Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 2014 Sighting Statistics

During September this year we have encountered 8 different whale and dolphin species: sperm whale, pilot whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, Blainville's beaked whale, Risso's dolphin, Atlantic spotted dolphin, bottlenose dolphin and common dolphin. Our whale sightings have been lower than usual, which can happen when dealing with nature, but at least we have constantly had dolphins to keep us company. On most tours we have encountered 2 to 3 different species  so there has always been plenty to see. Like usual we have also encountered many loggerhead turtles as well as yellowfin tuna and some sicklefin devil rays

Encounter frequencies for the month:

Rain in the morning - dolphins in the afternoon

Today we had to move our tour from the morning to the afternoon due to rain and mist. Our lookout couldn't see anything in the morning so we went out later instead. So both one zodiac and our catamaran Cetus left the marina in search of animals. Our lookout had found both common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. The common dolphins were feeding and we could see the Cory's shearwaters fighting over the fish (pipefish) the dolphins were hunting. The bottlenose dolphins were in a playful mood so we got to see some physical activity between them on the surface. And on the way back we got to see plenty of flying fish.

Photos from today:

Common dolphin wave surfing

Pipefish flying in the air trying to escape both the dolphins and the birds 
(notice the dolphin under the birds)

One Cory's shearwater flying of with a pipefish while the others are fighting for it

Watching bottlenose dolphins

Playful bottlenose dolphin. You can see the white chin of one dolphin as it's rubbing against the other

Our zodiac boat with bottlenose dolphins

Monday, September 29, 2014

Well known whale tails

This morning we encountered many sperm whales. It was a group that we recognise from previous encounters over the years. From aboard our catamaran our biologist photographed the tails of 5 different whales of which 4 can be identified from the natural marks on their tails. During our all tours we record encounter data and take ID photos to keep track of the individuals we see. All 4 tails were already in our catalogue so we know these whales well. One of them who has been seen in São Miguel regularly since 2008 has a distinct white saddle patch on her back and is known as "Orca". Another one has white marks all over the underside of her tail and is known as "Whiteout". The other two have been sighted several times since 2010 but do not have nicknames yet. All individuals in our catalogue have a unique ID number so we can keep track of the individuals and groups we see here. Sperm whales are very social whales who form groups with other closely related individuals and the whales we saw today have been seen together in the past so they have formed a stable group. Of course it's always nice to see dolphins too, but they were not seen by all today. One of our whale watching boats came across a small group of common dolphins whereas our dolphin swimmers found both common dolphins and Atlantic spotted dolphins. As for the rest of us, we were very happy to spend our morning in the presence of the sperm whales.

Photos from today:

A whale called Whiteout

Our zodiac with a sperm whale adult and calf pair. The calf is coming up with its head out of the water

Enjoying the ride back aboard the zodiac

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Crystal clear waters with dolphins and Sowerby's beaked whales

This morning we had another perfect summer weather tour out on the ocean. The sea was calm and crystal clear and it was as if we were travelling over a mirror. We ended up having some nice encounters with groups of common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. Those aboard our zodiac boat were also lucky to encounter a group of Sowerby's beaked whales. The elusive beaked whales soon disappeared, as they often do, but at least some were lucky to see them.

Sowerby's beaked whale and Santa Maria in the background

Common dolphin enjoying the ride next to our catamaran

Bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphins

Out on our catamaran, riding over a perfect calm ocean

Aboard our zodiac

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sperm whales, beaked whales, common and spotted dolphins

A day filled with cetaceans: sperm whales, Blainville's beaked whales, common dolphins and spotted dolphins for our whale watchers and our swimmers swam with bottlenose dolphins. The whale watchers started with common dolphins and soon Atlantic spotted dolphins, then we saw a feeding group of common dolphins and Cory's shearwaters. Happy with the dolphins we took of to see the sperm whales but on the way we encountered Blainville's beaked whales. This was truly a gift to see as they surfaced and then approached us. There were 2 or 3 adults and one juvenile, and the juvenile passed just a few meter away from our catamaran Cetus. We stayed around for a while with these amazing animals and after we continued to the sperm whales. It took a while for the sperm whales to accept us and let us come close to them. We stopped and waited for them to come to us. We realized they were a bit spread out and were gathering and when five of them finally got together they came very close to us. We got no tails but we had spectacular meeting with cetaceans today and as if that was not enough we also encountered a loggerhead turtle and it looked like it was waving to us.  What a day! 

Photos from today:

Atlantic spotted dolphins

Cory's shearwaters fighting for fish

The winner!
(I can hear the bird saying - it was THIS big) :P

Juvenile Blainville's beaked whale

Juvenile Blainville's beaked whale

Three sperm whales closer to us and two more further away

The group close to us

A curious juvenile

Aboard Cetus watching sperm whales

Aboard our catamaran Cetus

The turtle waving to us

Friday, September 26, 2014

Long tour but a perfect reward: sperm whales

This morning we encountered 4 species: common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, spotted dolphins and finally sperm whale far in the northwest. Our tour had to be longer then normal as the whales were very far away. But it sure was worth it when we got a great reward, being surrounded by a sperm whale family. We could see a few blows around us but we stayed with a female and a juvenile. We did not get any flukes but at least a half fluke as the female twisted around in the water and we got photos, maybe good enough to identify who she was. This is very important to us biologists for our research. 

Photos from today:

Sperm wale teasing us by showing us just the tip of its fluke

Bottlenose dolphins

Our zodiac boat with bottlenose dolphins

The west of the island - showing the town and islet of Mosteiros

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Only like a dolphin can

Today we saw both common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins throughout the day and once again we were listening to the dolphins. We put the hydrophone in the water and we heard some funny noises and we got some high jumps - only like dolphins can. They sure were having a great time, and it even looks elegant when a 400 kg dolphin jumps 4 meter into the air. 

Photos from today:

Bottlenose dolphins leaping in unison

A curious bottlenose dolphin

Enjoying the coastal views from aboard our catamaran

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A wild dolphin show

This afternoon we got to see a really fantastic wild show from a group of about 50 bottlenose dolphins. They gave us a really fantastic display of high leaps into the air, sometimes reaching 3-4 m high! All the clients aboard our catamaran got really hyped up and their energetic screams of pure joy and excitement seemed to make the dolphins all the more interested in our boat and the passengers aboard. The dolphins kept coming right to our boat and leaping right in front of us. Nothing beats seeing such an amazing show from wild dolphins that are swimming free in the ocean where they belong. All the clients aboard our catamaran learned the valuable lesson that we should never visit these amazing animals in captivity under any circumstances. We hope this memory and important lesson stays with them.

Photos from today:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dolphin communication

Today we had some guests talking on the microphone of our catamaran Cetus - and they were the best talkers ever! I can't believe the help that us biologist got today. We had both bottlenose dolphins and common dolphin chatting live on the microphone (through our hydrophone). It was an amazing experience for all of us to watch the dolphins and at the same time have them whistling over our sound system. We could see plenty of baby dolphins today in both groups, and the bottlenose dolphins were giving us many high jumps. Every time we accelerated a little bit they started jumping alongside us for fun. 

A great thanks to our captain for his work and patience today, and the sailors/skippers on board for putting the hydrophone working. Videos filmed on board to capture the sounds of the dolphins, and for us to hear the difference between the two species.

Bottlenose dolphins

Common dolphins

Photos from today:

A rainbow to start the day

Bottlenose dolphins jumping high

Watching bottlenose dolphins

A young bottlenose dolphins next to us

João with the hydrophone

A young common dolphin next to us

Common dolphin

Aboard cetus

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