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

Addendum of pictures of the 2014 expedition

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Continue reading

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

Well, it’s been an interesting last two days at sea for Team 2. Despite the continued high winds – and high waves – Saturday went something like this: Sei, Sei, Sei, Sei, Sei, Fin, Sei, Fin, Sei, Fin, Sei, Common Dolphin, Common Dolphin. The team was jamming all day running from encounter to encounter with 13 separate ones of them.

We photographed 21 individuals. The group also saw a group of common dolphins with babies, and a loggerhead turtle that was too small to tag.

Today, our last day at sea, the team finally got to document some Risso’s dolphins. They also saw an enormous leatherback turtle and a sei whale, all of which were random sightings. For those of you reading this diary from home, the random sightings are when the vigias, or lookouts, have not spotted anything from land. This means that Team 2 had super duper spotting ability, and picked out the animals in spite of the white-capped sea conditions. One of the whales we saw today was a match to one from earlier in the week, the one the team Dubbed “punk rocker” because of the hole in the animal’s dorsal fin.

A big thank you, again, to Team 2 for your willing attitude and efforts in data collection in less-than-ideal conditions! We documented the following amazing number of animals thanks to you:

Bottlenose dolphin – 3 encounters totaling 20 animals

Common dolphin – 15 encounters totaling 565 animals

Risso’s dolphin – 1 encounter totaling 10 animals

Fin whale – 4 encounters totaling 6 animals

Sei whale – 12 encounters totaling 26 individuals

Blue whale – 2 encounters with 3 individual

Sperm whale – 10 encounters totaling 13 animals

From these encounters we had 5 positive sperm whale matches to prior years.

And…

Loggerhead turtle – 4 encounters with 4 individuals

Leatherback turtle – 1 encounter with 1 individual

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


As I write this, I cannot help but wonder what Lisa would do if we had had an encounter with TWO turtles during turtle time…

Wishing Team 2 safe travels home and we’re looking forward to Team 3 arriving.

Continue reading

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

Addendum: I have put some more pictures of everyone in action on here, Facebook and Google+.

Best wishes

Alisa

Catharina-placement DSC_0020 DSC_0034 DSC_0037 DSC_0059 IMG_0126 IMG_0156 IMG_0163 IMG_0174 IMG_0176 IMG_0183 IMG_0190 IMG_0192 IMG_0198 IMG_0214 IMG_0222 IMG_0226 IMG_0237 IMG_0272 IMG_0274 IMG_0352 IMG_0354 IMG_0362 IMG_0363 IMG_0368 IMG_0372 IMG_0374 IMG_0384 IMG_0392 IMG_0407 IMG_0410 IMG_0425 IMG_0427 IMG_0443 IMG_0458 IMG_0461 IMG_0502 IMG_0539 IMG_0586 IMG_0603 IMG_0649 IMG_0657 IMG_0790 IMG_0815 IMG_0818 IMG_0822 IMG_0825 IMG_0832 IMG_1548 IMG_1627 P1050165 Rita-Placement

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

Team two went home today, and unfortunately the weather did not cooperate with us during the final days and we did not go out to sea. The team did, however, get a chance to see common dolphins in the harbour yesterday when they took the ferry to Pico. Being good expedition members they even collected all the POPA data (except for a water temperature) “just in case”.

Team 2

Team 2

Many thanks to all the team members from both groups who kept their spirits up despite the challenges the weather threw at us this year. I know it was disappointing not to go out to sea every day that that we were scheduled to, but hopefully you made the best of your time here in the Azores and go home with fond memories of the group. Your legacy is in the details, so to speak, and with so much data entry from all of you we have quite caught up with all the data that has accummulated over the course of past expeditions. Thank you!

I’d also like to thank Buff for donating Buffs to keep us warm and dry, and Swarovski Optik for our new snazzy binoculars.

I hope to see you again on another expedition, some time, some place. Safe travels everyone and thank you again for your support.

Alisa Clickenger
Expedition leader

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Continue reading

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

Finally we’ve had a “calm” day in which we are able to use our new Swarovski Optik binoculars. We’ve been keen to try them, and yesterday the sea and wind cooperated leaving expeditioners with a free hand to hold them!

Spotting a turtle

Spotting a turtle

Just in time, too; Sabine spotted a 40 cm sea turtle.

Spotted!

Spotted!

Although we didn’t see any whales yesterday, we received terrific news. Our scientist Lisa has only seen a handful of humpback whales off the shores of the Azores in the twenty years she’s been conducting research here, but just yesterday she received word of a match. A humpback whale seen here in the Azores in 2006 has just been identified in the Cape Verde Islands. This is only the third such match she’s made.

Humpback match

Humpback match

Other matches this season include two out of the 19 whales identified on Tuesday. 2350 was first seen in 1999, then again in 2008 & 2009. The other was seen in October of 2010 and this year she had a 2 year old calf with her! The photos below are 2350 as seen in 1999 & yesterday.

2350

2350

Such matches are very important as accurate knowledge of the origins of the baleen whales passing the Azores archipelago during April and May will help to determine which stocks they come from and assess more accurately their true numbers (which are often inflated in efforts to set or reintroduce hunting quotas).

On Thursday our searching was not in vain either, through some choppy seas. We found a group of bottlenose dolphin that actually appeared to be enjoying the waves! They were surfing! It was the main resident group that we tend to see often around Faial & Pico.

Surf's up!

Surf’s up!

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

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

Gordon’s quote of the day was “there were too many flukes to count!” We encountered several groups of sperm whales in the morning and went from group-to-group-to-group for the entire day. At one point there were as many as sixteen whales at the surface, and seven of them fluked almost simultaneously. Then the rest fluked and we got several excellent identification pictures. There were three large males in the group that made the adult females they swam with look live calves. Further, at the debriefing we identified seventeen unique flukes in a single day, which is a Biosphere record for the Azores.  Needless to say our scientist Lisa was ecstatic.

Branko was out team photographer for the day, and he took the whale tail that we’ll all use for our screensavers. Sabine was our super spotter of the unique and wondrous, and managed to see a palm-sized loggerhead turtle, several types of phytoplankton, and a floating egg sack. Be sure to ask her about the sea snake. 🙂 Several team members also saw a shark flash by the side of the boat. Add common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, and some Rissos dolphins, and we call it a stellar day.

Continue reading

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

Today was Team 2’s second day at sea, and despite the rough sea we were lucky enough to see the first sperm whales of the season. The group included one calf, and we spent the morning with them. There were a total of eleven sperm whales socialising at the surface, and two of them cooperated nicely with our research team and fluked for us. Perhaps the highlight of the day was when we saw a sperm whale breaching repeatedly in the distance. Fingers crossed for some sunshine and some more target species tomorrow.

Sperm whale breaching

Sperm whale breaching

Spending time with sperm whales

Spending time with sperm whales

 

 

 

 

Continue reading

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

Half the team went to Pico today and the other half is working on the mural in the harbour.

Working on the mural

Working on the mural

We’ve had a horrible few days with absolutely atrocious weather. We broke all sorts of records on this slot that we really did not want to break: number of days with weather too bad to back out, least number of sightings, most cloud, coldest, etc. The list goes on! But this is what nature and the weather can be like and I think everybody understands this, even if it is of course very frustrating. Still, thank you for being such a great team with good spirits and using the time on land for data entry, picture analysis and other activities to help out Lisa with her research.

Team 1

Team 1

Still, on Saturday we had a small break in the weather and went out to sea for the morning. We had three random sightings of common dolphins on the way to where the lookouts said there was a blue whale. We then stayed with the whale for over an hour, but four metre waves prevented us from taking any good identification photos.

Believe it or not, there was also a bright spot, a single one on Thursday, which Neil managed to capture on the Nikon.

That bright spot...

That bright spot…

Continue reading

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

Today was slot 1’s first day at sea. The swells were quite large, and our team members bravely hung onto the rails while searching for cetaceans. After sighting our first group of common dolphins, however, many of our team members discovered they hadn’t quite gotten their sea legs. When the fish feeding group at the back of the boat (myself included) grew to more than half the team, we decided to come back to the harbour. The lucky half of the team not affected by the large waves sighted three Risso’s dolphins on the way back. Joris, Annette, and Christina then decided to take advantage of the shore time and began this year’s wharf painting, a good-luck tradition here in the Azores, while the rest of the team helped with data entry at home base.

Continue reading

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

Greetings from Banana Manor, our base camp in Horta. Vera, Lisa and I (right to left)

have been very busy preparing for your arrival. Base camp is all set up, and we are eager to greet the first team tomorrow. As it says in the dossier, we’ll be at Peter’s Café at 11.30 on Monday morning to have some lunch, so if anyone would like to join us that would be great. If not, we’ll see you all at the official meeting time between 13.00 and 14.00 at Banana Manor. The expedition briefing will start promptly at 14:00.

I hope you all have good journeys. Please call me if you are going to miss the assembly meeting at Banana Manor. I am eager to meet you all!

Alisa Clickenger
Expedition Leader

P.S. You’ll notice in the picture that Lisa has a cast on her right hand. All will be revealed on site…

Continue reading