The typical Azores weather: It’s sunny and warm, almost no clouds on sight and suddenly, everything changes. It’s cloudy, rainy and a bit colder.
Today was exactly like this. It started with a very clean sky, sunny and warm. The best way to start our trips! Our zodiac and catamaran left Ponta Delgada to go look for two resident species here in the Azores. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and common dolphins (Delphinus delphis).
We first sighted the bottlenose dolphins. However, these weren’t alone. Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris borealis), great shearwater (Puffinus gravis) and yellow-legged gulls (Larus michahellis) were also in the area. And guess what? They were all looking for food. We can often see dolphins and sea birds hunting together. While dolphins hunt from the sides and below, sea birds hunt from above. Poor fish!
After this amazing encounter, our skipper was told that common dolphins were nearby. And clearly, they were! Just neighboring the group of bottlenose dolphins. And do you know what did we saw? Babies and newborns! Lots of them. Common dolphins breed during the spring and summer time, and therefore, now it’s the best time to see the babies that were recently born. Curious babies and adults! They came close to our boats and showed us how beautiful they are. The weather was still good, and our lookouts were able to see some whales further away. So, it was time to leave the dolphins and continue our trip.
We arrived there and we had two surprises. First, Azores weather surprised us with rain, which makes these islands so green and beautiful! Second, we saw 4 fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus). What a sighting! Definitely not a common sighting for this time of the year.
Usually, fin whales are sighted in spring, when they are migrating to higher latitudes (their feeding grounds) after spending time in lower latitudes for the breeding season. In spring, Azores waters get really rich in nutrients, as the colder waters come from the deep ocean to the surface. All these nutrients attract a lot of species, including krill and big shoals of small fish, that consequently attract the whales. These are hungry and skinny after the breeding season, and therefore Azores waters look like an oasis to them. But this was not all!
Today our catamaran trip was a bit different. This one was organized by EXPOLAB – Centro Ciência Viva with the collaboration of Futurismo and SPEA ‘Sociedade Portuguesa do Estudo das Aves’. This means, that we not only had marine biologists on board, but also an Environmental Education technician. How lucky were we! Not only were we able to learn about cetaceans, but also about marine birds, especially, cory’s shearwaters and the SOS Cagarro Campaign!
Cory’s shearwaters, in Portuguese, cagarro, come to Azores to breed and now is the time of the year that their young chicks start learning how to fly.
Today, our bird specialist from SPEA, Maria Huamán Benitez, taught us how to rescue the offspring that get lost when learning this new ability. What an opportunity! Now, everyone on board can help rescue cory’s shearwater that are so important for our oceans and ecosystems. Azores has around 75% of the world population!
It can’t be enough to say, how lucky were we today! This trip was co-funding by the project “Mar Azul: Comunicar para Envolver e Educar”. Hopefully more days like this will come.