Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dolphin communication

Today we had some guests talking on the microphone of our catamaran Cetus - and they were the best talkers ever! I can't believe the help that us biologist got today. We had both bottlenose dolphins and common dolphin chatting live on the microphone (through our hydrophone). It was an amazing experience for all of us to watch the dolphins and at the same time have them whistling in our sound system. We could see plenty of baby dolphins today in both groups, and the bottlenose dolphins were giving us many high jumping and as soon as we accelerated a little bit they started jumping along side us for fun. 

A great thanks to our captain for his work and patience today, and the sailors/skippers on board for putting the hydrophone working. Videos filmed on board to capture the sounds of the dolphins, and for us to hear the difference between the two species.

Bottlenose dolphins

Common dolphins

Photos from today:

A rainbow to start the day

Bottlenose dolphins jumping high

Watching bottlenose dolphins

A young bottlenose dolphins next to us

João with the hydrophone

A young common dolphin next to us

Common dolphin

Aboard cetus

Monday, September 22, 2014

Resident species are always good!

In the morning time, we had three boats going out: two of them for whale watching and one for the swimming with dolphins activity. One of our rubber-boats got the area of the whales earlier than any other boat and luckily they could enjoy the experience, seeing them breaching and lob-tailing. It was an amazing and close encounter with a juvenile of our resident whale: the sperm whale. After a while, the catamaran arrived and they could see the sperm whales in the surface, blowing and showing the tail close to the boat. They waited for more whales but they never showed up again in the surface. Then, they changed the area and off Ponta Delgada the look-out spotted a group of bottlenose dolphins. They were great, surfing the waves along the boat, trying to swim as fast as our catamaran.

In the afternoon, we found a group of common dolphins outside Rocha da Relva, with many babies. We could also see a turtle, the most common one in this waters: loggerhead turtle.

 Leaving Ponta Delgada

 Aboard Catamaran Cetus

 Sperm whale diving

 Sperm whale at the surface (note the white patch in front of the dorsal fin)

Bottlenose dolphin jumping 

 Bottlenose dolphin surfacing

 Our tourists on the way back

Our tourists aboard our Catamaran Cetus

Friday, September 19, 2014

Resident dolphins in the Azores

This morning we enjoyed the company of the three species of dolphins that are resident to the Azores: common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and Risso's dolphins. Each one of these species is very different to the others. The common dolphin is the most encountered species and is the most beautifully marked of the three - on their sides they have an hourglass pattern of pale yellow that crosses over to grey near the tail, a dark dorsal, white belly and beautiful markings around the eyes. The bottlenose dolphin is the same kind as the famous Flipper and is great to watch because of their strength and large size - in some regions they can grow up to 4 m in length and weigh up to 650 kg! And finally, the Risso's dolphin is peculiar in its appearance and behaviour. They are typically more shy than the other species and over their lifetime they acquire a lot of scratches that turn into white scars. Check out our photos from today to see how different these species are: 

Common dolphins

Common dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins wave surfing

Bottlenose dolphins (mother and calf)

Watching bottlenose dolphins

Our swimming boat

Risso's dolphins

Risso's dolphins

Watching Vila Franca Islet from aboard our catamaran

Vila Franca Islet - now very quiet as the season of being open to the public has ended

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dolphins and a good cup of tea

Today for the first time in the past week we had a truly calm ocean again. We missed these nice calm days which are great for dolphin watching. Today was one of those days where it was not just us watching the dolphins, they were watching us too. Sometimes they seem to be doing human watching, giving us an indescribable feeling as they make eye contact with us (like the one in the photo to the left). The two dolphin species we encountered today were bottlenose dolphins and common dolphins. Each encounter was just as good as the other one. After our encounters we all enjoyed a nice hot cup of locally grown green tea back at our base.

Common dolphin leaping

Common dolphin mother and baby pair

Bottlenose dolphins


One of our zodiac boats with Sete Cidades volcano in the background

Enjoying a coastal ride back to base aboard our catamaran "Cetus"

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lots of sperm whales

Today we had an amazing morning with a sperm whale family. At one point we had at least six whales together at the surface, three adults, a juvenile and two small calves. So we got to see different sides of the whales as we got flukes high up in the air, babies sticking their tiny heads out of the water and some whales twisting up-side-down underwater. The last whale tail we saw and photographed was an individual we later identified as whale number 183 in our catalogue. This individual does not have a nickname at this stage because we have only encountered her once on April 18th 2012. We identify individual sperm whales by the natural marks on the trailing edge of their tails and we still have to identify the other whales that #183 was seen with today.

We also checked out Vila Franca Islet as the dolphins were missing. Our lookout couldn't find any dolphins so we searched all the way back for some dolphins, which normally are more or less everywhere in large groups, but luckily our captain found some dolphins just outside the marina. A small group of common dolphins to make our day.

Photos from this morning:

One of today's sperm whale tails

 A large female sperm whale, with Vila Franca islet in the background

Sperm whales logging at the surface

 View from Cetus over Vila Franca Islet

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Risso's and rainbows

Today is a day of rainbows in São Miguel, Azores. Throughout the day we have seen rainbows everywhere! Starting from early this morning when we were preparing our boats to go out to sea, continuing during our departure from Ponta Delgada and then all throughout our morning tour. Several times we saw double rainbows, some very bright and some even arching all the way down to the ocean right in front of us. And under these rainbows we found dolphins. We started with a small group of common dolphins, but they were not so interested in us. The real pot of gold under the rainbows today was a nice group of about 10-15 Risso's dolphins. These beautiful dolphins seemed to enjoy looking at us just as much as us at them and they even let us have a good look at some of the new young babies in their group. 

Rainbow over Ponta Delgada during our departure

One of our skippers and marine biologist Albert aboard Cetus, 
helping preparing the boat in the morning - rainbows!

Rainbow watching from aboard our catamaran "Cetus"

Risso's dolphins under a rainbow

Mother (white) and calf (dark) pair of Risso's dolphins

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