Thursday, May 31, 2018

Humpback whale, Fin whales, Sperm whales and Bottlenose dolphins in the Azores today

Another fantastic day in São Miguel Island with Fin whales and bottlenose dolphins. The ocean today was very flat and clean, we could see the entire body of the whales underneath the surface!!

Fin whale 

Fin whale blow

Fin whale with no dorsal fin

Watching bottlenose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphin jumping

Bottlenose dolphin

 Some loggerhead turtles also were seen by our boats. 

In Pico Island we saw 3 different species. Two female Sperm whales, a Humpback whale who showed us his tail and a group of Common dolphins very curious. 

Humpback whale tail

Female Sperm whale tail

Common dolphin

Humpback whale blowhole 

Let's say goodbye to a wonderful month of may full of whales and dolphins and let's see what June has to offer to us.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A juvenile Sperm whale and a lot of dolphins in our tours in São Miguel and Pico Islands

In São Miguel Island, we started the day with some waves, some wind and some clowds but well, we are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean so it is not always perfect weather conditions. 

In the morning we saw botllenose dolphins, a very big group spread in a very big area. We continue our tour towards south because our lookout spoted a spout of a whale, unfortunately we didn't found any whale but a pod of common dolphins showed up very close to our boat.

Common dolphin

Watching dolphins

In the afternoon we started again with a pod of bottlenose dolphins but this time they were a very small pod with only babies and juveniles so they were always keeping the distance from the boats. Sometimes dolphins can be a little bit more protective when they have young ones in the group. 

To end the day in the best way we were still able to see a juvenile sperm whale showing the tail although the weather conditions.

Juvenile sperm whale

Sperm whale tail 

In Pico Island, the wavy sea was perfect for Common and Bottlenose dolphins! They love surfing the waves 😊 During our tour in Pico we also saw a male Sperm whale showing us his tail. 

Male Sperm whale tail

Common dolphins surfing 

Bottlenose dolphin surfing

Bottlenose dolphin

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Sperm Whales, Fin whales and bottlenose dolphins

Today we had a big group of sperm whales to see throughout the day. 

We encountered at least 8 different individuals, including a big male that was together with some females. 
We also saw different behaviors, such as spyhopping (putting their heads out of the water to look above the surface), lobtailing (slapping their tails on the surface of the water) and even a breach (jumping out of the water) at the end of the afternoon. 

We also encountered another one of our resident species, the playful bottlenose dolphins both in the morning and afternoon. From one of our smaller boats, two fin whales were also seen in the morning, so it's nice to know that the migrating baleen whales are still with us too.

Sperm whale tail

Bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin

Sperm whale tail

Sperm whales

Sperm whales

Monday, May 28, 2018

Humpback whale jumping out of the water

In the morning we saw a humpback whale a little bit shy only showing the the back a little bit far away from the boat. After that we our lookout told us to go to an area where there was a vey nice pod of risso's dolphins. They were always around the boat which is not a very normal behaviour for this species, normally they keep the distance from us. Five minutes after, going south and we found a small pod of juvenilles bottlenose dolphins.

Risso's dolphin

In the aftternoon is when it got spetacular! The same humpback whale from the morning but this time with a very different behaviour. We could see a lot of different behaviors: jumping out of the water; tail slapping; saying "hello" with their huge pectoral fins; swimming upside down. 

Even for the crew it was someting extraordinary because it's not very normal to see this king of behaviour here in the azores ...but well, wild life can always suprises with moments like this. Better than any documentary!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

We saw 6 different species of cetaceans in one day!

Yes! We made it! For the first time this year, we found 6 species of cetaceans in the same day in Pico Island: sperm whales, fin whale, common dolphins, risso's dolphins, striped dolphins and pilot whales :)

In Sao Miguel Looks like our resident whales are back! Today, both in morning and afternoon, we had to go to the western part of the island, at a certain point we were able to see the south and north part of the island at the same time. But it was worth it! 

There was a group of sperm whales very calm in the surface and we still got to see a baby alongside with a female and some tails as well.

In the morning there was still time for a group of common dolphins and in the afternoon again the common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. 

Photos by Mariana Silva, Rui Santos, David Rodrigues & Rui Rodrigues

Bottlenose dolphins jumping

Sperm whale's tail

Fin whale in Pico Island

Pilot whales in Pico Island

Sperm whale diving

Striped dolphin

Risso's dolphin in Pico Island

Common dolphin

Why is the Azores a hotspot for Whale Watching?

The cetacean watching is an activity practiced in the waters of the whole planet. After the departure of the boat, the vast ocean is the scene in which the encounters between cetaceans and humans take place.

Which species? 

Sperm whales, baleen whales (Blue, Fin, Sei and Humpback whales), common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, Atlantic spotted dolphins, striped dolphins are some of the most seen species.

When to go? 

Year-round for resident species. Spring for baleen whales.

Why it's a hotspot?

The Azores are currently one of the largest whale sanctuaries in the world, with nutrient-rich waters. From resident to migratory species, the Azores are a point of passage for several cetaceans, with 28 of the 87 existing species of cetaceans having been sighted in the region.
It’s possible to watch cetaceans during whole the year. 4 resident species can be seen throughout the year: common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Risso’s dolphins and sperm whales. During Spring, there are many baleen whale species that choose the Azores as part of their migration route, including blue whales, fin whales and sei whales. During Summer, we can find other seasonal species, such as Atlantic spotted dolphins and striped dolphins. It’s also permitted to swim with 4 of these species of dolphins.
The chances of seeing at least one type of dolphin or whale here is reportedly 98 percent. Whatever the season, there are always discoveries to make.
In the past, whaling was practiced in the Azores and was banned in 1986. Nowadays these species are protected. Watching a whale or a dolphin in its purest and most natural state is a privilege few people have anywhere in the world. We need to take care and minimise interference in the paradisiacal habitat they have chosen as their home, to safeguard cetaceans, resident and migratory.
This way, cetacean observation is important in terms of the protection of resources since it ends up being a way of dissemination of concepts of conservation and environmental management. It can be used to educate people about threats and actions needed to protect the environment and species and maintain biodiversity. On the other hand, the effort involved in the observation of cetaceans can be oriented in order to acquire new information about cetaceans.

Migratory species

Baleen whales occupy a wide variety of habitats, from open oceans to coastal waters and undertake some of the longest migrations known.
In the summer months, most of the baleen whales go to feeding areas at medium and high latitudes richer in zooplankton and in the winter they migrate to temperate and tropical waters where they mate and give birth. Explanations for such long-range movements have included direct benefits to the calf by being better able to survive in calm and warm waters, the possible ability of some species to supplement their food supply from plankton encountered on migration or on the calving grounds, to reduce the risk of killer whale predation on newborn calves in low latitudes and another reason could be due to an evolutionary holdover, which means that individuals migrate because their ancestors already did.
Typically, baleen whales feed on zooplankton, mainly euphausiids (e.g. krill) or copepods, or small fish. While most feeding occurs in the colder waters of the polar and subpolar regions in the summer, baleen whales may feed opportunistically elsewhere.
The archipelago is one of the waypoints used in the migratory route of six baleen whale species in which the fin, sei, blue and humpback whales are included.
 During their stay in the region of the Azores, individuals of this species are frequently observed feeding, which suggests that the waters of the archipelago can also be used to feed and replenish the energy spent by the whales on their migration. If this is true, then the Azores assume fundamental importance in the ecology of these whales.
Although baleen whales can be observed almost year-round in the Azores, spring is the season with the greatest number of sightings, which coincides with the months of higher productivity in the region. 

Resident species

The common dolphin is the species most seen in São Miguel and has a large are of distribution, but is mainly concentrated in shallow areas near the coast and relatively close to Ponta Delgada.

The bottlenose dolphin is the second most sighted species. This species is found mainly in coastal waters, however, also shows some preference for areas further away from the coast.

Risso’s dolphin is not observed so often. They are easy to identify due to their almost white colouration. They are observed near the coast but mainly in deeper zones and steep slopes, mainly near Vila Franca do Campo and also alongside fishing vessels.

The sperm whale is the largest of cetaceans with teeth, as well as the largest animal with teeth that currently exists. They are observed in the Azores throughout year in deeper water areas or in depth change zones / lines.

Bannister, J.L. 2002. Baleen Whales: Mysticetes. Pp. 62-72 in: Perrin, W.R., Wiirsig, B. & Thewissen, J.G.M.(Eds). Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals. Academic Press, San Diego-San Francisco-New York-Boston-London-Sydney-Tokyo. 1473 pp.
Biological Association. JMBA Diversity Records. Available from:
Evans, P.G.H. & Raga, J.A. (Eds.) 2001. Marine Mammals – Biology and Conservation. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. New York. 630 pp.
Hoelzel, A.R. (Ed) 2002. Marine Mammal Biology – An Evolutionary Approach. Blackwell Publishing. United Kingdom. 432 pp.
Reeves, R.R., Smith, T.D., Josephson, E.A., Clapham, P. J. & Woolmer, G. 2004. Historical observations of Humpback and Blue whales in the North Atlantic Ocean: Clues to migratory routes and possibly additional feeding grounds. Marine Mammal Science, 20 (4): 774-786 pp.
Santos, M.B.O. 2008. Distribution and pattern of residence of the baleen whales (Family Balaenopteridae) in the Azores archipelago. Thesis, University of Azores. 46 pp.
Silva, M. A., Prieto, R., Cascão, I., Seabra, M. I., Machete, M., Baumgartner, M. F., & Santos, R. S. (2014). Spatial and temporal distribution of cetaceans in the mid-Atlantic waters around the Azores. Marine Biology Research10(2), 123-137.
Stern S.J. 2002. Migration and Movement Patterns. Pp. 742-750 in Perrin, W.R., Wiirsig, B. & Thewissen, J.G.M.(Eds). Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals.

Visser F, Hartman KL, Pierce GJ, D V, Huisman J. 2011. Timing of migratory baleen whales at the Azores in relation to the North Atlantic spring bloom. Marine Ecology Progress Series 440: 267–279.

Written by Andreia Vieira

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Fin whales back again...and a pod of dolphins we know very well!

We started the day with one missing specie from yesterday, fin whales! We spoted two very calm fin whales side by side. We continued our tour and found a very well known pod of bottlenose. It was the pod of "egypcian" and "submarine", two bottlenose dolphins with a very particular dorsal fin. Our catamaran cetus was also able to see a small pod of common dolphins.

In the afternoon we also had the plesure to be in the company of another very calm fin whale ...aparently today was a resting day for the whales. Bottlenose dolphins also show up close to the boats this afternoon.

In Pico Island we had a cloudy day, but it was not a problem for us to see sperm whales, a juvenile blue whale and common dolphins :)

Photos from Mariana Silva, Rafael Martins and Rui Santos.

Sperm whales in Pico Island

Fin Whale

Bottlenose dolphin with remora

The bottlenose dolphin we call "egypcian"

"Egypcian" dorsal fin

Fin Whale close to the coast

Some of our boats from today

Bottlenose with a missing part in the tail

Friday, May 25, 2018

Blue whales in São Miguel Island tours and 5 different species in Pico Island

Today was another successful day out on the ocean in Pico Island. 

Just in the morning, we encountered 5 different whale and dolphin species. We saw a baby Risso's dolphin, Striped and common dolphins very curious, a Sperm whale breaching and a Fin whale. It´s a very good experience not just for us but also for our guests! 

Baby Risso's dolphin

Common dolphins

Fin whale

Sperm whale breaching 

 "Flying" Striped dolphin

In São Miguel Island it was a blue whale day.

We encountered two big adults in the morning and another one in the afternoon. The sky was also blue today, as well as the ocean which was very calm and clear, giving us great conditions to watch these magnificent blue whales. 

Blue whale close to land

Blue Whale

A powerful blue whale blow

Blue whale

Blue whale

Blue whale ´Rainblow´

We also encountered our resident bottlenose dolphins today, both in the morning and afternoon in big groups spread out over a large area. They were really nice to watch in the calm blue water, coming close to our boats and also putting on a great display with their jumps and acrobatics, as you can see in some of our photos which capture these nice moments we shared with our guests. 

Bottlenose dolphins close to Ponta Delgada

                                          Bottlenose dolphin with broken tail

                                                         Bottlenose dolphins

                      A special dolphin with a problem in the lower jaw who we call "kiss"

Beautifull bottlenose dolphins

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