Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 2014 Sighting Statistics

August is the height of the summer season for us in the Azores and a great way to spend these beautiful summer's days is out on the water on a tour with Futurismo. During this past month we have had some really great encounters with marine life during whale and dolphin watching tours as well as with swimming with dolphins tours. We have encountered 10 different whale and dolphin species (see below for a list and corresponding sighting statistics for the month). As well as cetaceans (whales and dolphins) we have also encountered other amazing marine life such as manta rays and sicklefin devil rays (we have encountered these species during at least 9 different tours, which is a new record here in the Azores!), hammerhead sharks, marlins, a leatherback turtle and plenty of loggerhead turtles. These are the kind of days that we always have a lot to see and we never know what to expect when we return for our next tour out on the great blue ocean!

Who is watching who?

This morning we had another great time out on the ocean, encountering some of the wonderful dolphins of the Azores. We had observation boats and also a swimming boat out on the water and all of us got to see (and some of us swim with) common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. The common dolphins were feeding (together with Cory's shearwaters) while the bottlenose dolphins were milling at the surface and occasionally diving. After our dolphin encounters we searched further offshore where from our catamaran we encountered a large cable wheel which we removed from the ocean. Luckily this piece of marine debris was made of wood, rather than something like plastic which is a huge killer to marine life. Either way we removed the large wheel so that it can be reused for something else.

Photos from today:

Who is watching who?

Picking up cable wheel

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Our resident dolphins never let us down

Today was a day in the company of our resident dolphins: common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and Risso's dolphins. It is wonderful to see them and keep up with them as they are the great contributors to our dolphin research. A morning with bottlenose dolphins and Risso's dolphins sure keeps our biologists cameras warm. And common dolphins kept us company all day long. The bottlenose dolphins were in two large groups, playing with our swimming  and whale watching boats. In the afternoon we had the same great experience with common dolphins. The Risso's dolphins were in a very small group of about six dolphins, we also encountered two individuals: a mother with a baby. For being shy Risso's dolphins they were curious as we got a great look at the differences between almost white adult and dark baby. The mother made sure we got a great look at her baby. 

Photos from today:

Bottlenose dolphin

One of our boats with bottlenose dolphins

Common dolphins in a beautiful blue ocean

Common dolphin

A large group of common dolphins encountered in the afternoon

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Catamaran is back!

Today, to celebrate that our catamaran Cetus is back in action, we encountered two of our resident species of dolphins: common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins.

We started the morning with a group of common dolphins feeding together with the Cory's shearwater... what a show! One of our boats was lucky enough to see a manta, so our manta record is still alive! To end our trip we found a friendly group of bottlenose dolphins, really calm and curious towards our boats.

In the afternoon we encountered the same species but as every trip is different, this time the common dolphins were more active, surfing the waves, giving to our clients a wonderful experience that they will remember for a long time.

Photos from today:

Nice group of bottlenose dolphins

Common dolphins jumping at the same time

Our catamaran is back!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Futurismo on TV - watching dolphins with many babies

This morning Futurismo had a film crew aboard, for our local TV channel, RTP Açores. To see the video which screened on the 20th of September click HERE (you can skip ahead to time 18:20 where the section on whale watching begins). Throughout the day we encountered 4 different dolphin species throughout the day. In the morning we encountered a couple of groups of common dolphins followed by bottlenose dolphins and finally Atlantic spotted dolphins. In the afternoon we encountered common dolphins again, then Risso's dolphins and bottlenose dolphins to end the tour. We got to see some great groups and some really nice behaviours, including the common dolphins feeding (together with many seabirds) and the spotted dolphins fighting in the morning and the Risso's dolphins diving deep in the afternoon, showing their tails like sperm whales. We also got to see many newborn baby dolphins of all species, and to continue our manta record another one was spotted in the afternoon from aboard one of our boats.

Photos from this morning:

Watching common dolphins

Common dolphins - see the tiny baby head surfacing next to its mother

Common dolphin

TV interview. We had a crew for national television (RTP) aboard with us.

 TV presenter with bottlenose dolphins behind her

Baby Atlantic spotted dolphin leaping

Another baby Atlantic spotted dolphin (the spots appear later in life)

Atlantic spotted dolphins

Great shearwater (we haven't seen one of these for a while)

Manx shearwater (a more rare seabird sighting)

Common tern, looking down for fish among the dolphins

Cory's shearwater (our most encountered seabird species in the summer)

Passing Vila Franca islet, where our Full Day clients spent the afternoon snorkeling in the lagoon

Photos from this afternoon:

Risso's dolphins

Risso's doplhins (mature white adult with a dark calf diving alongside her)

Risso's dolphins diving

Risso's dolphins mother and calf pair

One of our boats with Risso's dolphins in front of them

Juvenile bottlenose dolphin

Our swimming boat with bottlenose dolphins (with the biologist filming them underwater)

Watching bottlenose dolphins in a perfect calm ocean

Our watching boat and swimming boat in the background

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Diving with a manta and devil ray and dolphin watching in the Azores

This morning we were very lucky to have an incredible encounter with a giant oceanic manta ray (Mobula birostris) together with two sicklefin devil rays (Mobula tarpacana). The manta ray can reach a maximum diameter of 6.7 m and the sicklefin a maximum of 3.7 m. These beautiful oceanic giants were gracefully circling around a pod of common dolphins, not far from Ponta Delgada. From one of our boats we did not even realise there two different species and three individuals in total, until we got some underwater footage (see below). From this we could also see that they had some remora fish attached to them, something which is very common to see on mantas and devil rays. They were swimming fairly fast through the water, always among the common dolphins. At the surface we could also see their great wings as they lifted them high out of the water and the huge wingtip of the manta ray sometimes looked like the dorsal fin of an orca. We have been very lucky this year to see many more mantas and devil rays than usual (during at least 7 days during the past couple of weeks and one time we encountered 8 at the surface together!). We still know very little about this animals, however a recent study by the university of the Azores has discovered that that mantas we see here frequently dive to 2000 m deep and move between the Azores and Africa. Clients on our swimming tours are sometimes lucky to have the opportunity to swim with these animals when we encounter them and this is how one of our crew João got some great underwater footage this morning. Sometimes we can also swim with turtles when we come across them and even whale sharks (not to worry, they filter feed plankton).

As for cetaceans, we had plenty of dolphins around all throughout the day. During the morning we encountered three different species: common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and Atlantic spotted dolphins. In the afternoon we re-encountered the first two species. We had some really nice groups including a group of at least 50 common dolphins in the afternoon that was very nice to watch and some bottlenose dolphin individuals that we know very well from the past few years.

To see an underwater video of the manta and devil rays in vimeo click HERE

Photos from this morning:

Giant oceanic manta ray accompanied by remora fish (the one on top of the back is attached)

Giant oceanic manta ray followed by two sicklefin devil rays

 two sicklefin devil rays led by a giant oceanic manta ray

Giant oceanic manta ray with a remora fish attached

Common dolphin

Common dolphin right next to our boat

Bottlenose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins

Some marine litter we picked up. Please remember to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible

Atlantic spotted dolphin

Atlantic spotted dolphin upside down (we got to see some mating activity)

Photos from this afternoon:

A bottlenose dolphin we know very well. This one always surfaces like this :)

Bottlenose dolphins wave surfing

Common dolphins

Common dolphins

Common dolphins

Our swimming boat with common dolphins

A swimmer in the water (behind the boat) with common dolphins
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