Thursday, March 31, 2016

March 2016 sighting statistics

March has been another fantastic month for whale and dolphin watching in São Miguel, Azores, as is expected for this time of the year as it is the best time of the year to see the largest number of species, including the migrating baleen whales. In total we have encountered 10 different whale and dolphin species, in order of most encountered: common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, fin whale, Risso's dolphin, humpback whale, Orca/killer whale, sperm whale, sei whale, striped dolphin and minke whale. The fin whale was the most encountered whale species, and although encounter frequencies of many of the other whale species appear relatively low in the graph below, it is in fact a nice indication that we encountered many different species, even if some where seen only 2 or 3 days. It goes to show that the Azores is famous for species diversity, and every day we go out is very different, we just never know which species we will see. As well as whales and dolphins this past month we also encountered plenty of loggerhead turtles, a blue shark, a swordfish, portuguese man-o-war and jellyfish. Our list of seabirds for the month includes Cory's shearwaters, great skuas, yellow-legged gulls, kittiwakes, Northern gannets and little egrets. The only thing missing so far is the first blue whales of the year, which should be arriving any day now.

Daily sighting frequencies, in order of most sighted:

Map showing whale and dolphin encounter locations registered during March:

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A full day of fun with whales and dolphins

Today was a full day, with 4 of our boats going out in the morning and afternoon, and even a third tour for some which is currently underway. It's great to be so busy again as we are now in full swing, right in the middle of the baleen whale season. Today's sightings showed that this is the best time of the year to see whales in the Azores. During both the morning and afternoon tours we encountered fin whales, 3 of them in fact! From one of our boats we also had a very brief but close encounter with a minke whale, the first of the year (no photos sorry, it surprised us while we were travelling and we never saw it again). As for dolphins, during the morning some of us encountered a small group of bottlenose dolphins (a well known group we refer to as "Bubblemaker's group") and in the afternoon we all re-encountered them very close to shore. We also had some loggerhead turtle encounters during the day and in the afternoon clients aboard one of our zodiac boats had the chance to witness conservation in action as we removed a piece of plastic rubbish from the ocean that a turtle was approaching (a big threat to them as they often swallow this plastic). What a day!

During our third tour we took off to an area of whales right away but it was not easy to get there as dolphins kept distracting us. First common dolphins and later on Risso's dolphins. A nice delay. We needed patience with the fin whales but as soon as we were with them it turned magical, three fin whales close to us so we could really appreciate their size. But also by seeing the blows in the distance you will get amazed by the power and size. So, whales from 09:00 until 19:00 today and five species throughout the day. 

Photos from the morning:

Fin whale making a rainbow blow

Going out aboard our boat "Song of whales"

One of the 3 fin whales from the morning tour

Fin whale surfacing

Fin whale

Watching bottlenose dolphins

A great bottlenose dolphin encounter

Morning turtle

Photos from the afternoon:

One of our zodiac boats leaving Ponta Delgada

Our other two zodicas

Waiting for the bottlenose dolphins to surface

The bottlenose dolphins were very close to shore in the afternoon

Fin whales - we saw 3 again!

Fin whale blow

2 of the fin whales (the 3rd surfaced just behind)

 Beautiful fin whale head

A loggerhead turtle swimming towards plastic rubbish

We removed the plastic from the ocean, leaving the turtle swimming free without the threat

Photos from the third tour:

Two fin whales

The third one

Fin whale

Fin whale

Enjoying the sunset on the way back

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Orcas again in Sao Miguel!!

Today again we had an unexpected visitor… an orca! This time we saw this nice male alone. He was very quiet and approaching the boat all the time. We never know what is out there waiting for us and some days the surprise can be even bigger for the crew than for our clients!

Photos of the orca:

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Whales outside the marina

Today we started with common dolphins just outside the marina, but we also had a young fin whale close by. Further out, one of our biologist also spotted other whales, a sei whale or a minke whale, but we stayed with the fin whale. Like yesterday, the whale was a bit curious and stayed around the boats. We later went further out to see a big group of bottlenose dolphins. The ocean were like a mirror and we enjoyed the ride, lots of loggerhead turtles and the beautiful coastline.

In the afternoon we had to go a bit further out but in the end we were rewarded with encounters with whales and dolphins again. Again we started with common dolphins, then the same group of bottlenose dolphins from the morning. After our dolphin encounters we searched further out despite our coastal lookouts not having spotted any whales, To our luck our captain Mario spotted the blows of two whales, which turned out to be fin whales. We had a short but sweet encounter and managed to see the bigger one of the two well as it curved it back high to go on a dive.

Photos from the morning:

 A close encounter with the fin whale from aboard our boat "Song of Whales"

Fin whale

Fin whale

Our zodiac boat approaching the fin whale

Watching common dolphins

Common dolphin

Common dolphins

Watching common dolphins

"Song of Whales"

One of our zodiac boats
Loggerhead turtle, one of many today (as one of our boats counted 12 turtles)

Bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin

Our zodiac boat with the bottlenose dolphins

Enjoying the coastal views during the return trip to the marina

Photos from the afternoon:

Common dolphin

Common dolphins

A curious bottlenose dolphin

Watching bottlenose dolphins

A trio of bottlenose dolphins

The bigger fin whale of the two - a lucky sighting because our captain found this whale despite the weather turning grey and misty over the island

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