Winter 2018 Sightings Summary

February sightings map (green = sperm whale, red = common dolphin, light blue = fin whale, grey = beaked whale, blue = striped dolphin, pink = loggerhead turtle)


We are now approaching spring time, and although the weather conditions during this last week have been very much “winter-like” as for species concern we are already seeing a pattern with baleen whales starting to be more frequently observed. But let’s go back and see how the last three winter months were. Usually winter time is associated with grey weather and “gloomy” mood, however the ocean is everything but this!

During December we saw 5 different species and it was a very interesting mix. We recorded the resident common and Risso’s dolphins and the sperm whales, as well as the migratory Atlantic spotted dolphins, still around at this time of the year (!) and the sei whales.

Atlantic spotted dolphins presence in the Azores can vary between years, likely depending on sea surface temperature as they usually appear in June when the water temperature is on average 19ºC. They can stay until October, November or even December as it occurred this time.

During January we saw again the common dolphins and the sperm whales, the spotted dolphins seemed already gone at this time, but pilot whales and fin whales appeared instead. The fin whales have been a beautiful surprise and company this winter time. Mostly engaged in feeding and very erratic in their movements, they arrived earlier than expected, and they are now getting more and more present in these waters.

Blow! (Fin whale / Balaenoptera physalus)


February was in fact dominated by common dolphin and fin whales sightings. However, sperm whales, beaked whales and striped dolphins were pleasantly interrupting such trend making this last month a successful one 🙂

December, January and February sightings (Cc = loggerhead turtle, Zp = beaked whales, Sc = striped dolphins, Bp = fin whales, Gma = pilot whales, Pm = sperm whales, Bb = sei whales, Sf = Atlantic spotted dolphins, Gg = Risso’s dolphins, Dd = common dolphins)


The young loggerhead turtles have also been recorded twice and the bird fauna was mostly dominated by sea gulls, although during our last trip in February we already saw a Cory’s shearwater! These pelagic birds are migratory and they usually arrive in spring to stay over the summer and autumn. At this time of the year, the little very active turnstones can be spotted around the Ilhéu and in the marina of Vila Franca do Campo. With their winter plumage and orange legs they run in all directions looking for little crustaceans, mollusks and insects in between rocks.

Turnstone / Arenaria interpres


So, winter has been lively and I would say lovely over here 😉 Now we are looking forward for the upcoming spring time with a big smile 😀

Arianna Cecchetti

About Arianna Cecchetti

Arianna is a Marine Biologist and Guide at TERRA AZUL since 2009. Originally from Italy, she sees herself more as a world citizen. After a four years break for a Postgraduate course in the Azores Islands, she's back to enjoy guiding and collecting data for MONICET – The Azores Islands Cetaceans Research & Conservation long-term monitoring project.

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