16.11.2019 – Supper at the shore
Today our traditional boat had to venture as far as Tabua to enjoy a spectacular sighting. The place we were heading to was already visible from afar due to the large group of birds circling the area, an indication that hunting was going on below the surface. This tornado of looming winged predators consisted of Yellow-legged gulls (Larus michahellis) and Cory’s Shearwaters (Calonectris borealis) and their constant circling indicated that marine mammals were on the prowl beneath the surface. Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) were at the scene when we arrived and, at first, seemed more preoccupied with herding the fish to the surface. Before long, however, some of the juveniles approached our bow for a brief bowride. The spotted weren’t the only predators in the area and sped off swiftly as the larger Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) approached the area.
Large feeding situations on the ocean rarely involve a single predator below the surface and one or two species of cetaceans may often be accompanied by large predatory fish such as Tuna. This is also one reason why big game fishing boats are often spotted near groups of dolphins, an issue which has become quite a problem on the Azores. Groups of Skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis) have been spotted hunting around the island and can sometimes be mistaken for groups of small dolphins in such situations. One way of telling the difference is the more sporadic behaviour of the shearwaters; they rarely sit at the surface to dive and fish as they would with cetaceans. I’m telling you this because such feeding situations are often easily spotted from land so if you keep a sharp lookout you just might get lucky and spot some dolphins from the shore.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
14:30 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Bottlenose dolphins
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins