Sightings Summary August 2017

We observed 14 (and maybe 15) different species in August, including the reliable loggerhead turtle 🙂 !

Toothed whales:

Dolphins: Bottlenose dolphin, Common dolphin, Striped dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, Atlantic spotted dolphin, Short-finned pilot whale and False killer whale

Whales: Sperm whale, Blainville’s beaked whale, Sowerby’s beaked whale + an unidentified beaked whale (could have been a different species from the previous two or one of them)

Baleen whales: Sei whale, Bryde’s whale, fin whale

Sea turtles: Loggerhead turtle

The most frequently seen was the Atlantic spotted dolphin followed by the Common dolphin and the Sperm whale.

The three most frequently species seen in August


The Bryde’s whale had also a remarkable recording frequency, with our friends mother and calf pair, which have been hanging around the south coast of São Miguel for a while now. The calf seems growing and this is not strange considering that baleen whales tend to grow very fast as their milk is highly nutritious. It may contain between 25% and 50% of fat and the daily intake for calves ranges between 200 and 400 litres. This is also the reason why they are weaned in a short time period, about 6 months only. Afterwards they mostly stay solitary and associate with other individuals, up to 20, for short time while travelling or foraging in good feeding grounds. Let’s see for how long this mum and her calf will stay in the Azores.

Bryde’s whale, mother and her cute new born 🙂


Bryde’s whale mother and calf


Bryde’s whale calf


Luckily the mother has a well-marked dorsal fin, which allow us to potentially recognize her in the future, hence useful for getting information about her movement patterns and her life cycle like for instance if she is going to have another calf 🙂


Bryde’s whale dorsal fin showing a notch on its trailing edge


We should also mention two special species: the short-finned pilot whales and the false killer whales which have been seen in spring and at the beginning of the summer and appeared again this month for a very short visit. Their occurrence can vary between years, possibly driven by their prey movements. This year the pilot whales have been seen only sporadically, while in previous years it happened to see them for various days in a row. So their shirt visit during this month was very much appreciated 😉



Short-finned Pilot Whales/ Globicephala macrorhynchus


The bottlenose dolphins were also observed quite frequently and definitely deserve a mention for their unusually frequent large groups and active behaviour. During most of the encounters, the dolphins were foraging or socializing and in both situations were breaching, leaving our whale watchers and swimmers very much surprised for their agility despite their size and bulky body.


bottlenose dolphins off the Ilhéu of Vila Franca



A wild spectacle for our swimmers by bottlenose dolphins


Finally, we couldn’t finish this post without posting a picture of the most fascinating encounter we had with sperm whales. Enjoy 😉

Sperm whale family including a newborn calf 🙂

Arianna Cecchetti

About Arianna Cecchetti

Arianna is a Marine Biologist and was Main Guide at TERRA AZUL since 2009, and Technical & Scientific Director until 2018. Originally from Italy, she sees herself more as a world citizen. Arianna deserves the very best, and we hope she can come back to share her passion for the sea with us again.

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