Monday, February 29, 2016

February 2016 sighting statistics

This year February has been a great month to see whales and dolphins off São Miguel Island in the Azores. Although it is still winter we have been seeing more than just our 4 resident species. It seems that the spring migration of baleen whales has started earlier than usual, as we have already encountered many fin whales as well as a humpback whale. On several days other days without baleen whales we encountered some of our resident sperm whales to give us a mix of different types of tours throughout the month. As well as these 3 whale species we have also encountered 3 different dolphin species this month: common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin and striped dolphin. This has also been the month that we sighted the first Cory's shearwaters of the year, so winter is defintely coming to and end.

Sperm whales galore

After some days with fin whales it was a nice surprise to have sperm whales around today. In the morning we had only a dolphin swimming tour booked, so we spent the morning swimming with a wonderful and curious group of common dolphins. In the afternoon we had a whale and dolphin watching tour booked for our catamaran, so this time, as well as seeing the common dolphins, we went out to see some sperm whales our lookout had spotted to the southwest of São Miguel Island. We received information that there should be 3 whales around, but to our luck we ended up encountering more. In the end we don't actually know how many were spread out in the area, as they were coming up at different times in different places. We got to see it all; pairs and single whales, whales at the surface for a long time, some tails and even breaching (a whale leaping out of the water). What a nice way to end the month of February. 

Photos of the sperm whales:

Common dolphins

Common dolphin looking up while bowriding

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Ending the weekend with a fin whale

Today was another day of baleen whales. During the day our lookout spotted the blows of these great whales south of São Miguel Island. The whales were spending a lot of time diving, probably to feed, so it was not easy to encounter them from our boat, but we were lucky to encounter one in the morning. It was a fin whale, the second largest animal in the world, and with a bit of patience we got to see the whale at the surface several times. We tried for a whale again in the afternoon, but this time without luck. However, the afternoon was better than the morning in terms of dolphins. We spent some amazing moments with a group of about 40 playful common dolphins, watching them at eye level from our zodiac boat. 

Photos from today:

One of the surfacings of the fin whale we encountered in the morning

Playful common dolphins

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Rainbow fin whales

Today we got an amazing show from fin whales. We arrived to an area with more then six whales, but we were always encountering  them two and two. One had a stronger blow making us believe it was a blue whale so we tried to see all the whales in the area to confirm but only fin whales. Not to bad, fin whales are awesome too but it was wavy and windy, and not very easy. And today was a dolphinless day, even our swimming with dolphins were without as they only saw one bottlenose dolphin.

Photos from today:

Fin whale making a rainbow blow

Fin whale going on a dive

Friday, February 26, 2016

Jolly day with fin whales

Today we had Bubblemaker with family (bottlenose dolphins) very close to the shoreline, so close that our lookout could not see them anymore. We had some wonderful sunshine and the beautiful coastline giving us a fantastic scenery around the bottlenose dolphins. Then we had to leave them for bigger animals. We had two fin whales to see. They were offshore, but we could see the blow from far far away as we were approaching. They were diving a lot but still had time to pay us a close up visit. It was amazing.

Photos from today:

Bottlenose dolphins (dorsal fin of Bubblemaker - can you match with your photos?)

Fin whale about to surface

Fin whale

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A diverse day with whales and dolphins

Today's list of species encountered is very long, a great sign that we are leaving the winter behind and entering the spring, which is a great time for species diversity in the Azores. We started the morning tour with a friendly group of our resident common dolphins. The sea was very calm and clear, almost like a summer's day. We got to see them really well as they were calmly bowriding and looking back at us. Next on the list was a group of almost 100 striped dolphins. As they often do, the striped dolphins were very energetic as they were surfacing in long leaps out of the water, often in unison. It's always great to see this offshore species of dolphin, especially when they put on a show like this. After the dolphins we went a bitfurther from the island in search of a whale that our lookout had spotted for us. It didn't take long before the whale was up and we could see very well it was a fin whale, the second largest animal in the world. Luckily for us its dives were short and it came up for several breaths and showed itself well. After the fin whale some of us also briefy spotted another smaller whale. We didn't see it well so cannot be sure what type of whale it was, but perhaps it was a beaked whale or a minke whale. As for non-cetacean species, in the morning we also encountered a very small swordfish, several marine birds and a fairly large loggerhead turtle. As we were watching the turtle we noticed it was behaving strangle, trying to come very high out of the water. We took in aboard to examine it for any signs of injuries or entanglement in fishing gear or plastic, but it seemed to be ok so we let the turtle go its own way.

Photos from the morning:

Going out in the morning, enjoying the sun on the top deck of the catamaran 

Common dolphins bowriding and looking back at us

Striped dolphins leaping

A fin whale surfacing to breathe

The fin whale curving its back to go on a dive

Watching a loggerhead turtle

Checking the turtle for injuries or entanglement in marine debris

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The playful common dolphins

We woke up this morning with a beautiful sunrise, cold and bright. At 9am we were starting the tour. Having good sea conditions, also the fishermen were out on the ocean trying to find a shoal of mackerel. There they were using traditional methods to fish them. Side by side, we sighted a few marine birds and, finally, the incredible common dolphins with their shinning yellowish sides. We spent a delightful time with this species. As is in their nature, they approached the boat and stayed in the front, bowriding behaviour and swimming around us for a long time. It was a group of over 25 individuals, including juveniles and a calf! It’s always incredible to see wildlife and to be so near it!

Some photos of today:

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A rainbow and common dolphins

This afternoon the rain cleared while we were out on the ocean and we were left with a rainbow over the island and some groups of common dolphins. We had some very memorable moments. with these playful dolphins, especially the last group that was bowriding our catamaran as they seemed to enjoy our company as much as we enjoyed theirs.

Photos from today:

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