Farewell to Cape for another year

18th Sep 2006 This weekends IWDG whale watching course on Cape Clear Island was the 3rd and final weekend course of 2006. Course participants were treated to a number of sightings, some distant but one truly memorable close-up encounter.

Met Eireann gave us very little cause for optimism, but as is always the case when heading out to an offshore Island you need to be optimistic about your chances of seeing blubber and you also need your sense of humour. Thankfully mother-nature provided the former, while we had some real comedians (Ger & Colm) who provided us with the latter in abundance.

Our 1st encounter was from the Baltimore to Cape Ferry, when two harbour porpoises were observed on the outward passage on Friday 15th Sept. Later we made the most of the continuing good weather and headed up the cliffs to Bullig Pt., where we immedietly located a small group of 6-10 common dolphins feeding under gannets relatively close to land.

After the 2nd illustrated talk on Sat. 16th covering species identification, we ventured back up to Bullig where once again we picked up common dolphins. Although this group estimate was c30+, they were more distant at a range of 4-5KM to our southeast and these were not seen by all participants as they were soon lost in an offshore fog bank.

With the weather deteriorating rapidly we had no option to cancel the Saturday afternoon pelagic boat trip with Nic Slocum of Whale Watch West Cork, who generously obliged us by committing to taking us out the following morning. Hats off to all 15 participants, who managed to draw on their energy reserves to make it down to the pier at 07:00am on Sunday morning. While waiting for the MV Voyager to pull into the Harbour, Diana Mc Mahon even managed to fit in an impromptu yoga class, which must be a first in both Cape Clear and whale watching history. The shame is that the ensuing shambles wasn't recorded for future generations!

But the effort and sleep deprivation was well worth it, as with guidance from Andrew Malcolm up on the cliffs we located a pod of c35+ common dolphins who spent about 30 minutes milling around us, in apparently no hurry to return feeding. This group comprised a number of juveniles, and was without doubt the highlight of the weekend as everyone was treated to superb close up views of the dolphins as they displayed a range of classic common dolphin behaviours. This was a superb finale to the weekend, with fond memories that no doubt will be etched in the collective minds of this group of whale watchers.

As with previous weekend courses this summer, both harbour porpoises and minke whales seemed to be very scarce throughout.

The IWDG would like to thank the following for helping make the IWDG's summer whale watching courses on Cape Clear such a success: Steve Wing and Mary in the Cape Clear Bird Observatory, all the crew of the Naomh Ciarán II, Mary and Ciaran O' Driscoil of Ciaran Danny Mikes Pub for allowing us use of the “Bunny Club”, to Nic Slocum of Whale Watch West Cork for taking us out on most of the pelagics this summer. Finally to the good people of Oileán Cléire for their hospitality and all those IWDG members and members of the public who participated in these courses.

Looking forward to more of the same in 2007

Pádraig Whooley


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