Saturday, March 30, 2019

Our favourite gang of bottlenose dolphins is around!

Today, despite the cold, the ocean was better than yesterday. 

We traveled far away, to the west side of the island, to spot the group of bottlenose dolphins we have seen the last days, with our resident individuals: egyptian, submarine and twisted. 

As always, they were very playful, approaching our catamaran and jumping a lot. We also saw matting behaviours. 

After leaving this group, we traveled a bit more west to spot a big group of common dolphins. This group was full of babies and juveniles, interacting between them and our boat. It was a good morning out on the ocean.

Educational day in Laranjeiras secondary school

This week, we went twice to the secondary school of Laranjeiras in Ponta Delgada. The students are currently getting ready for their big adventure: a whale and dolphin watching trip! We addressed varied topics such as the biodiversity of the Azores and scientific investigations elaborated by Futurismo. Now, they are all ready for their cetacean watching trip next Monday! We hope that they will put the technical knowledge they adquire during this educational day into practice. 😉

Learn more about our educational experiences

Friday, March 29, 2019

All the resident dolphin species in one day!

Today, we saw all our resident species of dolphins! In the morning, a numerous group of common dolphins welcomed us at sea. 

They are quite a curious species, so they frequently surround our catamaran swimming really close to it. These dolphins have an amazing pattern of 4 different colours, amazing to see underwater. Some of our guests went into the water to swim with them as they booked our swimming with dolphins tour

After that, we travelled west up to Rocha da Relva to observe some bottlenose dolphins and Risso’s dolphins that our spotter sighted. 

The Risso’s group seemed to be formed by already marked as well as fully white adult males and some juveniles still brownish! Some of these individuals are part of our resident group! 

In the afternoon the bottlenose group was more numerous and active than the ones from the morning, although in both sightings we caught some interesting social and foraging behaviours. Also, at the afternoon we sighted some Bottlenose resident individuals more frequently sighted, their names are: Egípcio, submarine and twisted. We also give them names to increase the proximity we get with these animals.

Our way back was made near the shore watching the beautiful shoreline with the volcanic history all exposed for us to read it!

Do you know Portuguese Man-O-War?

Now in springtime, our ocean is invaded by man-o-wars, but don't worry we are not at war.

Even the Portuguese Man-o-War is our most venomous species, we are safe watching them from our boats. So what are they and why are the named like this? Portuguese Man-O-War is not a jellyfish but a colony of polyps. As these polyps are specialized they can't survive on their own, only all four types of polyps together. 

One type is forming a gas-filled bladder visible above the water surface used like a sail. This part is resembling ancient warships navigating under sails and that is giving them their name Man-Of-War. The expression Man-Of-War comes from the British Royal Navy but the boat type was developed in Portugal in the early 15th century. Also was the animal found first in Portuguese waters so the English name of the species Physalia physalis is Portuguese Man-O-War. In other languages its mainly the literal translation, a combination of the word Portuguese and the name of the warship (Caravela, Carabela, Caravella, Galère, Galeere, Oorlogschip, Orlogsmand, Örlogsman, Gálya  ...). 

The second polyp type is the tentacles which are their weapons to kill small fish and small crustaceans. The tentacles are dark blue mostly curled but apparently able to expand up to 50 m in length. For humans, the venom is rarely lethal but very painful even after the creatures are dead the poison is still harmful. As this species is not swimming actively just drifting by wind, currents, and tides they are sometimes beached, so watch out for their warning colors like pink, violet and an intense blue and their shining glassy or jelly aspect.

The third polyp type is the digestive system which is, by the way, transparent so it is possible to see what they are eating. 

The last polyp type is the reproduction system, so some colonies are producing eggs and others sperms. So when the sperm and eggs meet in the water larvae are produced which divide asexually into the different polyps. 

We can find the Portuguese Man-Of-War floating, usually plenty of them in different sizes, the sail is measuring up to 30 cm long and a maximum of 15 cm high. So these beauties are often confused with garbage floating on the surface by the inexperienced eye but seeing them close by amazes people and also other creatures like the Loggerhead Turtle, the Sunfish, the Blue Sea Slug or the Violet Snail-like them literally. The Loggerhead Turtle has such a thick skin also in their mouth that the toxins of the strings are not affecting them. So watch out for Portuguese Men-Of-War during springtime when being out on the ocean.

Written by Carine Zimmermann 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

In the good company of Common dolphins

The North easterly winds today did not stop us from having fun at sea! We went out and our day started off with slightly strong wind and rough waves. But when we got to the area that was protected by the mountain of Lagoa do Fogo, we had the perfect sea! And the sea was FULL of common dolphins

Everywhere we went, we had small groups of common dolphins, even when we were traveling to another area. We had about 20-30 dolphins bow-riding our boat. Eventually, we could also hear the dolphins from the boat, it was a high-frequency whistle. The dolphins were socializing and super curious today.

The Cory's Shearwaters were also present today!

Then at some point we found something floating at the surface. It looked like a buoy, so we went and had a look. It indeed turned out to be a buoy that probably floated away from a harbour or a boat. We, however, did not bring it back to land with us because it already had a mini ecosystem growing there. The buoy was fully grown with barnacles and gooseneck barnacles.

We normally collect plastic and floating trash when we encounter it at sea because, particularly plastic, is a problem to the survival of the animals in the sea. But when it is too heavy, or when there are too many organisms attached to the piece with fish swimming around it, like this buoy that we found here, we leave it in the sea to keep the organisms alive.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Feeding time for the common dolphins

Today, our morning trip was full of adventure. When the wind and waves are more powerful, we have the opportunity to really feel the strong environment of the sea. This morning, the waves were mixing up the Ocean's surface waters which is also a good opportunity for the birds to go feed. So we had Cory’s shearwaters scanning the water surface, moving along with our boat and fishing among the dolphins. In the middle of all the Shearwaters, we spotted an 'infiltrated' great Skua. 

Today, we found two different pods of common dolphins. In the first pod, we found small calves that must have been born just a few months ago and we also saw some bigger juveniles. 

In the second group, we found bigger individuals but after a while the small ones also joined us. From the zodiac boat we could identify feeding behaviours and whistling communications. On our catamaran "4 Ventos" (4 winds) our guests were able to spot mating behaviours between the dolphins.

All the toothed marine mammals, like dolphins and sperm whales, produce echolocation clicks. The human ear cannot perceive high frequency sounds but our hydrophone is able to receive it! Along the trip, we were gradually stopping to hear the sounds of the surrounding Ocean with this tool and try to identify the high pitched ones but unfortunately it was not possible today, it seemed like there were just dolphins in our range of hearing !

Our way back was near the beautiful coastline with the sun warming us. We had the opportunity to pass near some beautiful sedimentary domes at the South coast of São Miguel Island.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins joining us on a sunny day

Today started with a windy but sunny morning, along with some waves which were perfect for the bottlenose dolphins to surf them. 

They were very curious about the boat, bowriding and travelling fast. We saw a familiar bottlenose dolphin, we call it submarine because of its short fin! 
One of our zodiacs stayed for more time with this species to do one of our other activity: swimming with dolphins! Despite the swell, the dolphins approached our guests with curiosity. 

We headed to another area and met some common dolphins who were playful as well and very curious about us. One thing that caught our attention was the big size of these groups of dolphins in this season of the year, so many dolphins!

During our trip, we also spotted a loggerhead sea turtle on the surface!

We just hope that these sunny days continue and the animals keep on being just perfect.
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