Monday, April 30, 2012

April 2012 sighting statistics

April is normally the best time for whale watching in the Azores, and this year was no exception for us. We saw a total of 13 different cetacean species this month (6 whale species and 7 dolphin species).

This is the time of the year that the baleen whale species, such as blue whales, fin whales, sei whales, humpback whales and minke whales, are passing the Azores on their anual migration to cooler waters further north. Now that summer is nearing we are also starting to see an increase in sightings of our resident sperm whales as well as some of our "summer species" such as striped dolphins and pilot whales. This month we were also really lucky to have killer whales (orcas) and false killer whales in the area. This is just the beginning of the season for us, and we expect more great sightings in the upcoming months!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Orcas in the Azores!!!

Today we were incredibly lucky to have a group of orcas (also known as killer whales) in São Miguel!!!

It is very rare for us to see this species in the Azores, in fact the last time we sighted them here in São Miguel was in 2008. We were able to see the group of at least 6 individuals during both our morning and afternoon tours. The group included a very large male and also a calf. In the morning we were very lucky to see the male snatch a (very unfortunate) turtle off the surface of the water! Later we could still see the orca holding the turtle in its mouth. Just have a look out our photos below to see what we were treated to today. In the morning we also sighted bottlenose dolphins and common dolphins while in the afternoon we also encountered a large male sperm whale that we call Mr Liable...

Watching orcas from our catamaran (male orca on the left, female on the right)

3 of the individuals from the group

Mother and calf

Watching the big male from aboard our catamaran

Male orca snatching up a turtle

male orca with his prize (loggerhead turtle)

Later the male was still seen grasping the turtle between its teeth

A great view of the orcas from our zodiac

One of the orcas tail slapping in front of our catamaran (afternoon tour)

 More tail slapping from the big male

Here you can see the eye of the male orca

 Mr Liable - a large male sperm whale that is a regular visitor to our island (seen during our afternoon tour)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Two blue whales with our boats

Today in the morning we had two blue whales passing the south coast of São Miguel. During this tour we also encountered common dolphins and those on our smaller boat had a brief encounter with striped dolphins. The conditions during the day were not the best, and in the afternoon the wind had increased making it difficult to sight animals. Hopefully by tomorrow the sea will have calmed down again.

One of the big blues sighted in the morning

Watching a blue whale from aboard our catamaran 

Just when we were leaving both whales surprised us by surfacing near our smaller boat for us to see them one last time

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sperm whales in São Miguel

This morning we had a bit of rain and wind, but not enough to stop us from going out on a great tour in which we saw a group of sperm whales. The group included many individuals that we recognised from previous sightings in the past few weeks and also previous years. We were able to see six individuals from the group, including two adult pairs and a mother and juvenile pair. We also got to see some really good high tails as the whales went down on their dives.

 First sperm whale going on a dive

 Sperm whale pair - Two adults 

Sperm whale pair - Mother and juvenile

The adult of the pair

Sperm whale mother and juvenile diving together

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

False killer whales and more unusual blue whale behaviour in the Azores

This morning we encountered false killer whales (also known as false orcas) for the first time since May 2010! This species visits the Azores only occasionally, so we felt very lucky. False killer whales are named because like the more commonly known killer whales (orcas) they also feed on other dolphins, as well as large fish and squid. But these large predators were very friendly towards us, and they spent quite some time swimming close alongside our boat and even came to bowride in front (looking like bullets shooting out of the water). At times we were able to hear the whistles from the animals as they were all around us. We also had a really special encounter with two blue whales. When we were about to leave the area they suddenly changed their behaviour to something we have not seen before. They began to travel very rapidly at the surface, coming out of the water almost like dolphins. At times it looked as if one was chasing the other. It was really amazing to see such large animals moving at such great speed. It was also interesting to see how flexible these large animals are. Just take a look at our photos taken from aboard our catamaran:

Watching false killer whales swimming alongside us

They look a bit like large bullets shooting out of the water

False killer whales swimming in front of our catamaran

Blue whale huge blow

One of the blue whales we saw behaving unusually. Here is came up very fast with both its head and tail out of the water at the same time (surprising us with the flexibility of its back)

The blue whales were repeatedly coming up really fast, first creating a huge blow, the bringing their heads really high out of the water

Blue whale tail!

The tip of the tail

The blue whales were travelling inshore, quickly getting closer to the island

During the morning we also had a brief encounter with bottlenose dolphins, a loggerhead turtle among the false killer whales, and those on our other boats also saw common dolphins and a large sperm whale! Our group from the afternoon has just returned and reported that they saw the blue whales again, this time even closer to the coastline, not far from one of our beaches! Another great day of whale watching with Futurismo in São Miguel!!

A perfect day

Today was another perfect day in Sao Miguel! In the morning we sighted 4 cetacean species: Risso's dolphins, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and 2 fin whales! In the afternoon we sighted pilot whales, bottlenose dolphins and common dolphins. Today we did not get any photos in the afternoon, but here are some from our morning tour:

 Risso's dolphins: Mother and calf 

 Common dolphins in beautiful calm sea

 One of our boats watching the common dolphins

Watching a loggerhead turtle

 Fin whale seen to the East of the Island

One of our resident bottlenose dolphins
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