As our zodiac sped out onto the Atlantic our spotter immediately called and lead us to a small group of Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). The animals were quietly moving through the waters further West near Jardim do Mar and a few of the younger animals occasionally approached our Stenella to take a glance at us. The other species of dolphins saw on both tours today, the Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) seemed to be more preoccupied with hunting mackerel. The beautiful dolphins flashed their decorative flanks as they darted high above the water’s surface to keep up with the speedy school of fish.
In the afternoon it took us some time to keep up with the hunting dolphins but the animals then eventually caught up with their prey and gathered it at the surface.The hunting had now turned to feeding…and the dolphins were obviously not alone. Several Yellow-legged gulls (Larus michahellis), Cory’s shearwaters (Calonectris borealis) and one magnificent Northern gannet (Morus bassanus) had joined the party. Gannets are amongst the most impressive-looking birds to visit Madeira. They tend to stop by Madeira at this time of the year as they migrate to their breeding areas in the North Atlantic after spending their winter in warmer regions towards the equator. Gannets are large seabirds and have several distinctive features that make the species instantly recognisable at sea. Their large white bodies are suspended securely in the air by their long, broad wings with black tips and their long neck extends into an orange head with a grey-blue beak and watchful blue eyes. The beauty of this bird is further complimented by its impressive hunting skills at sea. Gannets are notorious plunge divers, rocketing into the ocean at speed of up to 100km/h as they hunt fish.
As I told my guests about these incredible airborne attacks, the Gannet suddenly darted into the water to snatch a mackerel. These sightings are just further proof of how much the Atlantic has to offer and that the dolphins aren’t the only interesting creatures out there.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
14:30 Short-beaked common dolphins
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Short-beaked common dolphins