Azores: Fantastic weather & sightings

The weather is fantastic, long may it last! There are still daily sightings of sperm whales and on 21 July, I re-sighted three individuals from the “Winter Whales” group. Two of this group were first sighted on 22 May, so they have been around for quite a while. I have started thinking that maybe this group tends to stick around the Azores all year round, since we have had now had sightings of them in spring, summer, autumn and winter, although not always in the same year. I don’t know where the other members of the group were today, but my colleague from Lajes had said they had been seeing the group a week ago.

We also had sightings of a small group of shy bottlenose dolphin, spotted dolphin, a group of elusive Risso’s dolphin and a huge group of travelling common dolphin, almost an unbelievable sight as they came towards and then past the boat. There were some very tiny newborn babies leaping alongside their mothers as they went. One dolphin kept leaping and crashing down onto its right side. Sometimes this behaviour is to try and dislodge a remora, which has attached itself to the dolphin, but in this case, we couldn’t see any.

On the 22 July we had another calm day, although a bit overcast. The lookout directed us first to a group of dolphin feeding alongside a couple of sei whales. One of the sei whales appeared to be skim-feeding on one occasion and also did a couple of lunges. We did see one small bait ball and it is likely they were feeding on horse mackerel. We then moved on to the sperm whales, although were interrupted by another sei whale! And after a few flukes, we headed over to some dolphins, then spotted a blow and first thought was another sei whale, but no, this was a sperm whale that surfaced just behind a group of dolphins! This whale has a very distinctive fluke, with a curlicue left end. This whale, “1702”, was first seen in 1993! It has also been seen in 2011. The other three animals had been seen on 3 & 4 July this year.

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We finally had a change of scenery on 23 July and were able to get to the north of Faial. A lookout that is usually on the south of Faial, changed his spot. It paid off! There were a lot of sperm whales about 3-4 miles offshore, including a brand new baby. This calf had probably been born over the last few days, the tail and dorsal fin were still floppy! We could also see the foetal folds very clearly, another indication of a very young animal. When its mother finally dived, the little calf came over to investigate one of the whale watching boats, unfortunately, not ours! We were quite green with envy as the calf circled the other boat three times. When the mothers dive, the boats are the biggest thing left at the surface and I think that sometimes, the new babies are confused and think we are another whale! The mother of the calf was seen last year, the others have not been seen previously.

There was also a single sei whale that appeared to be resting or travelling slowly to the northwest. We also came across a shy or deep-feeding group of bottlenose dolphin, which were making dives of 3-4 minutes. We also saw a huge pod of striped dolphin, probably at least 750 animals! They appeared to be travelling to the northwest and avoiding the boats, as they usually do.

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