Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Pirates on the high seas

This morning we set sail as pirates aboard our pirate ship Quatro ventos, in search of ocean treasures. We soon came across something shiny like gold, a playful group of common dolphins. It's always a pleasure to see these dolphins, especially on a day like today when there are some waves for the dolphins to surf. We spent some time with the dolphins, watching them play around our boat and bowride. We also searched a bit further out, and although we didn't find other cetaceans out there we got some nice views of São Miguel Island in clear blue skies. On our way back inshore we found our friends the common dolphins again, this time accompanied by a young loggerhead turtle. It was another nice adventure for our crew and passengers alike.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Marine biodiversity

Today's tour featured a diverse variety of marine life. The cetacean species we encountered were bottlenose dolphins and common dolphins. It was our first encounter with bottlenose dolphins this month, so it was nice to see them again. They were familiar faces, or rather familiar dorsal fins, that we know very well from our years of photo-ID research. It was a group we refer to as "Bubblemaker's group". Among the group we spotted the one we call "Bubblemaker", even though we didn't see the bubble-blowing behaviour that this dolphin has become well known for. The common dolphins were a bit more difficult to watch today as they were constantly on the move, but we did get to see their beautiful colour pattern well as they leapt over the waves. Our swimming clients this morning had the chance to swim with both species.

The other types of marine life was spotted on Vila Franca Islet, an extinct crater that is protected and is therefore an important area for several bird species as well as fish and some other marine life. Along the volcanic rocks of the islet we spotted several birds, including a little egret, sandpipers, rock pigeons, yellow-legged gulls and an Azorean buzzard soaring overhead in the distance. As usual the crevices of the rocks were also teeming with red rock crabs. So, despite the lack of whales during the tour, our clients ended up seeing a nice selection of marine biodiversity that the Azores has to offer.

Photos from today:

Our swimmers with common dolphins

The dolphin at the back is the famous "Bubblemaker"

Bottlenose dolphin face


Red rock crabs/Sally lightfoot crabs

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A mix of sensations

This morning we had a mix of sensations. The sea was extremely calm and comfortable to navigate but some low clouds started to form near the island. Unfortunately this was a setback for us, because it interferes with the visibility for our Lookouts (specific people on land, who military binoculars to sweep all over the Ocean looking for animals). Luckily we found a group of around 15 common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) that were very friendly and curious about the boat, creating lots of smiles among our customers. After spending some time with these cetaceans, we went far away from the island in order to increase our chances to spot different species. Despite of our best efforts we could only find another group of common dolphins. Although they have an ordinary name, these animals are extremely beautiful by having colours of white, yellow and grey. Besides of the lack of biodiversity, the ride was great, with calm sea, sun calmly warming up the faces and also rainbows could be seen near the shore.

A rainbow over Ponta Delgada as we depart

Enjoying the view from the front of the boat

Friday, February 5, 2016

Wild whale and dolphin show

This morning's whale and dolphin watching tour was like an incredible wild show, as we got to see some really incredible behaviours and displays. In the beginning of the morning we encountered some common dolphins leaping high out of the water. As we approached we could see they were chasing small fish, probably mackerel. Both the fish and the dolphins were leaping out of the water, making photography difficult, but giving us a nice look at the dolphins having their breakfast. Next our coastal lookout guided us further along the island and out to deep water where he had spotted a group of sperm whales. Not long after we arrived to the area we spotted a whale breaching (leaping out of the water) out in the distance. The show continued as we made our way over to the sperm whale who did some more full-body breaches followed by many lobtails (slapping its tail on the surface of the water). We were in luck as the whale continued lobtailing as we got closer, throwing its tail high in the air and bringing it down with a lot of force. It was really exhilirating! Nothing compares to such a magnificent show from one of the largest animals in the world. Along the way back we briefly enjoyed the company of some more common dolphins as well as a few seabirds that we spotted for bird enthusiasts aboard.

Photos from today:

 The lobtailing sperm whale as we approached it from a distance

Old dark skin peeling off after all the breaching and lobtailing

More patches of peeling skin along the body

The same sperm whale, in the end calmly logging at the surface

Common dolphin leaping after a fish (not so easy to photograph today)

Black-legged kittiwake - a winter visitor

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Dolphins and sperm whales

Today we left the marina, it was grey and little bit more wind they expected but soon out on the see the sun came out and so the dolphins. We encountered a small group of common dolphins that soon grew bigger and bigger and we had a fun time with them. In the group we also had a dolphin missing the yellow colour (see photo). Then we got the news that our lookout had seen some disturbance in the water and we went to search for it but no luck. Then it was time to return but our captain decided: lets see the dolphins again! And we passed by and once again enjoyed their wonderful company. We also saw several great skuas during the trip.

In the afternoon we started with the common dolphins close to Ponta Delgada then continued further to the nortwest of the island where our lookout had spotted sperm whales at the beginning of the afternoon. It was a long ride, but it was well worth it, both for the beautiful coastal views and the sperm whales. We encountered a group of sperm whales, at least 4 of them together and a few more spread out. We got to see one up close as it approached our boat, and the tails of two others.

Photos from today:

Common dolphin with normal colouration

Dark common dolphin

Normal and dark common dolphins together

Common dolphins

Great Skua

Great Skua

Great Skua

Sperm whale at the surface

Sperm whale going on a deep dive

The west coast of São Miguel Island

Enjoying the views
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