Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sperm whales and bottlenose dolphins


Botllenose dolphins and sperm whales! That is what the day brought us.
For our morning tour the weather was good, just a little foggy. When we left the marina had already been informed that our vigia (onshore lookout) in Água de Pau had already spotted sperm whales. The boats went straight to the area and we saw at least 4 sperm whales. The sperm whales were easy to see, but the dolphins were not. We tried to find a group and after some time our vigia spotted a nice group of bottlenose dolphins right near the area we had been watching the whales. We had plenty of time to take some great photos before we returned to base. The following photo of two sperm whales diving was taken this morning by M.r Niels Roug this morning. Thank you for sharing this photo with us!


For the afternoon we expect to see at least some of the same animals. We found the same group of dolphins closer to land, near Caloura. We spent a few minutes with the bottlenose dolphins while waiting for the announcement of whales.  We searched the area and encountered a turtle. Not bad! After a lot more time travelling our vigia in Ponta Garça finally saw the whales, about two miles from land. So in the end we were lucky to have the same sperm whales in our afternoon tour.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

And the wind blows...


Today a cold wind from the west almost ruined our day.
We went out in the morning and the sea was white from small waves breaking. But our vigia (onshore lookout) in Ponta Garça spotted some whales for us. It was a nice group of sperm whales, in the same area that they have been in for a few days already. We took the chance and headed to the area. Along the way we stopped the boats to observe a large group of friendly bottlenose dolphins. When the boats arrived to the are of the whales the sea was rough, making it difficult to find the animals. Finally a blow was spotted, we saw the body of a sperm whale but then nothing more was seen. We waited for a while for another whale to appear at the surface, but  unfortunately we never saw another whale. On our way back we saw a group of speedy striped dolphins. We stayed with them for a while to observe their amazing high jumps. On the way back we also had the chance to see a turtle and a flying fish.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Another day with the whales


Today went much better than we had anticipated. The weather was fine, the sea very calm and the sun shining to warm our souls! In the morning we went south of Água de Pau to encounter some sperm whales, common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. The afternoon was exactly the same: common dolphins, botllenose dolphins and sperm whales. The whales are all south of Amora beach today, feeding in a large area. Our best moment today was when one large female decided to pass near the boats!


























Sperm whale diving

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sperm whales all day long

Today the weather is not so good as it has been the last two days. But we hat two tours booked and they ended up being very successfull. During the morning trip we went to the area of Vila Franca where our vigia (onshore lookout) had spotted some sperm whales. But first, as we were leaving the marina we came across a nice group of common dolphins that were very friendly as they usually are. Then it was straight to Vila Franca to observe at least 7 sperm whales. There was also a sei whale around, but the vigia didn't manage to spot it. In the afternoon the wind increasde a little and the waves start to become white. But it wasn't a problem as we still got the whales. Once again vigias in Água de Pau and Ponta Garça followed the same group of sperm whales. It was a gentle family with a lot of calves (babies). We took extra care and distance to avoid disturbing the animals. When our time with the group was up we decided to go back, searching for dolphins along the way. We didn't find any dolphins but we were glad to have a tour focused on the sperm whale!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Another blue day with sperm whales and our first sei whales of the season

Today we had perfect weather giving us hope of observing whales. Our vigia (onshore lookout) didn't disapoint us. The vigia to the east of the island (in Ponta Garça) spotted a nice number of sperm whales for us. First we saw botllenose dolphins, them common dolphins and finally the sperm whales south of Ribeira Quente. We also had time to see two or three turtles and a shark. Perfect!

For the afternoon we expected to see the same sperm whales, but on the way to the area, just south of Vila Franca, we were surprised by two sei whales. A mother and a calf moving to the west. It was the first time we had the chance to see this species this season. Not bad! After watching the sei whales it was already time to return to Ponta Delgada. We had time for just one more stop with a large group of common dolphins.


Photo of the adult sei whale

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

One week later...more whales!

After a few days with expecting to see whales, for several reasons we didn't get any. We have been seeing a lot of dolphins: common, bottlenose, risso's and even striped dolphins, but none of the different species of whales indicated by the vigias (onshore lookouts) (sperm whale, blue whale and sei whale). But today our lucky changed as we finally got the see the whales that the vigia spotted for us.





















Sperm whale going on a deep dive


Our first stop in the morning was off the coast of Relva to where there was a nice group of bottlenose dolphins. They were calm so those on our swimming boat had the chance to get into the water with them. Our other boats left them to enjoy the swimming and as we approached another group of bottlenose dolphins we were surprised to encounter some false killer whales together with the bottlenose dolphins. We kept seeing more and more false killer whales until we were surrounded by the gentle and very curious animals. We switched off the engines to enjoy an amazing encounter. We also received information about a sei whale, not far from where we were. We looked for the whale but could not find it. 
In the afternoon, we changed scenery, and went to the east side where we had some sperm whales. On the way we stop to see a group of common dolphins and after a long wait we had our whales. We saw at least 8 sperm whales. On our way back we were surprised to encounter two sei whales near Água d'Alto. They didn't wait for us. They went on a long dive and were not seen again. In the end it was a perfect day with a lot of animals and nice weather.





















False killer whale

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The first fin whales of the season


Today we had the usual two tours, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
In the morning we started our encounter just south of água de Pau, first with bottlenose dolphins then Risso's and common dolphins. A regular tour with our three resident dolphin species.
 
The surprise was reserved for the afternoon. Our vigia (onshore lookout) on the west coast told us that he saw some baleen whales, may be blue whales. It was a long trip to arrive to the area and when we arrived the whales seemed to be difficult to see. We stopped and waiting in the area for a long time but just saw one distant blow. But our patience paid off, we got to see the whales and were able to confirm they were our first fin whales of the season. They were very large individuals, some of them more than 18 meters in length. Very beautiful and impressive fin whales!

Fin whale surfacing

Monday, March 17, 2008

A nice morning on the sea


Sperm whales logging at the surface together

This morning was fantastic! When we left the marina we already knew that our vigia (onshore lookout) had spotted sperm whales. We went straight to the area of  Água de Pau to encounter about 15 sperm whales, a social group made up of several females with their calves and juveniles. They were all moving calmly together, travelling to the southeast. People had the chance to apreciate those gentle animals. Time flew by and before we knew it our time with the sperm whales had run out.
 
Our vigia further to the east informed us that there were also blue whales in the area, but unfortunatly too far for us to reach them. We had to let the blues go this time. We began our return trip, looking for dolphins along the way. We ended up with the usual, common dolphins, in a nice group that was feeding at the time.

For the afternoon trip we were expecting many whales and we spent some time searching for them, but unfortunately without results. Instead we were pleased to have common dolphins and a nice shinning sun. Whale watching is always unpredictable!

Friday, March 14, 2008

A perfect end to the day with sperm whales

Today we had two tours. On our first tour we had good weather and many common dolphins, Risso's dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. It was a very easy and pleasnant tour for us. In the afternoon we had more difficulties finding animals. We went a long way, four boats travelling all the way to Faial da Terra to see a very good group of common dolphins. By this stage we were not too hopeful about seeing whales. But as the sun moved across the sky our vigia (onshore lookout) was able to get a better look of the ocean and he was able to find us a group of sperm whales passing the coastline of Vila Franca and heading west. In the end everybody had the chance to see the magnificent sperm whales. It was the perfect end to a hard and long day.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Blue whales!!!

Early this morning our vigia (onshore lookout) situated to the east of Ponta delgada announced that he saw three blue whales, not far from land and just south of Ponta Garça. We went straight to the area to avoid loosing the whales, but all we got was a lot of blue ocean. Unfortunately they were not there anymore. We spent some time in the area searching and waiting but eventually we had to give up. Luckily the common dolphins were there for us, as they almost always are. In the afternoon we also saw common dolphins as well as a turtle to add something different to the tour.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Another windy day

Yestarday we had two trips; morning and afternoon. In the morning we went to the east side to avoid the wind. But along the way we just had common dolphins. In the afternoon we decided to go a little to the west, just south of Relva. We ended up having a pleasant evening with a lot of common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and a interesting group of Risso's dolphins. It's always a pleasure to see the dolphins surfing the waves. It seems that everybody enjoyed seeing the "dances with waves".

Monday, March 10, 2008

Wind and dolphins to the west

This morning when we went out on our tour there was a light wind coming from the west. As the tour developed it was getting more fresh and the sea reflected that change. We experienced some short and unpleasant waves and in these conditions it is always more difficult to find whales. What we did see was a lot of common dolphins spread out over a large area and a nice group of Risso's dolphins around some fishing boats. We often see these clever dolphins making the most of the squid fishery, stealing a squid from their fishing lines at any chance they get. Today we also saw many birds all over, mainly Cory's shearwaters. The sun was strong today, making the tour more pleasant.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The west is the best

Once again our tours (morning and afternoon) took place to the west of São Miguel Island, as has been the case during the last days. This is where the sperm whales are hanging out at the moment, so today we got to encounter them again. In the afternoon we had a pod of at least15 sperm whales. In the same area we also saw about dozen Risso's dolphins. Additionally, on our way to the west we came across some bottlenose dolphins and common dolphins. Four species and a lot of sunshine can be considered a very good tour!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Perfect day!




Once again we just had a trip in the afternoon. But what a trip it was! Our vigia (onshore lookout) situated at the center of the island spotted some common dolphins, the other vigia situated in Relva spotted Risso's and more common dolphins and finally the vigia on the west of the island got something bigger: sperm whales!

We decided to go to the west, stopping briefly along the way to see the Risso's and common dolphins. After this we headed further north to the area indicated by the vigia. A few minutes after we had arrived the whales started appearing at the surface. A whole family of females and calves were there, coming to the surface together after a long dive. We followed the group for a while and were surprised to encounter a group of pilot whales approaching the boat. They passed the sperm whales, dived and then reappeared behing the boats. When we turnted to head back to Ponta delgada everybody was already satifsied so it was an extra surprise to also encounter some bottlenose dolphins on the way back. What a perfect day with 5 species!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Looking for ghosts

Today our tour didn't go so well, at least not as well as we had imagined before at the beginning of the trip. The vigia (onshore lookout) on the west side of the island informed us tell us that he spotted some whales a bit far off the coastline. We though we had a good chance of seeing them, but unfortunately we travelled a long way  and didn't get to see a single whale. But we did end up with common dolphins so not all was lost.

Monday, March 3, 2008

February 2008 sighting statistics


 
As you can see from the above graph this February we have seen five different cetacean species. Not bad for the low season! As expected the common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) is the most sighted, in 100% of the days we went out! The remaining three resident species were also sighted (bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus) and sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus)) and we also ecountered striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) which is not to common for the winter months.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The season just began in BLUE


Today our whale watching season has really begun with good weather and a blue whale! Not just any whales species, but the largest animal on the planet. We were originally going to see sperm whales, out to the west of the island where our vigia (onshore lookout) spotted them. As we were headed there the vigia saw some strange movement on the surface and irregular dive times, more or less in the same area. He suspected it may have been a fin whale, but it was in fact a big blue. So our first baleen whale of the season is a blue whale. After a while we left the blue whale and went to see the sperm whales. Today's sighting confirmed that the baleen whale season has begun right on schedule just as it should be. Now for the next few months we can expect to see more blue whales, fin whales, sei whales and maybe even the occasional humpback or minke whale to pass the Azores on their migration.

March starts as February finished - with sperm whales

The first of March began with rain, at least in the morning. Because of this we only saw dolphins during our morning tour, but at least we saw two different species (common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins). In the afternoon the weather improved a bit and our vigia (onshore lookout) on the western part of the island informed us that he had sighted some whales. We took our chance, not knowing what kind of whales were out there. After a long journey, stopping for a while to see some common dolphins, we arrived to the area just as the vigia announced it was sperm whales. There were whales everywhere - several females with calves and also two larger males. We approached quietly and stayed with them for a few minutes until they dived, showing us their beautiful tails. 
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