Azores: An unexpected visitor

After a few days ashore due to windy weather, I was finally back on the sea on 19 August. The weather was still not very settled. We managed to find the “Whitehead” group off the south of Pico in choppy conditions. I managed to photograph one fluke, which was of “2776”. The other whale was not in a good position when it dived to show the markings on the trailing edge. I believe that I caught a glimpse of the small nicks of “2776’s” 2014 calf, but don’t know for sure. We did not spot any dolphins, probably more down to the choppy seas, than absence of animals.

A lone harp seal has been observed on the coast of Faial! This seal species is normally much farther to the north in countries such as Canada, Greenland, Iceland and Norway. It is a male at 1.8 m. Some people from the environment department have been to see it and do not believe it is in a poor condition, so will not intervene at this point. I think it looks a bit thin, but they will be monitoring it as long as it remains near the coast of the island. I managed to see it on 21 August in Porto Pim Bay. The officials watching it said when the tide came in, it left the rocks, but luckily, just as I was going to leave, it came back and tried to haul out again. These islands are not very easy for seals to haul out in most places, with their rocky shorelines, but there are a few easier places, such as the boat ramp in Castelo Branco and the sloping rocks around Porto Pim. I do not know how long it will stay, so I was very pleased to get a glimpse of it. This is only the second record of a harp seal in the Azores. The previous record was a dead animal that washed up on the coast of Pico in 2002.

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In the afternoon of 21 August, I was back to the north of Pico and we saw feeding sei whales with hundreds of spotted dolphin. You can just see a snipe fish that got away in the photo of the lunging sei whale! Also seen was the group of sperm whales that has been here since the end of May, including one individual I hadn’t yet seen this year. I guess there is plenty of squid around for them to eat, if they are sticking around this long.

The weather looks good for the weekend, but deteriorates next week again, I guess winter is coming! I bet the harp seal is hoping for some cooler weather.

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