Ocean traffic seemed to be quite hasty today with all the animals we encountered being in quite a hurry. From the darting Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) we saw this morning up to the agile Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) and the dispersed Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) we had the pleasure of meeting this afternoon. This rushing behaviour is usually coupled with the animals actively avoiding our boats but is not necessarily a manifestation of disinterest on their part. Pilot whales, for instance, display such behaviour after sensing distress somewhere or if they detect prey at a far distance. We got word from our spotter that these pilots were calmly observed in Funchal before they very suddenly spurted off, displaying a swim behaviour that is almost identical to that of False orcas (Pseudorca crassidens).
In the afternoon, the dorsal fins of common dolphins and Bottlenose dolphins sliced through the surface of the waters outside Tabua and Ribeira Brava. Both groups were very dispersed and almost seemed to be teasing our boats as we tried to find the core group of the animals. Schools of these species aren’t stable groups but fluid in structure and often dissociate into their smaller subunits, which generally tend to be more timid and difficult to approach so it wasn’t an easy task for our crew on the Ribeira Brava. Before long, we finally enjoyed the company of some bow-riding dolphins who soon darted off again leaving us content at managing even such a brief encounter before cruising back along the picturesque coastline back to Calheta.
Of course it’s difficult to understand the true reason behind such behaviour and it obviously cannot be generalised in any way. We are talking abut complex, intelligent beings that make conscious choices that change social dynamics just as humans do so the factors affecting behaviour are truly endless. What a humbling thought to reflect on after such an exciting day!
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
14:30 Bottlenose dolphins, Short-beaked common dolphins
10:00 Short-finned pilot whales