Azores: Risso’s dolphins, sperm & humpback whales

We spent the weekend out on the water.

Sperm whales and only sperm whales on Saturday. Something interesting is going on with the “1019” group. There was another whale seen in the area, which has never been seen with this group before. “3768”, the “newbie” was first seen in 2009 and then again last year, by me. In between, though, it has been seen a few times in Sao Miguel. So I guess only time will tell if another individual is going to join this group. Female sperm whales normally stay with the same group they were born into, while males will eventually leave when they reach their late teens. This group, however, seems to be a bit flexible. For a long time it was only “1019” and “3186”, but then a few years ago “1198”, “2234” and 2402″ joined them.

Sunday out a bit grey, but this lifted as we left the harbour. The lookout had reported sperm whales and Risso’s dolphin! He lost the Risso’s before we got to the area, but as we were passing through, I caught sight of a dorsal fin and we had found them again. This is the first time Risso’s dolphin have been sighted in 2020. We spent a bit of time getting some ID photos and then headed towards the sperm whales, only to be stopped by the lookout. “Stop, I see a shape in the water. There must be a whale close by”. So stop we did and surprise, surprise, a humpback whale appeared! It is a bit late in the year to be seeing a humpback, but not unheard of. They are usually feeding further north  at this time of year. This whale was on a mission, travelling fairly quickly to the northwest, close to the coast of Pico. Unfortunately, it did not show a fluke for the ID photo, but we did get a photo of the dorsal fin, so will have to hope someone recognises it.

Finally it was time to head to the sperm whales. The lookout sent us off São João, quite a way to the east. We put the hydrophone in and found that the whales were behind us! Oh well, it is very unusual for the lookout to get it wrong, but I guess the whales changed their mind on the direction they wanted to go to. So we had to head back the way we came. Along the way, we came across a second group of Risso’s dolphin! So maybe it is like the bus, you wait a long time and then two turn up at once 🙂

We did eventually make it to the sperm whales and they were the same group as we saw yesterday. “3768” was still there, today with a juvenile and we also saw “1198”. We didn’t have enough time to wait for the other individuals, hopefully tomorrow there will be more.

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