27.01.2020 – Blue nursery
What a trip! After having the pleasure of observing different behaviours amongst an enormous and dispersed school of Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) our spotter managed to locate a large spout further west. As we entered the area we saw a fairly small baleen whale break the surface and immediately assumed that it must be a young animal, perhaps even a calf. Of course that prompted us to ask ourselves where mummy must be lurking and then out of nowhere the calf resurfaced alongside its enormous mother. The sheer size of the adult animal allowed us to immediately assume that this was in fact a Fin whale (Balenoptera physalus) taking a short breather with her calf from her long journeys across the ocean. Both animals curiously approached our boat, with the mother always keeping a wary eye on her little one.
Madeira is generally an ideal spot for mothers with young calves. The deep waters along the archipelagos shoreline offer sheltered waters brimming with schools of fish, making the waters a fitting pitstop to feed and rest in the safety of the coastline. This could also be a reason for the presence of Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) groups around the island, a species that is more abundant in summer and usually absent at this time of the year. Even during todays large feeding situation right outside Calheta, several calves could be spotted among both the spotted and the common dolphins that were gorging on small fish in the company of some Big-eye tuna (Thunnus obsesus) and Yellow-legged gulls (Larus michahellis). Well, competing for resources is a reality all youngsters have to face and the waters of Madeira are a safe classroom to acquire the necessary group strategies to survive. It’s such a pleasure to witness these spectacles, the Atlantic Ocean is full of wonderful surprises !
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
15:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Fin whales, Short-beaked common dolphins, Loggerhead turtle