29.06.2018 – “White horses”
Yesterday our formidable zodiac, the Stenella, finally returned to the marina of Calheta from the dry dock where it was undergoing maintenance. So this morning, we proudly took the boat out for its first tour of the summer season.
The unfortunate change in wind direction, however, didn’t make things easy. The ocean surface was continuously interrupted by bands of foam, stirred up through the wind and swell. This foam contains air bubbles that absorb more light than water droplets, giving it a white color as a contrast to the blue ocean. Our lovely group of guests today was from the U.K where such foam formations are referred to as “white horses”.
These challenging conditions made it hard for the team to find dolphins so instead, after some time, they found us. It seems we weren’t the only ones eager to welcome our zodiac back on the water! We were lucky to be greeted by a small group of interactive Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) off the coast of Ribeira Brava. The acute acoustics of dolphins allows them to hear objects that are far away and, if they get curious, they will swim to the source to investigate. Spotted dolphins are particularly inquisitive and are, ironically enough, also the dolphins after which our zodiac is named. The Atlantic spotted dolphin belongs to the taxonomic group Stenella, a genus that contains five species including the Striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba), another cetacean that frequents Madeiran waters.
We were also able to spot a number of marine birds apart from the regularly encountered Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris borealis), a species we often rely on for spotting cetaceans as they often gather in areas where marine mammals hunt or socialize. On windy days, however, the reliance on the Shearwaters is rather futile; they fly in in search of good spots on the oceans surface to rest, often forming fairly compact groups known as “rafts”. Today we spotted a few Manx Shearwaters (Puffinus puffinus) amongst the rafting Corys along with a Madeiran storm petrel (Oceanodroma castro) foraging in the company of a few Common terns (Sterna hirundo).
So in a nutshell; the white horses certainly did not stop us from having a great time out on the Atlantic. Stenella, it’s good to have you back.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
09:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins