Saturday, March 31, 2012

March sightings summary - The month of the blue whale!!

The past month has been really great for whale watching in São Miguel. During March we saw 8 different cetacean species:
This month we had a record number of blue whale sightings! It's great to see so many of these whales and other baleen whale species passing the Azores. This is the right time of the year to see them, and we are expecting more great sightings in the upcoming months.

Friday, March 30, 2012

6 cetacean species sighted, including a blue whale and fin whale feeding!

Today we sighted 6 different cetacean species throughout our morning and afternoon whale watching tours.

Morning tour:
In the morning we encountered our resident common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and a group of pilot whales. On our way back we also came across a loggerhead turtle.

  Aboard our catamaran - Another beautiful day at sea

Watching common dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins

Pilot whales

Afternoon tour:
Our afternoon tour started with a minke whale encounter (the first time this year that we have seen this small whale species). Next we encountered the friendly common dolphins again, followed by encounters with a fin whale and a blue whale. Both the fin whale and the blue whale were feeding at the surface so we got to see some action and a few tails from the blue whale (which turned out to be the same blue whale we have seen the past two days). These whales have baleen plates in their mouth - a type of filter which they use to filter small food like krill and small schooling fish out of the water. We could see the whales rolling on their sides, opening their mouths and skimming across the surface to take in huge mouthfulls of water food.  Several times we got to see parts of the whales' tail flukes, pectoral fins and throat pleats (folds in the throat which allows their mouth to expand to take in large volumes of water).

Fin whale - This individual was a young one, not very large

Fin whale feeding on its side - Here you can see a pectoral fin sticking up and the expanded throat

Fin whale - Blowholes from directly behind

Blue whale blow!

Blue whale feeding - Here you can see the throat pleats

...and the final show, the massive tail of the blue whale (from this tail we could see it was the same whale we have been seeing here over the last two days)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

More blue whale tails

Our big blue from yesterday is still here, and this morning the whale was bringing up its massive tail again. Three times we saw the tail, each time very high like our resident sperm whales normally would do. It was the highest that any of us had ever seen a blue whale, the largest animal in the world, raise its tail. We also got to see the second largest animal, a fin whale, as well as our resident common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. On top of this we also briefly sighted a beaked whale species (very rare to see) and a loggerhead turtle. In short, this morning our tour was really amazing so we have many photos of our sightings to share...

  Blue whale - First time we saw the tail...

 Second tail, sparkling in the morning sun

 Big blue whale blow...

...and the third magnificent tail

Fin whale (notice the bottom jaw is white - only on the right side)

Watching common dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins 

...and a small loggerhead turtle 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Another big blue!

This month the number of blue whales passing São Miguel has been exceptionally high in comparison to previous years. Today we were lucky again with another blue whale encounter on our tour. Our luck continued as we saw the whale bring up its tail two times (not too common for us to see from a blue whale). Our tour was completed by a curious group of common dolphins and beautiful weather conditions.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Good weather again

Today we were finally able to return to the sea, after a week and a half of cancelled tours due to bad weather conditions. As you can see in today's photos it turned out to be a great sunny day for us. On this tour we got to see several groups of the beautiful common dolphins. Our vigia (onshore lookout man) also spotted a few whales in the area, but today was not our lucky day to see them and in the end just a few of us sighted some distant blows from one of the whales.  At least the weather forecast for the upcoming week is looking a lot better than the past week, so we have plenty more chances to go and see the whales out there...


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Several more blue whales and fin whales in São Miguel

Today the south coast of São Miguel Island was full of whales! Our vigia (onshore watchman) reported that there were several blue whales and fin whales in the area, so after seeing a nice group of common dolphins we went out to the whale area. The whales were a bit spread out, so we focused on an area where two individuals were making dives. A bit of patience was required as we waited for the whales to come up, in the meantime seeing the very distant blows of some of the other whales coming to the surface far from where we were. In the end our patience really paid of as we got a few looks at two different blue whales. The last look we had before we headed in was especially rewarding, as while we were waiting for the whale to come up we suddenly saw a big blue shadow not far alongside our boat and the whale came up right there!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

More blue whales and common dolphins sighted this morning

This morning we were out on the water again, and once again we saw blue whales and common dolphins. This time the blue whales were close to the Island and doing short dives so that our passengers did not have to wait long between dives to see them on the surface. A few times one of the whales came up close to the boat and we were also lucky to see it show its tail which is not common for us to see from the blue whales as they pass the Azores.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A few more photos of the pilot whales encountered yesterday

Here are just a few more photos of the pilot whales we encountered yesterday morning and afternoon while we were on our Catamaran. These were taken by one of our other biologists aboard and show well how we watch the animals, from the viewpoint of the passengers. We usually try to have a few cameras aboard with us so we do not miss a moment, and also to get more pictures of the animals for photo-identification (we photograph and identify the animals as part of our scientific research to learn more about the groups we see here)

Bottlenoses and commons

This morning we had some great encounters with our resident bottlenose dolphins and common dolphins. We also tried to see a couple of fin whales that our vigia (onshore lookout man) spotted in the area, but unfortunately we were unable to find them. Sometimes we are lucky with the whales and other times not; especially if they are doing long dives and coming up for very short periods in unpredictable locations. Nevertheless, the dolphins that we saw were fantastic, as you can see in our photos from this tour...

Bottlenose dolphins

Common dolphins
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