We all search for them, those islands in the sun. In Madeira the cloudless sunny skies and crystal clear waters associated with those dreamy islands are abundant during the summer and are inviting to tourists as well as cetaceans from all over the world!
This was perfectly visible in the variety of sightings we were able to enjoy our on the Atlantic today. The guests aboard our morning tour had the pleasure of admiring some curious Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) and Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). The latter species was again encountered during the afternoon tour, this time with cetaceans that dwarf the spotted dolphins in size. Two large Bryde’s whales (Balaenoptera edeni) were swimming outside the waters of Madalena do Mar, a relatively rare encounter since we usually have sightings with solitary animals or mothers with calves. Apart from enjoying the waters around our little island in the sun, these whales apparently also enjoy submarine “islands” or baixas, reefs that reach up from the seafloor towards the surface providing a small oasis for oceanic marine life.
For most baleen whales, Madeira is thought to be a sort of pitstop where they can safely rest and feed before continuing their journey through the ocean. This function can also be associated with animate islands, living organisms that drift at the surface and provide food, shelter and rest for other passing marine life. One such example is a basking Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), who drifts at the surface to catch some sun, breathe and rest from its foraging dives. Turtles being the gentle creatures that they are often attract shoals of Pilotfish (Naucratus ductur) and other species as well as. Marine bireds. Today a Common Tern (Sterno hirundo) decided to use the turtle as a temporary resting spot whilst nibbling at the crustaceans colonising its shell. Gotta love those islands in the sun!
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Bottlenose dolphins
15:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Bryde’s whale, Loggerhead turtle