Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 2013 sighting statistics

In April we have been lucky the times we have been able to go out on the sea. We have had some bad weather with strong wind and fog, just like in March, but still great sightings with 6 species of cetaceans, including a record number of sightings of orcas (read more about our orca sightings HERE). We also encountered fin whales and sei whales, and dolphins. 

The following graph shows the sighting frequency (days sighted of all the days we went to sea) of those species seen this month. Sighting frequencies for each species are listed below

Map of our cetacean sightings

Video of the orca encounters of April

The whales are back

During the past few weeks we have not been seeing many whales, possibly because we have been seeing orcas (also known as killer whales because they hunt whales and are at the top of the food chain) instead. However, today the whales returned to São Miguel and we had some really good sightings throughout the day. In the morning our vigia (onshore lookout) spotted some blows from baleen whales just south of Ponta Delgada, not too far from the coastline. We arrived to the area and confirmed that they were fin whales. We identified 2 adult individuals, although there were more whales spread throughout the area. In the afternoon we resighted one of the same fin whales from the morning. The whale was very calm near our boat, always staying near the surface so that inbetween its breaths we could see its shape travelling through the water. We managed to have some really great looks at this whale every time it came up to breathe in front of our boat. We also saw the whale poo a bright orange-red colour which is a great indication that the whale had been feeding recently, probably on krill! The afternoon tour finished off with an encounter with a young loggerhead turtle and a nice cruise back along the coastline.


Our biologist Miranda taking a photo of the fin whales poo
Fin whale poo
A young whale watcher

Cruising along the coastline on our catamaran "Cetus"

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Orcas in the mist

Today we went out both in the morning and afternoon on our catamaran "Cetus": The weather was very foggy so the vigias (onshore lookouts) had a lot of trouble trying to spot marine mammals. Despite the poor visibility the sea was very calm, so we decided to go out anyway and try our luck. In both the morning and afternoon we were incredibly lucky to encounter orcas (killer whales) and common dolphins. In the morning the common dolphins were seen in small groups, so we watched them for a while and then left our swimming boat to enjoy a great swim with them. Underwater the swimmers were able to see more than 20 common dolphins around them. The highlight throughout the day was definitely the orcas, which turned out to be the same family that we also saw here on previous days this month (as well as last month and in January). We are getting to know this group very well, particularly an adult male that we refer to as "Mr. Ray" because the first time we encountered him in January we saw him with a ray. The group was dispersed, at first we saw 6 individuals, including at least 2 males and 2 calves. During both tours we got to witness some amazing behaviours, including breaching (jumping out of the water) and lobtailing (tailslapping on the water), in the morning, and one of the males with a turtle in his mouth in the afternoon. See our video from the past days of sighting below, or on youtube by clicking HERE.

During the day the Futurismo crew also enjoyed watching a variety of seabirds including the Cory's shearwater, manx shearwater, pomarine skua, Northern gannet, common tern and yellow-legged gull.

Orca breaching (snapshot from video)

Lobtailing (tail slapping)

The male lobtailing

Male orca holding a turtle in his mouth

Orca still holding the turtle as he swims past our catamaran

Our zodiac boat watching one of the big males of the pod

Our zodiac boat with common dolphins

Saturday, April 20, 2013

4 species including orcas and sei whales

Today in the morning we were out on our catamaran "Cetus" and we encountered 4 different species of cetaceans. We barely left the marina when we spotted the first species; the well known common dolphin. The group was small and not as curious as this species usually is, so we watched them for a while and then went west to a where our vigia (onshore lookout) spotted orcas (also known as killer whales) for us. The orcas were as amazing as earlier (see our previous blog posts to see our encounters with the same group), coming very close to the boat and playing around (as you can see in the photos below). After we traveled more to southwest to an area where the vigia had seen some sperm whales. While we were waiting for them to surface we encountered a group of striped dolphins jumping and traveling fast. We left the area of the sperm whales and started going back when we came across a group of 3 sei whales coming close to our boat. We all saw them very well before we made the trip back to Ponta Delgada.

See our video from the past days of sighting below, or on youtube by clicking HERE.

Photos from today:

One of the female orcas investigating the back of our boat

Orca right next to our boat, looking up at us through the water

 Male approaching the side of our boat

Lobtailing behaviour

 One of the males we know very well now

 3 orca of the group
Looking for sperm whales

Striped dolphin in front of our bow

Striped dolphin (stenella coeruleoalba)

Sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis)

Sei whale from behind (showing the two blowholes characteristic of all baleen whales)

Sei whale

Cruising on back on our catamaran along the beautiful coastline of São Miguel

One of our whale watchers from Holland

Cory's shearwater (Calonectris diomedea borealis)

Juvenile yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis atlantis)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Bluefin tuna, dolphins and seabirds

This morning we went out on our catamaran "Cetus". Our first stop was to watch a feeding frenzy not far from Ponta Delgada. We approached a large group of birds (Cory's shearwaters and yellow-legged gulls) diving down to grab fish from the surface. We saw a lot of splashing so we were eagerly looking around for dolphins among the birds. Instead of dolphins we spotted several bluefin tuna leaping out of the water. It was amazing to see the large dolphin-sized fish jumping clear out of the water. During the tour we came across many more birds, including a pomarine skua, a species we have not seen here for a while. In the end we also encountered several small groups of common dolphins just off the coast of Mosteiros to the west of São Miguel Island. There were several juvenile dolphins in the group, including one curious youngster that was playing around our boat. The sun made an appearance as we were heading back, enjoying the views of the south coast of the island.

Bluefin tuna making a splash landing after a jumping high

Cory's shearwaters fishing

Common dolphin


Fishing boat

Dolphin watchers

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