Saturday, November 30, 2013

November 2013 sighting statistics

During the month of November this year we have had few tours. This is largely due to the unsettled weather and sea conditions which determine whether or not we are able to go to sea for our whale and dolphin watching and dolphin swimming tours. As is almost always the case in the Azores we have seen whales and/or dolphins during all of our tours this month. This time of the year is not our strongest time for whales (to see when is the best time click HERE), but we did have some encounters with our resident sperm whales that can still be seen all throughout the winter. We have also seen our regular dolphin species for this time of the year (common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Risso's dolphins and Atlantic spotted dolphins) and we also had one day with pilot whales. As we head into the cooler winter months we can expect the Atlantic spotted dolphins to leave us, but we will continue to have encounters with our resident species (sperm whale, common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin and Risso's dolphin) and we can also expect the occasional unexpected encounter with different species. When wildlife watching you never know what you are going to see!

A sunny end to November

The last day of November was a beautiful one in São Miguel, Azores and we ended this month with a tour on our catamaran "Cetus". It was just like summer with plenty of sunshine and warmth throughout the whole morning on the water. During the tour we encountered several groups of common dolphins, a nice group of bottlenose dolphins and a loggerhead turtle. It was a great end to the month, especially after being confined to land over much of the past week.

Common dolphin

Bottlenose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphin

Watching bottlenose dolphins bowride

A sunny top deck

loggerhead turtle basking 

Bottlenose dolphin

On board Cetus

"Rocha da relva"

Monday, November 25, 2013

Who is watching who

Today's morning tour was full of common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins playing around and surfing the waves - together. It was a beautiful sight, even though we got pretty splashed by the Atlantic Ocean. Everybody on board became experts on common dolphins and at recognizing them, as we encountered several groups, and the dolphins showed us why they are "common". The common dolphins of today, sometimes looking almost golden in the sunshine, really are the "dolphin of the dolphins". 

Underwater shots of common dolphins passing near to our boat

Common dolphin checking us out

Bottlenose dolphin also looking at us

A playful bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin surfacing

More bottlenose dolphin play

A common dolphin (left) together with a bottlenose dolphin (right)

Riding back towards São Miguel Island

Fishing boat

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Common dolphins in a nice swell

Today we finally went in the sea to do some whale watching in two zodiacs. The sea was perfect for small boats because of the long and round waves.

During all the tour we were finding small groups of common dolphins. The majority of the groups were spread out and not very interested in playing this time. Despite that we got some good bowriding activity. On the way back we still had the opportunity to see a curious loggerhead turtle.

Photos from today:

Whale watchers looking to common dolphins

Loggerhead turtle

Whale watchers waving

Common dolphins surfing the waves

Fishing boat close to Ponta Delgada

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bottlenose dolphins - lots of photo-ID's to do

Today, during the morning, we went in sea with just one of our zodiacs. Despite the greyish light we had a nice and fun tour in the company of common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. The several pods of common dolphins were mostly spread out, yet we managed to have some curious bowriding. The highlight of this tour were the bottlenose dolphins. We spotted 3 different groups of this species, making up a total of about 150 individuals. Our biologists were snapping away trying to get as many dorsal fin photos as possible, so that we may be able to identify the individuals later. For sure we are going to have a lot of photo identification work to do just from this day. Every single  bottlenose dolphin dorsal fin is like a fingerprint (no two dolphins are alike). With the years of research (since 2008) that Futurismo has been conducting (including cataloging the individuals of this species) we are able to learn more about them over time. To date we have already identified more than 300 bottlenose dolphins.

 Examples of 6 bottlenose dolphin ID photos we obtained this morning. Can you tell the difference between these 6 different individuals?

One of many great jumps by the bottlenose dolphins today


Large group of bottlenose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins bowriding

On board our zodiac "Alfredo baleeiro"

Yellow-legged gull, seen feeding together with one of the groups of common dolphins

Common dolphin looking at us

Common dolphin leaping out of the water

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A day shared with friends

We set out joyfully today, on the big blue, to watch the adorable creatures of the deep and our reward was our three resident dolphin species: bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin and Risso's dolphins. The two first species were playful, curious and bowriding. The grinning Risso's dolphins was the grand final of the tour, even though it was a small group we got to see them close and it felt a little bit as they were showing us their cute calves. An experience like this is best shared in the company of friends and dolphin friends.

Bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin

whale watchers looking to bottlenose dolphins

On board our catamaran "Cetus"


Common dolphin

Adult Risso's dolphin

Adult Risso's dolphin

Risso's dolphin pod

Adult Risso's dolphin

Thursday, November 14, 2013

When is the best time to see whales and dolphins in the Azores?

One of the most common questions we are asked is: 
When is the best time to see whales and dolphins in the Azores?

The answer depends on which species you would like to see. In general, the best time of the year to see whales in the Azores is during the Spring time, with April and May being our strongest months. During this time we have many fin whales, blue whales and sei whales passing the Azores on their annual migration. We occasionally also encounter minke whales and humpback whales, although they are not as common as the other 3 baleen whale species. If you want to see our iconic whale species, the sperm whale, you could visit any time of the year, although during the summer months you have a higher chance of seeing them. Similarly, the summer is also the best time to see (and swim with) dolphins, as during this time we have more dolphin species in the area and the groups tend to be larger with many calves present. Futurismo operates all throughout the year, so if you prefer to avoid the busiest times and if you are not a fan of the warm summer weather than you can always visit during the winter months, as we have 4 species (common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, Risso's dolphin and sperm whale) that are resident to the Azores and hence can be sighted all throughout the year.

The following table is a guide to show roughly which months our most commonly sighted species appear each year in the Azores. There are variations from year to year, for example the season of the baleen whales (mostly fin whalesblue whales and sei whales) can begin earlier or extend into the beginning of the summer months. To see our sighting statistics in more detail click HERE.

We can see at least 25 different species of whales and dolphins in the Azores, so occasionally we also have more rare encounters with other species such as beaked whales, orcas (also known as killer whales) and false killer whales.
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