Update from our volunteer vacation / conservation holiday protecting whales, dolphins and turtles around the Azores archipelago (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/azores)

Team 2 has arrived and yesterday was our first (half) day at sea. Five minutes out we encountered a pod of common dolphins, and five minutes after that, five bottlenose dolphins.

The lookouts had advised us that they saw baleen whales south of Pico, and sure enough; our first whale encounter was with a blue whale! We had unbelievably good fortune and right at the end of that encounter we encountered another. Then repeat; it happened again. In all, we had five separate encounters with blue whales, with at least three individuals!

The highlight of the day (as if three blue whales isn’t a highlight), we spent one encounter with TWO blue whales swimming side by side, perhaps 100 metres from the boat. It was a thrilling experience, and a rare one for even the experienced sea hands on board.

On the way back to the harbour, Lisa pointed out a skua – a bird rarely seen here in the Azores – harassing a sea gull. Skuas are kleptoparasites (literally, parasitism by theft), chasing gulls, terns and other sea birds to steal their catches. What was the skua doing with the gull flying along beside the boat? Antagonising the gull in the hope that it would regurgitate his hard-earned meal and leave it for the skua.

It’s rainy and predicted high winds for today, so it’s a shore day full of data entry for Team 2. We’ll work on animal ID today, and fingers crossed we’ll have some matches to report in the next diary entry.

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Update from our volunteer vacation / conservation holiday protecting whales, dolphins and turtles around the Azores archipelago

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