• Atlantic Naturalist

|18-5-2019 am| Risso's Dolphins, Common Dolphins and breastfeeding Sperm Whales

Updated: Jun 22, 2019

Saturday morning started with early news from the lookouts: a male Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) at the South. We had to prepare ourselves with waterproof clothes and go quickly to our boat.

But the first stop was not for a Sperm Whale, Risso’s Dolphins (Grampus griseus) were resting in front of Monte da Guia, and we had a great display of their behavior. These animals usually rest during the day and hunt night because it is when their prey, squid, are more active.


Risso's Dolphin resting in a flat ocean

After a few minutes, we left the animals to let them rest and we kept going South to the Sperm Whale. Males can dive for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Therefore, we needed to find him before he went for a dive. And we did.


Sperm Whale in the South of Faial Island

He dived soon after, so we transited to the South of Pico Island as there were more Sperm Whales there.

We used our hydrophone to hear where the animals were and thus had a better approach when Common Dolphins (Dlephinus delphis) came towards our boat.


Common Dolphins next to Bicho do Mar

This pod was curious and enjoyed playing with the boat. At some point we were surrounded by dolphins.

Naturalist's explorers enjoying the visit of the dolphins

When the first animal of the area appeared, there was non stop blowing and fluking.

There were lots of distant blows and the hydrophone was on fire: many clicking down there, which meant that there were more than 10 Sperm Whales.


Head and blowhole of a Sperm Whale

We didn't have to wait much time until one whale dived . It was a pod of over 12 animals, separated but traveling together.


Two Sperm Whales: an adult and a juvenile

Even when there was no Sperm Whales at the surface, the biodiversity of the Azorean Archipelago made us to focus on other animals: while "whale waiting" we could see a Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta).


Loggerhead Turtle at the surface

Sperm Whales are marine mammals, that means that they breastfeed. We were extremely lucky and could see this behavior: we found an adult female with a calf and a juvenile, and the calf was feeding on the dense milk that the female had.


Juvenile and the female feeding a calf (Sperm Whales)

Finally, the three animals dived showing us a magnificent fluking sequence.


The juvenile starting fluking, the adult preparing the dive and the calf's head

The fluke of the juvenile, the female preparing the fluking and the calf starting shallow diving

The female starting fluking

The fluke of the adult female, the younger animals were already down

After that amazing sight we kept spotting more Sperm Whales and photographing more flukes until the time ran out and we had to go back to Horta.

Sperm Whale's fluke

At the end we had seen a pod of between 15 and 20 Risso's Dolphins, a pod of about 40 Common Dolphins, 8 Sperm Whales, and a Loggerhead Turtle, plus many Portuguese (Physalia physalis) man o'war and Cory's Shearwaters (Calonectris borealis).



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