In the second month of whale watching this year we have not just spotted our resident species. Besides, as the yearly increase of nutrients in form of upwelling is becoming predominant as the spring moves on, thus generating such a significant quantity of food, more and more migratory species are attracted. Moreover, some rarely seen species have been watched within already astonishing sightings.
A total of 13 trips have enabled to detect as much as 9 species of cetaceans. The four resident species, which are the common dolphin, the bottlenose dolphin, the sperm whale and the Risso’s dolphin, have been the species most observed, the latter being sighted for the first time this year!
This beautifully pale gentle cetacean always amazes us with its often shy apparitions. Moreover, some familiar individuals were identified, like a bottlenose dolphin named “Submarine” and sperm whales called “Orca”, “Bagel” and “Dilys”. These cetacean collegues were already known from our catalogue and were identified once more thanks to our photo-identification research.
Regarding the baleen whales, the blue whale, the fin whale and the humpback whale were spotted this month. Surprisingly the blue whale paired up with Risso’s dolphins both being watched more than other more abundant species.
Futurismo noted the presence of a humpback whale for the first time this year but unfortunately only for a short moment in the distance that’s why we couldn’t get its exact position on the map!
These migratory species might stop at the Azorean archipelago in spring during its genarally northwards migration from breeding areas to feeding grounds. The Azores are like a petrol station between these two regions, which can provide a snack, like krill, other invertebrates and fish, to these giants during their journey. After a sometimes several month long fasting period, and depending on the situation even lactating, imagine all the weight they lost in this winter months. So any feast will be a pleasure in order to regain strength and the most abundant buffets they will find in higher latitudes where most of them will spend the summer. So we enjoy this short period of their visit with delight.
Last but not least of the cetaceans, the false killer whale and the “real” killer whale were sighted this month. These animals are seen just occasionally, especially the latter, also famous as orca, were observed for the last time by the company two years ago! Therefore, it was not surprising to witness the astonished faces of our crew when the pod of orcas was spotted at the distance. Guess the reactions when they started displaying more body parts which usually stay underneath the water with their active behaviour, or approached or grabbed a turtle as a snack!
Of course, on our trips we were able to look at other different species besides cetaceans. Portuguese man-of-war were present on a large number of our trips as usual at this time of year. We also noticed the salps, these transparent science-fiction like organisms that wander floating through the blue.
This month the presence of loggerhead turtles was quite often, but being able to see these animals involuntarily interacting with cetaceans, from innocent games to a more tragic ending, was very special for us.
We could also see the silhouette of some sharks, although very quickly while we were navigating. Something that we did have the great luck to appreciate were the leaps of great bluefin tuna, preying under the birds. Besides, triggerfish, boar fish and flying fish were other species sighted. Moreover, as a novelty, we found a peculiar little animal floating on the surface. It was a violet sea-snail belonging to the class of gastropods.
In addition, the days we went to Vila Franca do Campo Islet we could see large numbers of rock crabs. Especially the red rock crabs stick out clearly, already from the distance, due to their bright contrasting colour on the dark rocks. Columbus crabs are found everytime together with goosneck barnacles when we fish some waste out of the sea, which was already some time floating there.
Up in the air we were surrounded once again by loyal bird species. Cory’s shearwaters were every day there we went out as well as the yellow-legged gulls. This month stood out for the almost daily presence of common terns, which have already reached our shores after their annual migration. We had also the opportunity to spot a black-backed gull and the Manx shearwater, which are not as frequent in this area. When we visited the islets we got the additonal chance to look at species like rock pigeon, ruddy turnstone and sanderling.
So April recompensed the lack of good weather in January and February but watch out for May which has great fame around here.