Monday, October 31, 2016

October 2016 sightings statistics

Autumn is now upon us, so the weather has been more unstable during October, but we still managed to go out to sea during 18 days of the month. As always we had some great encounters with cetaceans (whales and dolphins) off São Miguel Island. In total we encountered 8 different species during the 18 days that we went out. The star whale species was the sperm whale, as they are resident in the Azores, so they will stay with us during the whole winter. However, we also had some encounters with migratory fin whales who are headed south to warmer waters where they spend the winter. We also encountered some beaked whales (most likely Blainville's beaked whales), which can be encountered any time of the year in the Azores, but are very rare and therefore always a treat to see. As for smaller cetaceans, we also had two fantastic days with false killer whales, both times really big and active groups. There was one day with pilot whales and ofcourse plenty of our resident common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins, plus some Atlantic spotted dolphins that are hanging around until the winter kicks in. On some days that we went out we also saw loggerhead turtles and flying fish, as well as plenty of seabirds. The best part of going out on an ocean tour in the Azores is that we never know what we will see, and we are sure that we will continue to have many more surprise encounters during the winter as we continue to go out to sea.

Daily sighting frequencies for the month of October:

Saturday, October 29, 2016

One blow show!

Today we had a day full of surprises! After some days of bad weather cetaceans were back in our waters. In the morning we had a fantastic trip where we saw 3 different species of cetaceans: common and bottlenose dolphins and a giant group of false killer whales, as usual, very curious and playful with the boat. In the afternoon trip besides the common dolphins a fin whale appeared, it did a ‘one blow show’ as it was blowing only once every time it surfaced. Even though it was not easy we appreciated very well this giant and majestic animal.

 Fin whale

 Fin whale

 Nice rainbow we could see from the boat

 Magnific group of false killer whales

 Bottlenose dolphins on a very calm sea

 Bottlenose dolphin

 Common dolphins didn't miss the oportunity to play with our boat

Dolphins in the rain

Today was the first day on the sea since the 20th of October so we were very excited to go out and see out cetacean friends. We have been busy in the office keeping up with our research but we have been missing the animals and the saltwater. We still had "old sea" out there, so lots of waves and swell and then the rain came to block our lookouts, but we had some lovely encounters with common dolphins. Bowriding, wakeriding, jumping and playing around. In the afternoon we encountered two groups of common dolphins again, but then we also had a bonus encounter with a playful group of juvenile Atlantic spotted dolphins. They were very active, jumping and playing around in the waves in front of our boat. After so many days on land it was truly a blessing to see their smiling faces again. And some of us were lucky to see flying fish on the way back.

Photos from today:

Common dolphin

Common dolphin

Dolphin watching aboard our catamaran

Playful juvenile Atlantic spotted dolphins

Atlantic spotted dolphins leaping in front of the bow of our catamaran

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sperm whales don't let us down!

This morning we started the tour heading west. The first species that we saw in our morning tour was a group of common dolphins. This group was friendly with our catamaran; we could see them bow riding the boat several times. After this group, we kept going to the west finding more common dolphins (the group was spread out in a big area).  This species of dolphin was not the only one we saw in the morning tour, we were lucky enough to find a playful group of bottlenose dolphins; they jumped several times in front of our catamaran Cetus… what a show!

When we were starting our way back, after the amazing encounters with the dolphins, we had a call from one of our lookouts… sperm whales in the area! From our catamaran Cetus we could see two sperm whales from a family that we know very well. The two sperm whales were at the surface for a while and then they went for a deep dive, allowing us to recognize them: Diamond and Bear Paw! Two animals that we usually see together, they belong to the most encountered family of sperm whales for us.

We started the afternoon tour hoping to see the sperm whales again… Nature is not always easy, it took us more than one hour to find them but we manage to see them very well. This time we could not see their tails as they were doing swallow dives and not deep dives but we saw at least 5 individuals including a calf surfacing for a while.
The dolphins were more shy in the afternoon tour… but we cannot complain, today was an incredible day at the sea!

Photos from today:

Dolphin watching

"Bear paw" going on a deep dive

The tail of "Bear paw"

"Diamond" surfacing


Two adults from the afternoon

Beautiful landscape of São Miguel

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wonderful autumn!

It is not summer time anymore in the Azores, but we are really happy with the sightings that we have had in autumn so far.

In the morning our lookout gave us the indications to find a friendly group of bottlenose dolphins. We found a group that we know very well…"bubblemaker's" group! It is always a pleasure to see them; they are usually calm and friendly towards the boat, allowing our clients to take beautiful pictures of them. These pictures are also really important for our research as we are doing photo identification.

After the dolphins, we headed further away from the coast (about 8 miles) to find a fin whale. The fin whale from today had the same behavior as the fin whales we encountered yesterday: coming to the surface just for one or two blows and going down, surfacing in a different place every time.It was difficult to see the whale but our clients could see the blow several times and even its dorsal fin.

In the afternoon we found a nice group of about 30 to 40 false killer whales. In the Azores false killer whales are sighted occasionally, this year we have seen them eight times so far.We are always really excited about seeing this species as they are not shy towards boats and are frequently seen riding bow waves. Today we had the opportunity to see these animals feeding on tuna. Like the orcas (also known as killer whales), false killer whales can feed on dolphins and whales, but they feed more commonly on large fish and squid. Our whale watching boat found a group of bottlenose dolphins and the swimming with dolphins boat also found common dolphins to end the afternoon tour.

Photos from the morning:

Fin whale seen directly from behind

Photos from the afternoon:

Clients aboard our catamaran watching the false killer whales

Baby false killer whale surfacing alongside its mother

Eye to eye with a false killer whale

False killer whale hunting tuna (you can see the yellow fin of the tuna and the pink meat in the water)

False killer whale with a piece of tuna meat in its mouth (the pink part on the right side of the photo)

Plenty of seabirds came to take pieces of the tuna the false killer whales were hunting

Bottlenose dolphin face

This bottlenose dolphin was very curious...

and acrobatic

A well-known member from the bottlenose dolphin group

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Baleen and toothed whales

Today we had a very lucky whale watching tour as we encountered two different great whale species from the two existing cetacean groups. 

First we encountered at least two fin whales, who belong to the group of the baleen whales. These filter feeding whales have baleen plates in their mouth which they use to filter small food like plankton and small schooling fish out of the water. Next we encountered a family group of sperm whales, who belong to the group of the toothed whales. As the name suggests the toothed whales have teeth in their mouth, in the case of the sperm whale they are only in the lower jaw and they feed on squid and octopus. 

The fin whales we encountered this morning were travelling fairly fast, heading to the south, which is expected as these migratory whales spend the winter months in warmer waters for reproduction. It's nice to see them here this time of the year, as we mostly see them during their north-bound migration during the spring months. 

Sperm whales are resident to the Azores, so we have family groups of females with their young that are staying here year-round. The group we encountered this morning was actually our most encountered sperm whale group here in São Miguel. From the photograph we take from our research we could identify a whale we call "Diamond" (encountered from one of our zodiac boats) as well as "Left tip" and "Marble" (encountered from our catamaran. 

Our dolphin swimming clients spent the morning in the company of our resident bottlenose dolphins. Although we didn't see the dolphins from our whale watching boats, we were all very happy with our two different whale species.

Photos from today:

Fin whale

Fin whale

The first tail seen from the catamaran upon arriving to the sperm whales

The second tail - a sperm whale we call "Left tip"

A sperm whale we call "Marble"

Marble going on a deep dive

Monday, October 17, 2016

Long trip today

Today we saw two of our resident species, a nice pod of common dolphins and a family of sperm whales. Here in the Azores the animals aren’t in certain areas were we keep them, so every trip our lookouts from land have to look for them with their binoculars. Today sperm whales were a bit far away around 10 miles from the coast so it was a long trip, but it was worth it!
Check the photos of the whale with ‘white’ face! ;)

Two Sperm whales traveling together

We can see clearly the white face of the whale

Adult sperm whale with a very small calf


Common dolphins surfacing

One of our zodiac seeing dolphins
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