Friday, October 24, 2014

A lucky and sunny day with our residents

Today, in the morning we went out after almost a week of being onshore due to bad weather in the past week. At  9h00, 3 of our boats were ready for the adventure; one for swimming with dolphins and the other 2 boats for the whale watching activity. We were lucky to hear early in the morning that our lookout found whales. At least a group of 6 sperm whales, our resident ones! On our way to the whale area, we could observe two more species; common dolphins and Risso´s dolphins. We had a good start with the group of common dolphins. It was small but sociable group, mostly juveniles swimming next to our zodiac boat. Then, we left the area to go towards the whales but once more we stopped the boat, this time to visit our Rissos´s dolphins. They are so beautiful, and therefore every trip we have unique encounters. After that, we continued travelling to the east side of the island and after some minutes waiting for them to appear at the surface, we could observe a mother and a calf breathing together. It is beautiful to see the strong bond between individuals, specially between mother and calf. Coming back to Ponta Delgada, we could still see one more species, the bottlenose dolphins. These intelligent dolphins were surfing the waves and going in front of our catamaran to bowride. It was an amazing morning with all the resident whale and dolphin species.

In the afternoon, we resighted the bottlenose dolphins and the sperm whales. We had lots of sperm whales on the surface socializing and being very curious towards our catamaran. We had a group of at least five or six next to us. We only got to see one fast tail, but the encounter was so amazing without tails that is was worth a sperm whale's weight in gold.  

Some photos from today:

One of the sperm whales we saw in both the morning and afternoon
This individual is easy to recognise from the markings on its side

One of the flukes from the morning

Watching a sperm whale from aboard our catamaran

A curious sperm whale calf

Watching bottlenose dolphins

A social group of bottlenose dolphins

A group of 6 sperm whales grouping up in the afternoon

One of our lookouts high up on the clifftop - our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Thanks to the skills of our lookouts today we got to see the whales!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Happy dolphins and flying fish

Today we only went out in the morning and we encountered some playful common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. It was like yesterday, a bit windy and wavy and the dolphins were surfing the waves and having a great time. Unfortunately the whales from yesterday were nowhere to be seen, and we tried to find different dolphins such as spotted dolphins but they turned out to be more common dolphins. Not too bad as they are divine with their yellow color in the sunlight. We also got to see some flying fish on the way back.

Photos from today:

Common dolphin - notice the yellow colour beneath the dark dorsal

Common dolphins wave surfing

Baby bottlenose dolphin

Enjoying the coastal views of the island

Watching Vila Franca Islet

A heron on the islet (great spotting from our biologist Ida!)

Caloura coastline on our return journey

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Familiar whales welcome us

Today we went out on the sea after several days of bad weather and guess who was out there to welcome us back? A very familiar sperm whale group. We spent both the morning and the afternoon with them and we identified two of them right away; one is called "Orca" and the other one "Bear paw". We have seen them for many years now. In the morning we encountered at least six sperm whales and several curious juveniles and calves, both in the morning and afternoon we had whales coming close to us to check us out, swimming around our catamaran Cetus. They wanted to see us too. This group of whales always feel so friendly and calm around us, as they seem to know us as well. In the morning we also encountered bottlenose dolphins, and in the afternoon Risso's dolphins and common dolphins. All our resident species were out there to welcome us back. I sure is a great feeling for us biologists and skippers, but the best part is to share it with lots of happy guests.

Photos from today:

Sperm whales diving during the morning tour - the tail belongs to a whale we call "Bear paw"

Bottlenose dolphins playing in the waves

One of the sperm whales from the afternoon. This one had a calf and they curiously passed close alongside our catamaran to give us a great look!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dolphin experience

This morning we returned to the ocean for tours of swimming with and observing dolphins.We began by encountering a couple of our resident species: the bottlenose dolphin and the common dolphin. After these great encounters we had a surprise encounter with Atlantic spotted dolphins which is a migratory species observed during the warmer summer months (this was a surprise because this year we have not seen them as often as usual). Our swimming clients this morning had the pleasure of swimming with one of the more curious and intelligent dolphin species: the bottlenose dolphin. Our swimmers this morning had a truly unforgettable experience!

Bottlenose dolphin

Juvenile Atlantic spotted dolphin in perfect calm water with reflections

Atlantic spotted dolphin swimming right next to our boat

Aboard our catamaran Cetus, watching our swimming boat

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Azorean resident dolphins

Today we encountered the three dolphin species who are resident to the Azores: bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins and Risso's dolphins. These species can be seen year-round and we often resight the same groups and individuals so we get to know them very well, and who know maybe they also get to know us? The Risso's dolphins were encountered only during the morning tour, but the common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins were seen throughout the day. In the morning our vigia also sighted a group of Atlantic spotted dolphins, but they vanished without a trace before we arrived to the area. All in all it was another great dolphin day and as usual we got to see many baby dolphins, of all three species.

Photos from today:

Bottlenose dolphin outside of Ponta Delgada

Bottlenose dolphins

A pale baby bottlenose dolphin

Our catamaran Cetus with common dolphins

Juvenile common dolphin

Aboard our zodiac boat

Risso's dolphins - a dark unmarked baby with a very well marked adult female

Our catamaran with Risso's dolphins

Friday, October 10, 2014

Dolphin love and family time

Today we had the pleasure of spending the morning with a few nice family groups of common dolphins. In total we encountered 3 different groups of common dolphins, each of them interesting in their own way. The first group was near Ponta Delgada and although the group was small, we spotted much larger bottlenose dolphin in the group - maybe the same one as yesterday? The second group was an active one and we could see a lot of dolphin love - mating activity which is a good sign that they are creating the babies for the next summer. The third group had a lot of smaller babies in it so they were really fun to watch. The bond between mother and calf is always very strong and we could see this in the way they were swimming side by side and coordinating their movements. After our dolphin encounters we made a brief visit to the protected area of Vila Franca Islet where we saw different nesting bird species and of course the red rock crabs!

Common dolphin calf leaping alongside our boat

Dolphin love

Dolphins swimming fast on their sides - mating behaviour

Full action - ongoing mating

A beautifully coloured rock pigeon sneaking through the vegetation of Vila Franca Islet

Juvenile gull on the islet

Red rock crab

Aboard Cetus

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dolphins rock a lot!

This morning was a calm and interesting dolphin morning. We started with common dolphins feeding with Cory's shearwaters and yellowlegged gulls, we could see some slow activity and we were waiting for a feeding frenzy but it never started. Maybe it had already ended. All of a sudden we had at least two larger dolphins in the group: two bottlenose dolphins. But we heard on the radio that the lookout had seen more bottlenose dolphins further west. We left the smaller dolphins. After spending some time with the bottlenose dolphins our captain decided to try the hydrophone to listen to the dolphins, but they didn't want to talk today. We could only hear the ocean waves. At the end of the tour we slowly moved back towards Ponta Delgada close to the shoreline and enjoyed the view of the village called Rocha da Relva and the lava formations and layers from the different eruptions throughout time.

Photos from today:

Common dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins - a pale individual in between two of a more typical shade or grey

Watching bottlenose dolphins from our catamaran "Cetus"

A great time on top deck
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