Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 2013 sighting statistics

This December we have been out on the ocean on 8 tours on 6 different days. On all tours we saw common dolphins, our most encountered species here in the Azores. We have also had encounters with bottlenose dolphins, Risso's dolphins and sperm whales. These are the 4 resident species of the Azores that stay here all year, even in the winter when other species migrate to warmer waters. We are lucky here in the Azores to have these species stay here all year so that we can get out on the water year-round.
Lets see what the new year brings us!

2013 ends with common dolphins!

This year we have had many amazing and memorable whale watching and dolphin swimming tours here in São Miguel. To mark the last day we were lucky to be able to go out on the ocean one last time in the morning before the wind picked up in the afternoon. We spend the morning watching common dolphins who were first riding the waves and then began feeding together with a small group of gulls. We also had time to see the beautiful islet of Vila Franca before heading back to Ponta Delgada.

The Futurismo team would like to thank all our clients that have been with us this year as well as our followers online. Happy new year everyone!

 Common dolphins surfing a wave

 Hungry gull flying over the dolphins

Monday, December 30, 2013

A day with common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins

Today was a day of common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins, two of our resident species here in the Azores. In the morning the two species were together in a mixed group, just outside of Ponta Delgada marina where we depart from. We had some really nice encounters with both species throughout the day, and in the afternoon we also spotted a small loggerhead turtle. On both our morning and afternoon tours we also had time to visit Vila Franca Islet and enjoy views of the south coast of São Miguel on our return to base. Seabirds sighted today include several species of gulls (yellow-legged, great black-backed and kittiwakes) as well as skuas, ruddy turnstones and an Azorean buzzard on the islet.

Photos from the morning:

Bottlenose dolphin just outside of Ponta Delgada

Bottlenose dolphin and common dolphin (spot the difference)

A mixed group of bottlenose dolphins and common dolphins

One of our zodiacs

Photos from the afternoon:

Our afternoon clients

Common dolphin playing hide and seek behind the big swell

Vila Franca Islet

Our two zodiacs visiting Vila Franca Islet

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A full day on the water

Today was a nice calm day and we were able to get out on the water both morning and afternoon. Throughout the day we encountered our 3 resident dolphin species; in the morning common dolphins and a couple of very shy Risso's dolphins and in the afternoon a nice group of bottlenose dolphins (where we also spotted a small loggerhead turtle) followed by common dolphins. After a slightly chilly time on the ocean we returned to our base where we had some hot green tea from São Miguel waiting for us.

Photos from this morning:

Common dolphins

Beautiful common dolphin face

Photos from this afternoon:

Watching bottlenose dolphins

Active common dolphin leaping

Common dolphin looking back at us

Sunday, December 22, 2013

4 whales, 4 tails

Today is a beautiful winter's day in São Miguel, Azores. Actually it seems more like summer, with a clear blue sunny sky, mild temperatures and sperm whales off the coast! It was the perfect day for us to return to the ocean, after what seemed too long confined to land. Our lucky clients on board with us got to see 4 very large sperm whales, all of them males and all of them with magnificent large tails. We have already compared their tails to our catalogue and all of these 4 whales are new to us! We can identify sperm whales by the natural marks on their tails, and sometimes their dorsal fins. The next step for us is to compare our photos to a larger catalogue of the Azores and then to other regions such as Norway, Madeira and the Canary Islands (we already have matches with these regions).  

This morning we also encountered our resident common dolphins, including one distinct dark individual that was lacking the characteristic pale yellow colour on its sides. The dolphins were feeding, at one point we were able to see a school of mackerel just next to our boat. We also had some winter bird sightings (a great skua and some storm petrels) and we spotted the first Portuguese man-o-war of the winter season. Even in the winter there is always plenty to see here in the Azores!

Some photos from this morning:


Dark common dolphin

Thursday, December 19, 2013

73 blue whales

After this year's baleen whale season our blue whale catalogue has grown to include 73 different individuals! The Azores is recognised as one of the best places in the world to encounter blue whales, the largest animals in the world. Especially during recent years we have been encountering more blue whales in São Miguel Island, giving us hope that blue whale numbers in the north Atlantic may be on the increase. Despite being the largest animal in the world, we still no very little about blue whales. For example we do not know yet where blue whales from the north Atlantic go during the winter months when they give birth. During our whale watching tours we collect data, including photographs to identify individuals, which will hopefully help us put some of the pieces of the puzzle together. Every year during the spring months blue pass the Azores and often spend a few days here feeding on krill before continuing their migration north. The time of the year to see blue whales here in São Miguel, Azores is from about mid March until early June. During this time we also see other baleen whale species, such as fin whales and sei whales. Maybe you can be one of the lucky people to encounter one of these ocean giants with us during our next baleen whale season of 2014!

Blue whale ID photos. Individuals can be recognised by the pattern of spots on their bodies. 
Notice that each of the above individuals are different.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Dolphins outside the marina

What a lovely sunny day, after many days with rain and wind, and a adventures tour out on the big blue. Today we had common dolphins everywhere, we started with them just outside the marina. We had a large group spread out over several miles, it seemed as they were coming together, maybe to feed. We had several wonderful encounters and after a while we headed further out just to see if we could find something else, especially around the fishing boats. All we saw was a school of mackerel jumping - dolphin food, but no dolphins. We had our hopes on bottlenose dolphins, but we had to be happy with common dolphins and who is not?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A curious baby dolphin

First day of December and we start with a funny whale watching tour in calm silvery sea. During all tour we were spotting small pods of common dolphins. One of the common dolphin pods had a really curious and vigorous calf that was inspecting our boat several times. Swimming around us and looking up at us. After a lot of fun with several small groups of common dolphins we went to search for bottlenose dolphins but in the search we get the news that our lookout had spotted a whale. We tried our best to see this whale, but unfortunately it wasn't possible. This whale made a long dive and disappeared in a choppy sea and we had to start our journey back. On the way back we had time to enjoy the coastline, and we saw a group of canary bird fly near to surface at high speed.

Photos from today:

Common dolphins in a silver sea

Watching common dolphins

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