Wednesday, 12 June 2013

What it's all about!

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) in collaboration with Blasket Islands Eco Marine Tours are funding a summer bursary based in West Kerry in order to collect information on cetaceans around the Blasket Islands. The Blasket Islands are home to a variety of cetaceans and are an extremely important area for them, and this is recognised internationally as  the area designated a Special area of Conservation (SAC) for Harbour porpoises and Grey seals under the EU Habitats Directive. The area is also important for various bird species. The intention of this blog will be to keep people updated on the cetaceans we encounter during the study period as well as any interesting bird or other animal sightings I will do my best update this blog as frequently as possible in order to keep people as up to date as possible.

For those of you who have never been on an Eco tour around the Blaskets you have no idea what you are missing out on. It’s amazing to see the coastline of West Kerry including the breathtaking cliffs below the Slea Head Drive from a whole new perspective. Add to this the unparalleled beauty of the Blasket Islands themselves including the lighthouse on Tearaght and the towering Cathedral Rocks of Inis na Bro. In addition to the beautiful scenery the area boasts a variety of wildlife.

Thousands of seabirds including gannets, storm petrels, Manx shearwaters, and plenty of Puffins (to name but a few) are frequently seen in the area. Basking sharks are also frequently encountered in and the Great Blasket Island and its smaller neighbour Beginish are home to a colony of about 700 grey seals.

                                                          Seals and gull (c) Paddy O'Dwyer, IWDG

However it’s the cetaceans in the area that I’m most interested in. Common dolphins, Bottlenose dolphins, Minke whales, Risso’s dolphins and harbour porpoises are regularly seen in and around the islands and Killer whales are occasionally recorded in the area. In the later summer months and during the autumn the Humpback and Fin whales arrive in the area providing fantastic opportunities to observe these amazing creatures just off the coast.

Common Dolphin (c) Joanne O'Brien, IWDG

Blasket Islands Eco Marine Tours have kindly offered to allow us to observe from their vessel the 43ft MV Blasket Princess. The boat is skippered by Mick Sheeran and crewed by Billy and tour guide Britta. It is a pleasure to share a boat a boat with these people who aside from having an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything from the wildlife to the history of the area are also very passionate about what they do. They ensure that everyone on board enjoys the trip and leaves the boat a whole lot wiser.

Despite crossing the Atlantic and surveying the shelf edge off Irelands West coast some of my best experiences of observing whales and dolphins have occurred onboard the M.V. Blasket Princess including watching a Humpback whale bubble net feeding and seeing the world’s second largest mammal the Fin whale. I recommend there tours to locals and tourists alike, it never fails to amaze me how many people are unaware of the amazing wildlife that is located just off the coast. I look forward to meeting you over the summer.

For more information about these tours check out:

For more information about Whales and Dolphins around Ireland check out:

Become a member of the IWDG:

Apart from supporting conservation work like this, IWDG membership has other benefits
which include:

1. IWDG News: our e-zine and regular newsletters and a host of other

2. Monthly group email updates and local reports on strandings and sightings
    of interest in your area

3. Discounts on all IWDG events, weekends and training workshops.

4. Reduced rates on IWDG publications: sighting reviews, posters etc

5. Opportunities to take part in IWDG research cruises and fieldwork

6. An opportunity to join like-minded people interested in marine

7. Advice on whale-watching and related topics

Tools of the Trade (c) Paddy O'Dwyer, IWDG

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