The past month has been rich in terms of variety of species encountered in the south of Pico. Indeed, we have been able to record at least 13 different species of whales and dolphins for the month of June!
In the top 5 of the most frequently encountered species, we have the Common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) which we observe in more than 80% of our trips, willingly approaching our boat and escorting us for several hundred meters. This month, the common dolphins are more frequently accompanied by their newborns, swimming awkwardly alongside their mother.
The same goes for the Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis), not sighted since a few months and arrived in middle June in the south of Pico. They were seen in almost half of the trips. Spotted dolphins were observed in groups of variable size but rarely less than about fifty individuals, showing many newborns as well as very frequent mating behavior. Both species in many occasions were feeding from small schooling fish in association with Cory’s and Sooty shearwaters (which are specially abundant this year).
The Striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) were observed regularly, most of the time keeping distance from the boats and sometimes accompanied by a different specie of dolphins. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) were sometimes only a few hundred meters from the coast and in large pods of more than a hundred of individuals.
Risso’s Dolphins (Grampus griseus) were also often sighted in June, in more than 60% of our trips! It is a group of resident males that is most regularly observed interacting with other groups of females or males, even once with bottlenose dolphins. One of the individuals of this group being easily recognizable thanks to a deep notch/cut in its dorsal fin.
Different groups of Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus) were often seen. Indeed, they could be observed in more than 64% of our trips. We had some days with several groups passing south of Pico, while in other days they were absent in the searched area. Sperm whales was the most sighted whale species during this month!
Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus), Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) and Sei Whales (Balaenoptera borealis) were still seen sporadically. With the migratory season coming to an end, it is not unusual that sightings of baleen whales are becoming scarce.
The short-finned Pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) made a great part of the sightings, often showing a calm and typical behavior resting at the ocean surface. We also had the great and memorable surprise to register a group of long-finned Pilot whales (Globicephala melas), a rare species not frequently observed in the Azores. It is not easy to distinguish both species when not possible to see the flippers.
Some species have been the subject of a unique observation such as False killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) or even certain beaked whales (Mesoplodon bidens, Mesoplodon spp), elusive and shy as they usually are, making sometimes the identification of the exact specie not possible at the moment.We are so lucky to be surrounded by so much life and amazing biodiversity!
Stay tuned for our next monthly report!