White flashes could be seen throughout todays wonderful afternoon tour on board our Stenella and were observed both below and above the surface of the Atlantic, as well as high up in the skies.
Our afternoon started with a large group of Rough-toothed dolphins (Steno bredanensis) that were slowly travelling eastward. We were lucky to have enjoyed several encounters with small groups of this species this past week and todays group almost seemed like a congregation of these smaller subgroups. The animals were travelling in dispersed smaller units of five to six individuals and displayed their usual surface social behaviour, spy-hopping and barrel rolling as the small groups intersected with one another. As the dolphins socialised below the surface, we managed to see some white bellies flash below the surface, a behaviour that was also displayed by the large group of Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) we met afterwards. One animal was even putting its entire ventral side on full display as it floated on its back and repeatedly hit the water with its fluke!
Between these two magnificent dolphin sightings out captain spotted a Skua (Stecorarius skua) gliding overhead, easily recognisable from the white flashes on the wings contrasting against its large, brown body. This kleptoparasitic bird of prey usually comes to Madeira at this time of the year and is a nightmare for the Cory’s Shearwaters (Calonectris borealis) at sea, stealing their catch or even attacking and killing the younger shearwaters.
The white flashes with the Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) came as distributed patches of white water, as the large, dispersed group was hurriedly moving eastward. The animals seemed to be in pursuit of prey and we remained with these dynamic dashers for a while before slowly moving towards a sightings area where our spotter had seen a large Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalous). We were about to call it a day before our spotter called us and we rushed to the area where it had resurfaced to find the enormous toothed whale resting, spouting out large fountains of white water as it exhaled deeply.
What fantastic sightings the eagle eyes of our spotter were able to find for us today, what an amazing start to the week!
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
15:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Bottlenose dolphins, Rough-toothed dolphins, Sperm whale, Skua