3 May 2018

3 May 18 - West African Pelagic - Day Three: Dolphin Day At Sea Between Cape Verde & The Canary Islands

We awoke to the news that we had crossed the Tropic of Cancer at 05:00 & were officially out of the Tropics. The wind had dropped to around 15 knots & seas were calming. At home, a 15 knot wind would seem to be a windy day. However, we had often experienced winds of this strength at sea & it provided a cooling breeze to counteract the sunny conditions. The worst weather was often the really still & sunny days in the Tropics, as the decks became very hot & without the breeze, the temptation was to reduce the clothing & increase the risks of sunburn. During the morning, we were still over the deep waters with depths of four or five kilometres. Not surprising the Birding was quiet overall. I only saw around thirty Seabirds all day, including a Cory's Shearwater, a couple of Leach's Storm-petrels & an Arctic Tern. The highlights were at least twenty two Bulwer's Petrels & the first two Sabine's Gulls I had seen since boarding the Plancius.
Sabine's Gull: Adult. Unfortunately, this adult flew straight past the Plancius & didn't come close
We crossed a seamount in the afternoon, where the top of the seamount was around 1800 metres. This helped with Cetaceans, but not Seabirds. While most people were still finishing their lunch, we ran into an extended pod of at least thirty five Short-finned Pilot Whales. The Captain & Expedition staff agreed to turn the Plancius to allow the passengers to get better views & allow the kitchen staff to close the restaurant early. Although, we had enjoyed several good close encounters with Short-finned Pilot Whales on the Odyssey, this was the first good opportunity for the passengers who boarded at Praia.
Short-finned Pilot Whale: The Canary Islands & Madeira are around the Northern limit for Short-finned Pilot Whales. We saw our last ones the following day
Short-finned Pilot Whale: This was the largest group of Short-finned Pilot Whales within a single photo that I had taken on the Plancius. We encountering our first Long-finned Pilot Whales since leaving Ushuaia a few days later in Biscay. We had failed to see any in the Southern Oceans, despite their range extending as far North as Tristan da Cunha
Additionally, there was a pod of a half dozen Bottlenose Dolphins associating with the Short-finned Pilot Whales.
Bottlenose Dolphin
Bottlenose Dolphin
Bottlenose Dolphin
Bottlenose Dolphin: The right-hand individual shows the distinctive 'bottlenose'
The final Cetacean highlight of the day was a pod of around a dozen Risso's Dolphins. Again, the decision was made to stop the Plancius & attempt to slowly approach them. They allowed this close approach & again it was another treat for the new passengers.
Risso's Dolphin: Risso's Dolphins are often whitish with a big melon on the head & the adults, especially the males, are generally heavily scarred
Risso's Dolphin
Risso's Dolphin: A better view of the scarring & the pale body
Risso's Dolphin: Note, the high dorsal fin. A second pale individual appears behind the first individual
Risso's Dolphin
Risso's Dolphin: The dark eye stands out clearly against the pale body
Risso's Dolphin: This is a third individual appearing
Risso's Dolphin: The scars are a mixture of injuries by the main prey Squid & fights between males
Risso's Dolphin: This individual has a very distinctive damaged dorsal fin
Risso's Dolphin: A very cute spyhopping individual
Risso's Dolphin: A very thin & distinctively marked dorsal fin
Risso's Dolphin: This individual has a broader dorsal fin
Risso's Dolphin: Traditionally, you should finish on a sunset, but with Cetaceans it should be a tail fluke