were dolphins everywhere around us and many of them came to our boat to swim alongside and in front. The light conditions were really good so we got to see their beautiful markings really well.

The following photos give a slight idea of what it is like to see these playful photos from our catamarn. Ofcourse it is much better to be there and see it for yourself. The dolphins just love to accompany the boat, especially in front of the bow where we get an excellent view of them.

To complete the tour we also sighted this small loggerhead turtle:

Tomorrow morning and afternoon we have more tours booked, so we are looking forward to seeing what will be out there for us to see.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Playful common dolphins

Today was another dolphin day for us. We had a tour in the morning and saw a large playful group of common dolphins. Although the sea was a bit choppy for some of us, the dolphins really seemed to love it! As soon as it gets even a little bit wavy the dolphins often begin playing and surfing in the waves.

Gliding along the surface

Coming up with the wave...

...and leaping down again 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dolphin weekend

This past weekend we had some really good dolphin sightings (common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins). Although we did not see any whales, the two tours we had were by no means a disappointment  It's always really nice to see the curious and playful dolphins that never seem to get sick of swimming around our boats. Here are some common dolphins photos that were taken during our tour on Saturday morning.
See also our Facebook page for video footage from this tour.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Risso's and common dolphins

This morning we had another great tour out on our catamaran. It did not take us long before we encountered a large playful group of common dolphins. The dolphins were very curious towards our boat, so they spent a lot of time simply swimming in front of our bow, giving all of our passengers a great look from the front of the boat.

As the wind picked up a bit during our encounter it created good wave-surfing conditions for the dolphins. We were lucky to see some fantastic jumps out of the waves, including playful leaps from some of the youngsters that were in the group (such as the dolphin in the front left in the following photo)...

We also had a surprise encounter with a small group of Risso's dolphins that we spotted on our way in to the coastline. Although these dolphins were are a bit more shy, with a bit of patience we got a few nice glimpes. The group of Risso's dolphins also inlcluded a young juvenile that was swimming alongside an adult that we could identify from previous encounters.

This weekend the weather and sea conditions are expected to improve, so we are looking forward to more great tours on on the sea.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Several groups of common dolphins

This morning we encountered several groups of common dolphins, followed by a more unusual sighting of a large fish sticking it's head out of the water. The fish was a largehead hairtail (Trichiurus lepturus), a long slender fish species which is very common in these waters (see the photo below)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sperm whales and dolphins for all to see

Today was a good day for us, as we had enough clients to go to the sea in both the morning and the afternoon. The day started a bit drizzly, but conditions soon cleared up and we managed to have 2 very good tours.

We started off with a few small groups of common dolphins (including one playful group that had a very small calf) and two bottlenose dolphins. Later we headed a bit further offshore where we encountered a group of sperm whales. At one stage we were watching 7 or 8 sperm whales together on the surface. Some of our passengers were also lucky enough to see one of the sperm whales breach near our boat!

 Sperm whales
 Common dolphin

In the afternoon we had to travel further to see the whales again, as they had moved about 10 nautical miles from where we last saw them in the morning. But the important thing was that we saw them again, and like the morning we had 7 or 8 whales up on the surface together. We also saw common dolphins again in the afternoon, so at the end of the day we were pleased to have been able to show all of our passengers some of the whales and dolphins of the Azores.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Spotted and common dolphins, and a man-o-war

This morning was just like summer again in São Miguel. We had great sea and weather conditions for our whale watching tour. Although we did not see any whales today we did see several groups of common dolphins and Atlantic spotted dolphins. The water must still be relatively warm for us to still be seeing the spotted dolphins here so late in the season. As well as the dolphins our passengers also got a really good look at a Portuguese man-o-war (shown by one of our biologists in the photo) grasping two boar fish. These fish have been sighted here in large numbers of the past few months, arriving dead on the gulf stream as part of a natural phenomenon. Even though the fish are dead they have been puncturing our rubber boats, so it's great for us to see the jellyfish feeding on the dead boar fish.

Watching common dolphins (note the dolphin jumping on the top right)

Atlantic spotted dolphin
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