Sunday, January 31, 2016

January 2016 sighting statistics

The first month of 2016 has come to an end, which brings us to the time of our monthly sighting statistics. The past month has been tough for us weather-wise so we could not go out on the water many days. In total we went out 9 days, but the good part is we saw cetaceans on every one of these tours. We are continuing our roll from last year of 100% success rate, seeing at least one dolphin or whale species during every tour. The species encountered this past month, in order of most sighted, were common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, sperm whales and striped dolphins. At the end of the month we also had an encounter with a mystery baleen whale species. We did not see this whale well so we can't confirm the species, but it looked to be either a humpback whale or a minke whale. As the beginning of the spring approaches we can look forward to the migration of more baleen whales, mostly fin whales, blue whales and sei whales. It shouldn't be too long now before they start to arrive. Other species we encountered during January include several seabirds, such as yellow-legged gulls, great skuas, northern gannets and black-legged kittiwakes, as well as a few loggerhead turtles.




A long journey

Today it we saw a bit more of the coastline along the north of the island. It was a fun ride across a wavy ocean to try to see a whale that our lookout had spotted out to the northwest of the island. Along the way we encountered a group of bottlenose dolphins travelling along and riding the waves. We spent some time watching them as they accompanied our boat. Unfortunately we were not so lucky with the whale, as we never did see it. The species of whale will remain a mystery. It was a good day for bird watching though, the crew spotted some slightly more rare species for this area: great skua, black-legged kittiwake and several northern gannets.

Mosteiros - the west coast of São Miguel Island

Bottlenose dolphins

Black-legged kittiwake

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Far far away

Today we had a true winter day, cold and grey. And unfortunately difficult. We had a great time with common dolphins. A small group of playful juveniles, having fun in the waves and bowriding but that was it. Our lookout did see sperm whales far far away and we couldn't go there. We tried to search the best we could as far as we could go and the area where they like to be but no luck. We hope for more luck tomorrow. 

Photos of common dolphins from today: 




 
 
 
Photos of our clients:
 
 


Friday, January 29, 2016

Flippers everywhere but shy whales


After so many days of rain and windy days winter is finally giving us a break, allowing us to go out on our whale watching trips. Yesterday we had a wonderful sunny day and today we had a perfect winter day with high clouds giving us a very nice view of the island from the sea. The sea was very smooth reflecting all the clouds of the sky. At first we saw a very small group of common dolphins, our loyal friends. After the common we went to the bottlenose dolphins, finding a giant group of ‘Flippers’; they were so many, that when we left the area looking for a baleen whale that the lookout spotted we ended surrounded by them. They were everywhere, showing all kind of behaviours and sizes. Unfortunately we didn’t see the baleen whale, that most likely was a humpback whale. Some of our crew and clients saw the blow far away but we didn’t ‘catch’ it. It was one of the tricky whales that breaths very few times and spending very little time in surface. What can we say? Whales and dolphins are exactly like people; sometimes they are in the mood, other time, is not that easy. Like a small bonus while waiting and searching for the whale, we encountered a very tiny loggerhead turtle.

Photos from today of bottlenose dolphins: 

Two dolphins in sync


Perfect photo for an ID



In the boat...


 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Beautiful sunny day

Another fantastic trip! Sun, calm ocean ... everything was perfect! We sailed a bit until we reached our first species…surprise...striped Dolphins! As always these dolphins were swimming really fast, stealing smiles from our clients! After a few moments our lookout contacted our skipper reporting that he had seen a group of sperm Whales near the area and, of course, we didn’t lose the opportunity. We saw at least four sperm whales, two of which showed their majestic tails! After comparing our fluke photos to our catalogue we could determine that the whale was one that we haven't photographed here before, so it will be a new addition to our sperm whale photo-ID catalogue. On our return we had the usual visit of our friends, the common Dolphins. A beautiful day after so many days of wind and rain.

 Physeter macrocephalus | Sperm whale


 Physeter macrocephalus | Sperm whale - new individual for our catalogue

                                                     Stenella coeruleoalba | Striped dolphin

                                                          Stercorarius skua | Great Skua


Some of our clients and our captain enjoying the animals :)




Monday, January 25, 2016

Entangled

This morning the sea had calmed down after recent bad weather so we were all excited to get back out on the water for some dolphin and whale watching. All started well as we were heading out and seeing jumping common dolphins in the distance. However, before we got close to them our boat ran over a submerged rope that couldn't be seen from the surface. The rope became entangled around one of our propelors and despite the crew's efforts we couldn't free it. Ropes and nets in the propelors is something that happens to our boats at least a few times per year and unfortunately this may be on the increase as the world's oceans are becoming more polluted with these ropes and nets as well as other debris such as plastic. This is a huge concern also for whales, dolphins, turtles, marine birds and fish because they also become entangled (or swallow) this marine debris. In the case of lost or discarded fishing gear in the water we refer to it as "ghost gear", because it silently keeps killing countless numbers of marine life, with much of this killing taking place unseen by us. The rope we ran over today was very thick and looked more like a mooring rope from a large ship rather than fishing gear. Nevertheless it can be a threat to big whales, so today we did our part in conserving the whales in the Azores by removing this rope from the ocean. Thanks to our clients today for understanding the situation and being very patient as we travelled back under the power of one engine.






Sunday, January 17, 2016

Mr. Liable is back!

We set out on a calm and beautiful sea, teasing us with summer feelings with delightful sunshine. We started with a small group of playful common dolphins, bowriding and we could clearly hear them sing. But after this encounter we had to drop some clients back in the marina, but soon we were off again out on the sea and our lookout guided to a sperm whale. It was Mr. Liable, but he dived before we arrived, but many of our clients got to see his wonderful tail a bit further away. Instead of waiting on the spot for him to surface again, we set off to see bottlenose dolphins and our friend Egípcio. The bottlenose dolphins were travelling right to the area of Mr. Liable, so when it was time for him to come up we were already there. And we got a perfect tail. A special thank you to all our wonderful and understanding clients today, and thank to the ocean for giving us this amazing tour with Mr. Liable as the highlight. 

Photos from today:

Common dolphin in perfect water

Common dolphins

Watching common dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins bowriding

Rainbowblow

Mr. Liable

Mr. Liable

Mr. Liable

Mr. Liable characteristic tail

Monday, January 11, 2016

An ocean full of whales

This morning we went out on our catamaran for our third tour of the year. We set out with good news from our lookout on land who had spotted whales to the east. He informed us that there were many sperm whales spread out across a large area, but even with this information we were surprised at the large number of whales out there. Everywhere we looked we saw blows and we moved around the different areas seeing many different individuals. We even saw at least 2 small calves, something that is not common to see here in the winter time. We ended our sperm whale encounter with a small adult sperm whale that we managed to see well, including its tail as it started a deep dive. After the whales we still had time to spend with a group of common dolphins that were curious as ever and spent some time bowriding with us before leaving us again.


Photos from today:




Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A sunny dolphin day

Today it's a beautiful sunny day in São Miguel Island in the Azores. We spent the morning of this great day out on the water enjoying the sunshine, the views and of course the cetaceans. Just like on our first tour of the year (on January 1st) we continued the rest of this first week of 2016 with more dolphin encounters.  First we encountered small groups of common dolphins spread over a large area near Ponta Delgada. After spending some time with these dolphins we continued further to the west where we encountered a nice group of bottlenose dolphins. It didn't take us long to realise that they were the familiar group of "Bubblemaker". Bubblemaker is a dolphin that we know well and is often seen blowing a trail of bubbles before surfacing. These bottlenose dolphins were more curious than the common dolphins, so we stayed with them a while so we got to see them really well. During the rest of the morning some loggerhead turtles were also spotted by those aboard with a keen eye on the water, and we also enjoyed the coastal views of the island on our way back in to the marina.


Photos of the bottlenose dolphins from today:



The view from aboard our catamaran

Our zodiac with the one we call Bubblemaker

A very curious individual



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