On the Azores, the summer season coincides with amazingly diverse sightings of cetaceans.
For July, we recorded again at least 13 different species of whales and dolphins in the waters around Pico Island.
This month, the top 5 most frequently observed species consist of Spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis), Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus), Pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus), Sei whales (Balaenoptera borealis) and Risso’s dolphins (Grampus griseus).
Clearly, Spotted Dolphins are leading with them being observed every day of our trips during the month of July. These animals often form large groups when they come from tropical waters to Pico. Therefore, it was not uncommon to encounter groups consisting of several hundred individuals. Predominantly, many of the adult dolphins were swimming together with newborn calves, indicating a stable or even rising population. Some of them were so young that we could tell they were born a short time ago around the island.
Apropos newborns, the resident female Sperm whales apparently gave birth at the vicinity of some whale watching boats two times this month. These events are truly magical and touching as well as they are giving hope for further rising population numbers of this endangered species. We could observe Sperm Whales in more than 85% of our tours, particularly in the beginning of July. This makes the Sperm Whale the most encountered whale species, not just in June, but also for the month of July.
However, we had some big surprise this July! We did not just have the resident whales regularly occurring on our trips, but also one species of the migratory baleen whales. Some Sei whales arrived by middle of July and look like to stay around the whole month, making almost 75% of the sightings on our trips. We could watch them feeding alongside with spotted dolphins almost on a daily base. Some very lovely moments we could enjoy especially with the curious juveniles which inspected our boat very closely from time to time. We are curious how long they will stay around Pico.
Another dolphin species, the short-finned pilot whale, was commonly seen in the waters around Pico during the month of July. Making up a frequency of 78% of our sightings, these calm and gentle groups of dolphins always kept their distance from the boat. They are shyer than other dolphin species while moving slowly around the boat. These animals are a common summer visitor species here on the Azores when waters are warm and with plenty of food. During the Azorean winter they leave our waters and move back to tropical seas.
In July, we could meet the resident Risso’s Dolphins several times, with a well-known group of males which is easily recognizable due to one of the individuals missing the dorsal fin. Risso’s Dolphins are extremely territorial, so they fight a lot with each other and other species, resulting in considerable amounts of white scars.
Striped, Common and Bottlenose Dolphins were sighted on more or less half of the days. This is not uncommon in summer, because they have to share the feeding grounds close to shore with other summer visitor dolphin species.
Another detail, which can be highlighted from our July statistics, is the unique but exceptional appearance of the elusive and therefore hardly seen True’s Beaked Whales. Other Beaked Whales, like the Sowerby’s Beaked Whale could be seen more often. Nevertheless, all Beaked Whales are shy and sensitive animals, so we are grateful having spotted them quite regularly.
Again, we were so lucky this month to be surrounded by all this diverse wildlife. Let’s keep fingers crossed for next month – stay tuned for the next monthly report!