Our team passed through a year with very few baleen whale sightings making the abundant Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni) this last week beyond reassuring. These slender, elegant tropical whales are thought to love baixas, oceanic reefs stretching up towards the surface from the deep sea floor. Madeira is surrounded by a few of these small oases, making it a hotspot for these gentle giants particularly during the warm summer months.
The funny thing about whales is that, despite their size, they often take us by surprise. After a lovely encounter with Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) this morning, our spotter informed us of a group of Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) swimming close to shore. As we slowly moved towards the area, our captain Filipe spotted a spout in the distance. A Bryde’s whale was heading our way and carefully approached our boat before engaging in the first of a handful of short, shallow dives, an expected behaviour from this species. Needless to say, our guests were thrilled at the surprise and it only heightened the appreciation for the encounter with the target dolphins that followed suit.
In the afternoon our spotter was in the process of leading us to yet another group of dolphins, when another spout erupted from the ocean more or less in the same area. Another Bride (probably the same animal as this morning) decided to endorse us with yet another fantastic sighting before our bow waves were broken by another group of common dolphins. Towards the end of the tour, our crew at sea managed to track down a tiny group of Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) that were feeding on a shoal of Atlantic mackerel (Scombrus scomber), likely the same prey both the whale and all the other dolphins were after!
It simply never gets boring out there and our ladies at the shop were delighted to mark B.edeni sightings on our guests passes once again. We hope these Bryde’s whales decide to linger in our waters little longer….
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Bryde’s whale, Short-beaked common dolphins
15:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Bryde’s whale, Short-beaked common dolphins