Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A year of whale watching in the Azores

As we come to the end of 2014 we are looking back to our amazing year of whale and dolphin watching here in São Miguel, Azores. Throughout the year we have encountered a total of 16 whale and dolphin species (blue whale, fin whale, sei whale, humpback whale, sperm whale, northern bottlenose whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, Blainville's beaked whale, orca/killer whale, false killer whale, pilot whale, Risso's dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, striped dolphin and Atlantic spotted dolphin). One of the highlights was an incredible baleen whale season (the spring months), in particular for fin whales as we had a record of encountering fin whales every day for 35 days in a row! Of our 397 tours we encountered whales and/or dolphins in 396 tours this year, a 99.7% success rate!

As well as our cetacean sightings we have also encountered many seabirds and other marine species. As usual we came across many loggerhead turtles and also some leatherback turtles. There were some oceanic sunfish, marlins, tuna, sharks and many mantas. In fact we had a record number of manta ray and devil ray encounters this year. We invite you to watch our video compilation below, showing you some of our magic moments of 2014. Thank you to everybody that joined us out on the ocean this year and we wish you all a great 2015! 

December 2014 sighting statistics

This year in December we only managed to go out on the water 11 days of the month. Nevertheless each day was a successful one as we saw whales or dolphins during all tours. We encountered two of our resident dolphin species (common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins) and we also had some surprise visits from fin whales and pilot whales. Not too long from now we can expect to see fin whales and other baleen whales almost every day as they migrate past the Azores mainly during the spring months.

Common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) - 82%
Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) - 73%
Pilot whale (Globicephala spp.) - 18%
Fin whale (Balaenoptera physlus) - 18%

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Beautiful dolphins

This morning we had a pleasant trip out on the ocean. Although we still had some swell from recent strong winds, we had a fun ride over the rolling waves and the sun was out to warm our faces. Throughout the morning we encountered several groups of common dolphins spread along the south coast of São Miguel island. The largest group was made up of about 30 dolphins, including some juveniles. As they often are these dolphins were very curious and playful around our boat. At one point they were also feeding on a school of fish beneath the surface. One of our crew members also spotted a loggerhead turtle and as usual there were also many seabirds (including great skuas that migrate to the Azores for the winter) out there for us to see. All in all we got to see a lot out there on this lovely winter's day.

Leaping common dolphins

Great skua (a winter sighting)

Yellow legged gull (a common sighting in the Azores)

Monday, December 22, 2014

An early Christmas surprise: Fin whales!

This morning our whale watching clients got an early Christmas present - Fin whales!
Our coastal lookout spotted the blows of at least 10 whales out there and we were lucky to spend our time with a mother and juvenile pair not too far from Ponta Delgada. It was a wonderful surprise to be able to spend the first part of the morning with the second largest animal in the word. They have returned to our waters recently after spending the summer months feeding up in the cooler waters of the north Atlantic. Now in the winter time is when they give birth and raise their young to be big and strong for the next big migration to the Arctic. After our fin whale encounter we went closer to shore where we encountered a nice group of around 20-30 common dolphins. As they almost always are, these dolphins were very curious and seemed to enjoy swimming around the front of our boat. 

As a final note, the Futurismo team wishes you all a Merry Christmas.

The morning light made for some really beautiful blows from the fin whales

Fin whale juvenile surfacing next to its mother

Adult and juvenile fin whales side by side

Common dolphin

Watching the common dolphins bowriding

A beautiful day in São Miguel island - it looks just like summer!

Great skua - a winter bird sighting

Friday, December 19, 2014

Bottlenose dolphins

Today was a bottlenose dolphin day. We always enjoy the company of bottlenose dolphins, especially the group we had today. We encountered a group of about 30 dolphins, including some smaller juveniles. We got to see some cool behaviours including what looked to be feeding at the surface, some high jumps and bowriding right in front of our boat. Although we didn't see any other species this morning we sure did enjoy the playful bottlenose dolphins

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Winter whale watching in the Azores

The Azores is one of the few places in the world where you can go whale and dolphin watching year-round. Even in the winter we have several species that we can see here, and just like other times of the year we never really know what to expect from a tour. The crew were expecting to see some fin whales that our lookout had spotted out on the horizon off the coast of Ponta Delgada. However on our way out there we came across a group of pilot whales and in the meantime the fin whales disappeared in the distant rain. The pilot whales were a nice surprise though, especially since we haven't seen them as often as usual this year. The pilot whales were diving, probably to feed, so after a while we left them and spent the second part of the morning with two of our resident dolphin species. We started with some bottlenose dolphins with the idea of going to the common dolphins after. However, the common dolphins came to us, so we had the lovely experience of seeing the two species interacting together. 

Pilot whales

Bottlenose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphin (background) and common dolphin (foreground) together

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fun time on the sea

A wonderful morning with both bottlenose dolphins and common dolphins. The sea was like a silver mirror, and the dolphins calm and curious. We started with large group of bottlenose dolphin, maybe about 50 dolphins spread out in the area, and our swimmers had a great time in the water with them. The whale watchers left the bottlenose dolphin to search for other species and we encountered two groups of common dolphins, one with lots of small babies and another more in the mood of making babies. It was a group of juveniles and young adults "having fun". We ended our tour with a look at Vila Franca Islet and we followed the coastline on the way back.

Bottlenose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphin

Common dolphins

A common dolphin in silver sea

Aboard the whale watching zodiac

Aboard the whale watching zodiac

Aboard the whale watching zodiac

Our swimming boat

Friday, December 12, 2014

Baby bottlenose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins, a species that knows how to make humans smile, that knows how to gracefully make the day a good day. We encountered a group of about 15-20 dolphins with some very young babies, no more then a month old, that curiously investigated our boat (and us). As they had babies around they were a little bit more shy and protective but still showing of their creations (the babies) to us. Lovely!

Who is watching who?

Bottlenose dolphins, mother with calf

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