Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September 2015 sighting statistics

This month has been an excellent month for sperm whales, but we have also been seeing a few other whale species such as fin whales and beaked whales. The pilot whales have been around too, although they go under the list of dolphin species, as they are the second largest dolphin in the world. The common dolphins has been as faithful as always as we have seen them all but one tour this month, and we have had a lot of bottlenose dolphin encounters too, with many well-known individuals. And finally our resident, the Risso's dolphins have paid us visits too, mainly during the end of the month. Then both striped dolphins and Atlantic spotted dolphins have been playing around with us too. So cetacean-wise it has been a great month. 

Other species, we have seen plenty of loggerhead turtles and flying fish, and also a few leatherback turtles. And to top it - a large hammerhead shark. The bird-list is also long: Cory's shearwater, great shearwater, Macaronesian shearwater, yellow-legged gull, common tern, Bulwer's petrel, pomarine skua, little egrets on Vila Franca Islet and finally, ruddy turnstones have been running around.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Dolphins and Vila Franca Islet

Today we had some beautiful encounters with two dolphin species. First, the common dolphin, which is a resident species in the Azores and the most encountered species in these waters, and second the Atlantic spotted dolphin, which is a seasonal species that prefers warmer waters and therefore only visits us for the warmer months of the year. We still have the summer feeling in the air with clear blue waters and plenty of baby dolphins. We really enjoyed their company today, especially when they were bowriding and the babies were leaping out of the water. During both the morning and afternoon tours we also had some time to enjoy views of Vila Franca Islet and in the afternoon we had a rare sighting here of 3 little egrets sitting together on the cliff face of the islet. 

Photos from today:

Common dolphin surfacing

Common dolphin juvenile and adult

Common dolphin juvenile leaping

Common dolphins bowriding

Atlantic spotted dolphins

Atlantic spotted dolphins

Passing by Vila Franca Islet

Monday, September 28, 2015

Common dolphins

Today we encountered different groups of common dolphins close to Ponta Delgada marina where our tours depart from. The common dolphin is the most encountered species in the Azores and is always great to watch as they are very social and playful animals. The common dolphin is also the most beautifully coloured dolphin species in the Azores as they have a yellow colour on their sides. Some of the groups we came across today were very large, one of them about 100 dolphins encountered from our zodiac boat. We got to see a great show as they were all wave surfing and playing around our boats. Although our biologists didn't get photos from today's encounters the most important thing is the memories that we have of them.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Rainbow blows from sperm whales

Today in the morning we started by passing through an area of Atlantic spotted dolphins but from our catamaran we didn't see them so we went straight for the sperm whales. We encountered at least 8 family members and we got great ID shots of their dorsal fins for our photo identification research as many of them had good marks for us to use. But the best part was to see six of them together blowing rainbows! On our way back we also encountered bottlenose dolphins.

The afternoon was just as great as the morning as we encountered common dolphins, followed by Atlantic spotted dolphins and finally the sperm whales again. They were still together as a group, in fact this time we got to see even more of them together in a tight group at the surface. At one time we counted 9 whales together before we lost count. It must have been a group of 12 to 15 whales. Again we got plenty of dorsal fin photos for our research and we could really see that each individual was uniquely marked. We wonder who this family of sperm whales was...

Video of at least 10 sperm whale together

Photos from the morning:

Three sperm whales together

Photos from the afternoon:

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Azorean dolphins

Today we encountered two Azorean resident dolphin species. The most encountered species, the common dolphin, kept us company during the morning and afternoon tours and gave some unforgetable experiences for our dolphin swimming clients. We saw many juvenile dolphins in some of the encounters and these were the most playful members of the group. The other resident species we encountered was the Risso's dolphin during the morning tour. The group size was big for this species, we estimated about 30 individuals. We had some nice but short looks at them as they spent little time at the surface and kept lifting their tails to go on deep dives to hunt. 

Photos from today:

Juvenile common dolphin jumping

Risso's dolphin peaking over the waves

Common dolphin wave surfing

Our swimming boat in the afternoon

Friday, September 25, 2015

Two in one

Today we had a mixed group of common dolphins and Atlantic spotted dolphins both in the morning and the afternoon. It's not unusual for us to see different species together, socializing or searching for fish together. Our lookout spotted a baleen whale, most likely a fin whale, as well but we never got to see this mystical individual, but once again the dolphins gave us a great time on the sea.

Video of the common and spotted dolphins bowriding together

Photos from today:

Spotted dolphin up-side-down

Spotted dolphin with a broken dorsal fin

Common dolphin

Common dolphin

Common dolphin

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Dolphins and their babies

Today was a dolphin day. There is nothing like watching wild and free dolphins in huge numbers playing around the boat you are on, especially when there are babies in the group. That was the case today with several different dolphin species. We enjoyed the company of groups of common dolphins, Atlantic spotted dolphins and striped dolphins from aboard our different boats throughout the day. It's nice to enjoy the end of summer in this way and still have great weather, a calm ocean and these huge groups full of babies.

Photos from today:

Common dolphin

Atlantic spotted dolphin

Atlantic spotted dolphin calf with two adults

Common dolphin calf and adult

Watching common dolphins from the bow of our catamaran

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Going the extra mile

This morning we went further than usual in search of whales. Our lookout on land did a great job of spotting some sperm whales offshore and to the east of São Miguel Island, so our whale watching boats set out to try to see them. Sometimes we only need to travel a few minutes offshore to see whales and other times are like this morning with the whales further out. We tried our best to get to the whales, but unfortunately this time they were just too far and they were moving further out while we were headed towards them. In the end the dolphins made it worth our time out on the ocean. We encountered some groups of common dolphins, including a particularly curious group on our way back to base. It was a group of about 40 dolphins that included a lot of babies. It was a lot of fun seeing the babies playfully leaping out of the water. From one of our zodiac boats they also encountered some Risso's dolphins and from aboard the catamaran our captain spotted a leatherback turtle when we were just turning back from the area where we were searching for whales. This rare turtle encounter sure did make it worth going the extra mile.

In the afternoon we tried the other side, more to the west, and we found plenty of sperm whales. But also common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins.

Photos of common dolphins from today:

Common dolphin baby

Baby jumping next to mum

Common dolphin and a Cory's shearwater

Common dolphin bowriding

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

That's marine life

Today we saw plenty of different marine life. We started with striped dolphins jumping as usual and giving us a crazy dolphin show. We saw them far offshore, where we normally see this oceanic species. Closer to the shore we found a large group of common dolphins. And among them we saw a large hammerhead shark swimming fast with its dorsal fin above water. It sure was an impressive sight. But the dolphins took of quickly and we found them again a bit further to the west with both Cory's shearwaters and great shearwaters. We got to see a few flying fish as well. Our swimming boat also had a great time with the common dolphins.

Photos from today:

Striped dolphins

Common dolphins and a great shearwater

Common dolphins and a great shearwater

Great shearwater

A hammerhead shark

Monday, September 21, 2015

Searching for the big ones

Today in the morning we had to travel really far to encounter sperm whales. In the beginning they were a bit shy towards the boats but eventually we could stay alone with the whales and they calmed down and we got a great encounter. On our way back we also saw common dolphins. In the afternoon the whales had moved too far for us to go there so we started with two groups of common dolphins with lots of babies playing around. When we tried to leave them they started to follow us. Then we went searching off shore for something different and bigger and we tried an area where sperm whales likes to feed. Our lookout had spotted bottlenose dolphins in the area and we managed to find them even though our lookout lost them in the waves. It was a large group of at least 60 dolphins jumping around. But we wanted to find something big so we continued to search offshore and on our way back also inshore as you never know, we have seen whales as close as 300 m from the shore. But we had to go back happy with dolphin encounters in our memory.

Photos from today: 

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