Thursday, 20 June 2013

Week 1 June 8th-16th

View from the office (c) Paddy O'Dwyer- IWDG

The bursary is off to a great start with cetacean sightings on every trip so far. Even more impressive when you consider we were mostly doing two trips a day.

Saturday the 8th, was the day of the first tour and after meeting Mick, Britta and Billy I was keen to get started and to see what was around the bay. It was a nice calm day with plenty of sunshine in other words perfect conditions for sighting any whales or dolphins in the area. We didn’t have to wait long before spotting our first, a harbour porpoise. This was followed 20 minutes later by another porpoise sighting. However, these are the smallest cetacean in Irish waters and their brief surfacing makes them difficult to spot unless you are being very observant. On this trip we also encountered a group of rissos dolphins which were swimming around the boat in groups of two and three with 8 animals in total in the area. This was a fantastic opportunity to observe a species many don’t get to see in Irish waters. Two more harbour porpoises on our way back to Ventry brought the total number of their sightings for the day to 4. All in all a very eventful day with some fantastic sightings.

Sunday the 9th, buoyed by the success of yesterday, and with further calm and sunny conditions I was confident of recording more sightings today. As it turns out my confidence wasn’t misplaced and shortly into our morning trip we had a sighting of a small minke whale. These are the smallest of the baleen whales and are regularly sighted in these waters. They can be quite unpredictable and pop up in a completely different location each time they surface. The evening trip resulted in another sighting of a small minke whale this one appearing at the surface multiple times providing fantastic opportunities for everyone to get a great view of this impressive mammal that can reach 10m in length. Its quite possible that it was the same individual as it was similar in size to the one we had seen in the morning and was also occupying a similar area.

Minke whale (c) Paddy O'Dwyer- IWDG

Tuesday the 11th Having not gone out on Monday I was keen to get back out on the water. With the weather conditions getting worse this looked like it may be the last trip of the week. While out on the morning trip a small minke surfaced barely a few meters from the stern of the boat. It continued to surface close to the boat resulting in one of the best minke whale encounters that  i’ve witnessed. 
On the evening trip we had two separate encounters with harbour porpoises and another sighting of a minke. This one was slightly further away from the boat but surfaced several times ensuring everyone on board got a good view of it. There were a few light rain showers on the evening trip yet it still produced some fantastic sightings, proving that in Ireland you just have to embrace the weather. The following footage of an inquisitive minke was captured by Billy on a tour that occurred before this bursary began.
(c) Billy Connors-Blasket Island Marine Tours 

Wednesday the 12th, since there were no bookings and conditions were deteriorating I decided to go surfing on my ‘day off’. This, in hindsight, was a bad idea. When I got back to the car I had a missed call from Mick, I called him back only to find out that a last minute booking and a suitable short weather window resulted in his decision to go on a short morning trip. On this trip they had encountered a pair of killer whales. While killer whales are not a common species in this area they are seen on occasion, especially during the summer months. Images of these killer whales have been sent to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust to see if they can be matched to the Scottish West Community of killer whales. In the past the killer whales spotted in this area have been identified as being from the Scottish West Community. When they are spotted they never seem to hang around long in the area and almost appear to be doing a summer tour of the Irish coast. The Irish Whale and Dolphin group run a sightings network and sightings can easily be reported online here:                                      Reported sightings allow the IWDG to track the movements of cetaceans as they travel along the Irish coastline resulting in valuable information on how and when they use different areas.

In addition to all the cetaceans we have seen, everyday has produced great views of the grey seal population in the Blaskets and also spectacular opportunities to see puffins, turns, gannets, razorbills and other birds. On one of our trips this week we even saw a longtailed skua which are not very common inshore at this time of year.
Puffin (c) Paddy O'Dwyer- IWDG

For more information on any of the cetaceans we have seen so far have a look at the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group website:

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff Paddy - hope the weather is being kind to ye. I guess the humpbacks should be 'home' any day now. Looking forward to reading more blog entries.
    PS: hope the surf is good... I'm suffering serious withdrawal symptoms having not surfed for over 3 months now!!!