06.02.2019 – Magnificent morning
We had the pleasure of having a trip with calm, warm weather conditions today and enjoyed sightings with three very different species of toothed whales (Odontoceti) along with some other charismatic inhabitants of the generous Atlantic Ocean.
Our spotter Carlos first lead us to a handful of rather evasive Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) that kept engaging in several longer dives. As we tried approaching the animals a second time, a young Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) popped its head up above the waters surface to catch a breath and, to the joy of everyone on board, briefly swam curiously towards us.
We then decided to head to the second sighting; a dispersed group of calm Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) were drifting around 4 nautical miles outside the marina of Calheta. The majority of the group was resting at the surface while a few individuals, including a large bull, carefully approached and swam alongside the Stenella. After the lethargic pilot whales, we had a sighting with the swift and beautiful Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis). The animals spent a while riding the waves at our bow, giving everyone on board, myself included, ample time to take some snapshots of these extremely photogenic marine mammals.
In contrast to the common dolphins, the three marine birds we encountered soaring above the waters off Jardim do Mar flew away too swiftly for us to get some proper shots. This wasn’t too surprising, as the species in question was the majestic Northern Gannett (Morus bassanus) a large Atlantic bird that uses air currents while flying and can reach incredible velocities of up to 65km/h. Even our powerful zodiac can’t keep up with that! These transitory birds migrate from their breeding areas near the British Isles and Canada in the far North Atlantic to warmer regions further south in the winter. Strong winds may encourage them to make a pitstop in the waters of oceanic islands like Madeira, where we in turn have the pleasure of admiring this impressive bird.
We always remind our guests that the Atlantic Ocean has so many more wonders to offer than cetaceans and we do our best to take in and admire them all during our tours.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Short-beaked common dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales, Loggerhead turtle, Northern gannets