Saturday, May 31, 2014

São Miguel is surrounded by marine life

Today we had a wonderful morning enjoying the company of our marine life. Aboard our zodiac boat we started the trip with a group of about 20 bottlenose dolphins, swimming in an area full of filter feeding animals such as jellyfish, comb jellyfishes and salps. The group was full of babies so we did not stay long with them, as they looked very protective. Then we went further out where we found 2 fin whales. Both individuals were extremely calm, surfacing close to our boats, allowing us to observe their magnificence. At this point our catamaran joined us so that we could all enjoy the company of these large majestic creatures. After this encounter our catamaran found yet another fin whale just a bit further out. We also encountered some nice groups of common dolphins

During our trip we found other species of animals present in our waters. Throughout the morning from all our boats we saw loggerhead turtles, and on our way back to Ponta Delgada we spotted a shark dorsal fin from our zodiac. We stopped the boat trying to identify the species and we concluded that it probably was a big blue shark swimming close to the surface. From our catamaran we encountered a white marlin on the way back. These waters are definitely full of life!


Photos from today:

Fin whale


Two fin whales

Common dolphin

Watching common dolphins from the bow of our catamaran

Bottlenose dolphins

Watching bottlenose dolphins from our catamaran

Our swimming boat this morning

Our swimming boat with bottlenose dolphins


Friday, May 30, 2014

Humpback whale, sperm whale, fin whale and dolphins

We had a busy schedule today going from one species to the next. We started with a large male sperm whale that gave us a marvelous fluke. While watching the sperm whale we could see fin whales further out, and while travelling towards the fin whales we had the bottlenose dolphins around. We started with one fin whale, but we had more fin whales further out to see, all four of them together. The ocean was full of krill; the food for the giants of the sea and we got a sample so that we can show everybody what the largest animals in the world feed on. To end the morning tour we encountered common dolphins and a loggerhead turtle.

In the afternoon we had a juvenile humpback whale close to the shore in an area where it was only about 50 m deep. The young whale was most likely feeding, as it was diving in an area full of krill (again) and birds. There was also a lonely bottlenose dolphin in this area. We had the luck to see the humpback whale tail breach a few times; throwing its fluke high up in the air and slapping it down on the surface of the water. Once again, we finished the tour with common dolphins.


Photos from the morning:

Male sperm whale logging at the surface

Sperm whale diving

Our zodiac with the guide Albert trying to film a curious fin whale underwater

Two fin whales

Two fin whales (one dorsal fin and one blow)

Fin whale head, coming to breathe

Bottlenose dolphin


Our biologist (and skipper) Albert taking krill sample

Albert showing a sample of krill

A swarm of krill on the surface

Krill - notice one jumping!

Photos from the afternoon:


Humpback whale tail breaching

Humpback whale diving

Notice the white pectoral fin through the water

Watching the humpback whale from our catamaran

Humpback whale lobtailing again

Common dolphin

Common dolphins - calf surfacing next to its mother

Two "dark" common dolphins

Aboard Cetus 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Food for our cetaceans

This morning a mystery whale tested our patience. A few times we saw a blow of this whale, but never close enough to identify the species. The whale was in an area where one of our vigias had spotted a large male sperm whale in the previous two days, so we thought that is what it may have been. Sperm whales usually dive about 45 minutes on average, so we waited in the area hoping that the whale would reappear. We also used our hydrophone (underwater microphone) aboard our catamaran to check if we could hear the echolocation clicks that sperm whales emit while they are diving. Unfortunately we did not detect any whale noises and never saw the whale again. What we did see during the morning tour was a nice group of common dolphins. It was a group of about 20 individuals, including some newborn calves and slightly older juveniles. The whole group was travelling together, often leaping out of the waves in unison. 

Our zodiac boat also came across a large swarm of krill at the surface. Krill are small shrimp-like animals that baleen whales like blue whales, fin whales and sei whales feed on (and they do here in the Azores during the spring time when they migrate past here). We could see that this is what the record number of fin whales have been feeding on here recently. We collected a small sample of the krill that will be used to add to the educational aspect of our tours.

In the afternoon we had an incredible swimming tour with common dolphins very close to shore, just outside of Ponta Delgada. It was a group of about 80 dolphins and they were feeding on a school of mackerel. The dolphins were feeding together with Cory's shearwaters and yellow-legged gulls. It was a feeding frenzy and our swimmers had the luck of witnessing it all beneath the surface (dolphins, fish and birds all together). Our swimmers were surrounded by the dolphins as they were working the fish into a tight ball at the surface and they could actually see the birds diving down and stealing the fish from the dolphins.

Our whale watchers in the afternoon went to the eastern part of the island, in order to observe a group of fin whales the lookout had spotted before. When we arrived to the area we found 3 fin whales: 2 adults and 1 juvenile, apparently feeding. One of the whales literally surfaced  2 meters from our boat, allowing us to have an unforgettable view of its body and fluke size. Afterwards we decided to drive around the islet of Vila Franca do Campo to have a closer look, and later we enjoyed the company of a big group of playful common dolphins.


Photos from the morning:

Common dolphins leaping out of the waves



Common dolphins

Our captain Cocas and crew Leon trying the hydrophone

Our captain with the hydrophone in the water


Aboard Cetus today

A sample of krill (baleen whale food) we collected from our zodiac boat in the morning

Each krill is no more than 2 cm long. A blue whale can eat up to 4 tons of krill per day!


Photos from the afternoon:




 Cory´s shearwaters

 common dolphin


 Cory´s Shearwaters


 Gull and Cory´s Shearwaters

 Cory´s Shearwater


 Swiming with dolphins, cory´s shearwaters, gulls and mackerel




Swiming with dolphins, cory´s shearwaters, gulls and marckerel
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