Who would have thought so much action was waiting for our team out on the Atlantic, almost rushing from one sighting to the next! We sped out to encounter some Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) before meeting a small, shy pod of Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Our spotter also saw a pod of Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) dashing east and, while we were only able to enjoy a brief sighting of this group, an enormous pod of over 40 individuals were gathered in the waters in front of Ponta do Sol. This was one of the largest gatherings ever seen by our team which, as our captain put it, almost seemed like an aggregation of most of the macaronesian pilot whales. Of course, the macaronesian population is much larger but the size as well as the behavior of the group was utterly impressive. The animals rested at the surface most of the time but also engaged in social behavior, with some animals spy-hopping or even leaping high above the surface in what appeared to be mating behavior. This basically sums up pilot whale behavior at the surface; these deep divers use the time there to travel, socialize and rest in between their foraging dives.
At the surface some of the pilot whales found themselves in the company of a few Bottlenose dolphins, a frequent mixed sighting that was also observed with two different pods during the afternoon tour. The implications of such sightings are yet unknown but any interaction observed at the surface always seems to be very peaceful. In fact, here in Madeira Bottlenose dolphins often approach pilot whales in the company of their little calves and the first pod this afternoon contained the tiniest of calves. What a fantastic day!
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
09:30 Bottlenose dolphins, Short-beaked common dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales
13:30 Bottlenose dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales