Monday, 29 July 2013

Week 7 July 22nd - 28th

Tuesday was the first day I got out this week. While conditions were a little rough this didn’t prevent us from having plenty of sightings. Early on in the trip we spotted some splashes off in the distance as we approached them it was clear that this was a breaching minke whale. This is not a very common behaviour from this particular species but it does occur typically in rougher sea conditions. Of course once we got close enough to get some images of this breaching whale it ceased breaching. A quick scan of the area revealed that there were two minke whales in this area one was quite large and the other was a juvenile. This is a similar area to where we have encountered an adult and juvenile pair in the past. As the day went on we encountered another minke whale. Shortly after seeing the minke we encountered what was initially a small pod of common dolphins however as we continued to survey the area it was apparent that there was over a hundred common dolphins in the area many of the groups we encountered contained lots of juveniles. The dolphins didn’t pay too much attention to the boat with some approaching to bow ride for a short time before continuing on their journey. Below is a video of a breaching minke that was taken in the past on bord the Blasket Princess :

On Thursday we had multiple sightings of common dolphins and harbour porpoises. First we encountered a group of ten common dolphins they were foraging in an area near a fishing charter there was also a small group of three harbour porpoises in this area. Neither species seemed too concerned by the presence of either boat and continued with their foraging. Shortly after we saw two adult harbour porpoises and a minke whale. There must have been a significant amount of food in this small area to attract this many cetaceans and a fishing charter. Later in the day we encountered a group of about 25 common dolphins this group was mainly comprised of juveniles and calves with only a few adults present. The younger animals seem more inclined to interact with the boat than the older ones; the majority of the older animals seemed content to wait a short distance from the boat while a few adults and the younger members of the group were bow riding.   Another group of 20 common dolphins were encountered later in the tour but these animals appeared to be foraging and did not approach the boat. Towards the end of the tour we had two more harbour porpoises and another small group of common dolphins.
On Friday we encountered more common dolphins, what initially appeared to be a small group dolphins grew in size from eight to fifty. The dolphins were quite spread out and were travelling at a fast swim; they didn’t pay much attention to the boat and simply continued on their way. We also had three sightings of harbour porpoises on this tour they were of two individuals followed by a group of two.
What a difference a day makes after all our encounters with common dolphins over the last few days we began to take it for granted that they were there at all. However on Saturday with conditions poorer then they had been all week we saw no dolphins. Our only sighting on this day was a single harbour porpoise which we encountered in the evening it surfaced multiple times before swimming off.
(c) Paddy O'Dwyer

Sunday started out with the news that Nick Massett had seen some humpback blows west of Clogher head and had set out in his rib to try and find the whale. Our own trip started with a single minke whale way off in the distance followed by a sighting of a single harbour porpoise. Then Mick decided that we should venture further out to see if we too could encounter this humpback whale. While steaming out to the site where Nick had reported we began to pass several groups of dolphins this continued for miles and easily hundreds of common dolphins including adults, juveniles and calves were present in the area it was amazing. Then we spotted some whale blows in the distance and headed straight for it. The half an hour that followed was fantastic as 100’s of dolphin, at least a dozen minke whales and one humpback surfaced continually in the water around the boat. It was clear that these animals were feeding as they were staying in the same area and all seemed concentrated in this spot. The video below really doesn’t do the whole thing justice. On the return to Ventry we encountered a group of ten common dolphins to cap off what was a fantastic day.

(c) Paddy O'Dwyer

A special mention goes out to Nick Massett who puts in countless hours of both and boat based watches. Nick is a major contributor to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Groups sightings database and ensures that no cetaceans pass through West Kerry waters without being recorded. The sightings database is a fantastic tool that allows people to access past sighting records and see when and where whales and dolphins are appearing around Ireland. The weather for this week doesn’t look great but I’m sure we’ll be out at every opportunity to see these amazing creatures in their natural environment.
Humpback Whale and Blasket Princess (c) Nick Massett - IWDG
More about whales and dolphins :

More about Marine Eco Tours :

Nick Massett and Humpback Whale (c) Marine Eco Tours 

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