Wednesday, April 23, 2014

False killer whales and a fin whale

We started our morning early with a mixed group of bottlenose dolphins and false killer whales, but the bottlenose dolphins soon separated from the false killer whales. We stayed with the false killer whlaes, them enjoying their playful behaviour - jumping, bowriding, wakeriding and surrounding our boats. They might look like whales but they are dolphins and they behave like dolphins. This same group of false killer whales have been sighted here in São Miguel 2 times before - last time was in June 2013. We also met a fin whale today. It was surfacing high out of the water, giving us a great view of its head. Sometimes words feels pointless when we have a great day at sea, and the photos will tell the rest.

Photos from today:

False killer whale taking a breath right next to our catamaran Cetus

Our catamaran, Cetus, on the water this morning

A fun ride aboard our zodiac

 False killer whale & our boat Bulo

 False killer whales - mother and calf

 False killer whales

Cory's shearwaters feeding together with the false killer whales

Cory's shearwaters and false killer whales

 Perfect picture for photo-identification of this individual

 Gulls flying

 The crew taking pictures of false killer whales

 False killer whale next to our boat Cetus

 Our boat Alfredo Baleeiro

Fishing boat

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A fun morning with a fin whale and common dolphins

This morning we had a spectacular encounter with a large fin whale. The whale was great to watch, as it was travelling close to the surface. We were able to continuously follow the whale, watching it's huge shadow beneath the waves. We could see the full length from head to fluke and anticipate every time it came up to breathe. One time we got to see a beautiful rainbow blow as the light hit the blow of the whale at just the right angle. We also saw tip of the whales fluke come out of the water and the whale left a surprise at the surface (bright orange coloured whale poo - the colour comes from the krill which they feed on). The choppy sea this morning made the encounter all the more exciting!

Closer to shore we also encountered a small group of our resident common dolphins. Like the whale, we were able to watch them travelling through the waves. They spent some time playing around our boat and showing off their new calves. Before returning to base we enjoyed some views of the south coast of the island, including the nature reserve - Vila Franca Islet.

Photos from today:

The rainbow this whale gave us today - what a gift!

The whale just in front of us, we could easily see the bright colour of the body underwater and follow it with our cameras

Start of the blow

Fin whale

The whale and the poo behind it

Fin whale poo

Watching Vila Franca Islet from our catamaran

Monday, April 21, 2014

Fin whales and dolphins

This morning three boats set of to see the fin whales our lookout had spotted. We had two whales out there and they showed us today that they are all individuals with their own personality and their own will. One of the fin whales didn't want humans around today. It was most likely feeding and busy filling up its belly and had no interest in us, so we spent very little time with it and left it alone. The other one didn't mind us at all, and was very friendly and playful, surfacing close to us and letting us get a great look and some great photos, from both our two zodiacs and our catamaran Cetus. We also had a group of curious common dolphins today. 

Photos from today:

The two blowholes of the fin whale

Fin whale surfacing, with the blowholes closed

Fin whale

The strong blow of a fin whale

Watching the fin whale from our catamaran

The educational part of the tour

 Small dorsal fin on the surface hides the huge animal underwater

 Fin Whale - Baleia comum

 Fin Whale - Baleia comum

Common dolphin

Common dolphin in the waves surfing towards us

 Our clients aboard Alfredo Baleeiro

 Calf of common dolphin bowriding in front of Bulo

Yellow-legged gulls

Our boat Bulo

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter with blue whales and a fin whale

Today in São Miguel, Azores we spent Easter a little differently to most people. We spent the morning in the presence of 2 blue whales and a fin whale. Nothing compares to being alongside the largest and second largest animals in the world! Although they were diving frequently and a little unpredictable every body got to see the whales very well. Today's encounters brings us to 10 days straight with fin whales. We are only just in the beginning of the baleen whale season here in the Azores, but we are off to a great start already. To finish up this morning we also encountered some small groups of common dolphins.

Photos from today:

One of the blue whales from this morning

One of our special guest visitors - author Doris Thomas who specialises in writting childrens books about whales and dolphins. You can visit her blog by clicking HERE.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A surprise from blue whales, fin whales and a appearance of our resident sperm whales

We had tours both in the morning and afternoon today. Shortly after leaving the marina in Ponta Delgada one of our marine biologists spotted a large blow from a 'mystery whale' we saw the blow several more times and traveled faster to investigate the area. To our delight the blow was that of a blue whale - the largest animal in the world! We watched the whale surface several times admiring the sheer size and grace that this animal possesses, until it was time to move on and leave the area. The blue whale is a migratory species arriving in the waters of the Azores during the months of March to early June. They are traveling from warmer waters in the south where they have spent the winter reproducing and giving birth. These warm waters offer very little nutrition so this forces the whales to migrate north to the colder waters around Norway, Greenland and Iceland.

Continuing the tour our lookout spotted a group of sperm whales, the only resident species of whale in the Azores. We mainly observe females and their calves here. These whales live in large family groups of about 11 individuals. Male sperm whales are more solitary, they migrate from the colder waters in around Norway and Svalbard, only arriving in the Azores in the summer to mate with females. Males are much larger than females, reaching a maximum length of 20 meters. The sperm whales we watched today were displaying a very common behavior called 'logging'. Between dives sperm whales have to replenish the oxygen stored in their muscles and blood by returning to the surface for more oxygen. The whales remain at the surface of the water, resembling logs, and once they have enough oxygen in their blood and muscles they can dive down to great depths to catch deep water squid.

We had blows everywhere, indicating that there were many whales in the area. The afternoon continued in much the same way. Our lookout spotted the blows of several fin whales and blue whales in a relatively small area. During the afternoon tour we encountered a fin whale and a blue whale. During both tours we also enjoyed the company of some common dolphins. It was truly a very exciting day at sea!

Photos from today:

Blue whale (from the morning)

Two sperm whales

Common dolphin

Fin whale (from the afternoon)

Fin whale (from the afternoon)

Blue whale (from the afternoon)

Blue whale (from the afternoon)

The mystery bird from the tour on the 19th has been identified as a sooty shearwater (Puffinus griseus)
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