Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July 2013 sighting statistics

July has been a perfect summer month with a touch of springtime feeling. We have sighted 13 species of cetaceans, 6 species of dolphins and 6 species of whales, including a Northern bottlenose whale and our first sighting of Bryde's whales since 2008. We have been very lucky to see the baleen whales this month as they normally are passing by the Azores during spring time (the baleen whale season) when they are migrating past. We have had many great encounters with fin whales and sei whales, and one day with a minke whale. Our lookouts also saw orcas passing by the island but the boats never saw them.

Map of our cetacean sightings

A choppy summers day

Today started with mist and rain but in no time it cleared up leaving us with beautiful sunshine. Unfortunately the sea is still a bit choppy so it was not easy for us to spot animals during our tour this morning. Our vigia spotted the blow of a baleen whale not to far from Ponta Delgada, but after a lot of waiting and searching we did not manage to get even a glimpse of the whale. However, we did encounter a lovely group of common dolphins. The group were large and all individuals in the group were surfing and jumping out of the waves. For the afternoon the sea state has become worse so we have cancelled, but luckily our clients booked on the Full Day Tour are enjoying a lovely sunny afternoon in the sheltered lagoon of Vila Franca Islet.

Photos from this morning:

Common dolphins surfing in the waves

Common dolphins with a fishing boat

Common dolphins

Our Full Day boat "Song of Whales" speeding through the waves

Photos from a sailing race starting on São Miguel, going to Terceira and ending in Pico:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hide and seek with Bryde's whales

Who says whales can't be playful? Today we had a hide and seek game with the whales. We had two Bryde's whales, the mother and the calf from yesterday, and they were busy with feeding which means that they were diving all the time. We had a rough sea and poor visibility because of mist and rain but we did see them quite well in the end. Baby whales and dolphins always puts smiles on everybody's faces. We are lucky to see these whales here as this species is rare to see in the Azores! We also encountered two of our resident dolphin species: common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins, and they were as playful as usual, bowriding and jumping.

Photos from today:

Calf and mother whale

The calf and the mother,
to the left in the photo you can see some smooth patches in the water (behind the whales),
that is what we call "footprints" from the whales as their flukes moves up and down, creating these circles. In the old whaling days that was thought to be oil patches left behind by the whales.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sperm whales, Bryde's whales and dolphins

Another blue and sunny summer's day with sperm whales here on the South coast of São Miguel. We managed to see many species today, we started with the lovely sperm whales, lots of dolphins: Atlantic spotted dolphins, Risso's dolphins, common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. We have our boats out again for the afternoon trips, both whale watching and swimming.

In the afternoon we spotted big pod of bottlenose dolphins and we had an exciting encounter with two Bryde's whales (mother and calf). These whales are not common to see in the Azores, in fact it was our first sighting since 2008! The Bryde's whale is very different to other baleen whales in that it does not migrate to cooler waters during the summer, rather it stays in warm waters year-round.

Two sperm whales diving

Photo from the morning:

Another sperm whale diving

Sperm whale surfacing

The fluke of the sperm whale

Sperm whale during mid fluke

A spotted dolphins (juvenile)

Atlantic spotted dolphin surfacing

Two Atlantic spotted dolphins jumping

Spotted dolphin in the crystal clear water of Azores

Spotted dolphins

Spotted dolphins approaching our catamaran

Loggerhead turtle waving to us with its flipper (pectoral fin)

Photo from the afternoon:

Bryde's whales (mother and calf)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Close contact with sperm whales

Today we had an amazing day for sperm whale watching. Throughout the day we had a group of sperm whales (including two large males in the morning). In the morning we saw some socialising behaviour as well as some tails whereas in the afternoon the whales were only socialising. We were able to see much more of the whales than usual as they were rolling around on the surface. Several times they were very curious towards our catamaran and we had a great show as a small group of Atlantic spotted dolphins were swimming around the whales. Throughout the day we also encountered common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and striped dolphins.

Video of a juvenile sperm whale swimming fast towards a female (maybe its mother) and when it is close it raises its fluke to "brake" and line up nicely alongside the female.

Video of the sperm whales together with Atlantic spotted dolphins in the afternoon

Photos from the morning:

Bottlenose dolphins, juvenile and mother

Three bottlenose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphin baby

Common dolphins

Three sperm whales, two females and one male

Common dolphin spyhopping right next to our catamaran "Cetus"

Photos from the afternoon:

Sperm whale underwater behind our catamaran

Sperm whale lying on its back (you can see the white line of the bottom jaw)

Sperm whale spyhopping (again showing its narrow bottom jaw)

Male sperm whale diving

Three sperm whales

More sperm whales

Sperm whale on its side, you can see the pectoral fin, the fluke sticking up and the white jawline

Close up of the fluke when the whale is on its side

Bottlenose dolphin surfacing

Bottlenose dolphin 

Common dolphins

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Another day with whales and tails

Today we had another beautiful day on the sea watching the whales and dolphins of the Azores. It was an easy day for the crew as there was not much waiting between each encounter. We began by hopping from one sperm whale to the next as they were all coming up to the surface in sequence. We were able to see 3 whales up close, all of them showing a beautiful high tail when they began their dives. Following the whales we had encounters with Atlantic spotted dolphins and common dolphins and those people on our catamaran were able to enjoy a coastal return and view of Vila Franca Islet before returning to Ponta Delgada.
Photos from this morning:
Sperm whale head (note the blowhole on the front left of the head)

Sperm whale fluke

Watching a sperm whale from our catamaran

Our last fluke this morning - a whale we know as Pm50 in our catalogue.
This whale was first photographed in São Miguel in July 2009 and has also been sighted in the central group of the Azores
Atlantic spotted dolphin juvenile jumping

Atlantic spotted dolphin

Common dolphin

Common dolphin leaping

Common dolphins - mother and calf

Sally lightfoot crabs (Grapsus grapsus)

Photos from the afternoon and sunset tour:

Azorean buzzard (Buteo buteo rothschildi)

Azorean buzzard (Buteo buteo rothschildi)

Sunset along the south coast of São Miguel Island
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