When you go out to dinner on a warm summer evening in Madeira, and you order a delicious grilled squid or one of the many local seafood specialities a la carte, Life seems quite easy. But for the animals we saw today, every snack involves a hunt. And even though dolphins are sophisticated hunters, often coordinated and well equipped with their bio-sonar. Their prey can still put up a fight!
Today we saw this very clearly, from the iconic marks and scratches on the side of the Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus) and although some of these scars come from social encounters. These beautiful animals also have a fondness for squid, and as they dive down into the deeper waters and the light of the sun fades away. The battle begins! Sending out sonic signals from its melon-shaped head, the Risso’s dolphin finds its prey in the dark and is ready to strike, with strong teeth in its lower jaws it bites hard but does not chew. The squid gets slurped down like spaghetti, but this spaghetti fights back! Squid have a birdlike beak and hooks in their tentacles and as they cling for their lives they leave the scars we saw today.
There was a lot of activity on the water today, with both the Short-Beaked Common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) and Atlantic Spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) out and about we were treated to some of the more inquisitive species we see on our tours, and in de bright azure blue waters they are truly a sight to behold. Both species approached our boats today curious to have a look at those silly humans that came to visit. And when they swim with us and it feels for a moment that we are part of their pod it leaves a memory you won’t soon forget.
A note worthy moment today for those with a keen eye, was when two Spotted dolphins attempted to mate, right by our boat, one swimming upside down, without losing the pace of our boat. This was a testament to the skill of these elegant swimmers for sure!
And it wasn’t only cetaceans we saw today, on a calm sunny day like today, Loggerhead Sea-turtles (Caretta caretta) like to come up and bask in the sun sometimes bringing with them the small fish that use them as both a mobile shelter and a food supplier, cleaning plankton and other tiny animals of their shells.
All in all, it was fantastic day out on the water!
By Scott Dorssers
Sightings of the day
15:00 Short- Beaked Common dolphin, Risso’s dolphins, Atlantic Spotted dolphin, Loggerhead Sea turtle
12:00 Risso’s dolphins, Atlantic Spotted dolphins, Loggerhead Sea turtle
15:30 Short- Beaked Common dolphin, Risso’s dolphins, Atlantic Spotted dolphins