Valentia Island whalewatch produces four species

18th May 2008 Despite the mist, a whalewatch around Valentia Island, Co. Kerry led to sightings of 3 species of cetacean and 1 shark.


The landbased watch began at around 3.15pm at Bray Head on Valentia Island and was attended by 13 IWDG members and friends. Christian Brene was quick off the mark to spot a Risso's dolphin near the base of the cliffs and another could be seen further out to sea. We could also see a large carcasse being fed on by gulls and during the boat trip later on we found it again and could identify it as a basking shark Cetorhinus maximus.

Valentia boat trip © Mick O'Connell, IWDG

Unfortunately, after only about 20 minutes, a thick mist effectively put a stop to the land based watch. Conditions at sea level remained excellent as we boarded the 'Atlantic Explorer' in Caherciveen marina at 6.15pm. With a sea state 2 and good visibility, we headed west along the island and then south towards Puffin Island - well named with scores of these colourful birds all around the boat.

After a brief encounter with the dead basking shark on the return journey across the bay, there was more excitement as a whale was spotted ahead.

Valentia boat trip © Mick O'Connell, IWDG

A small minke whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata was feeding nearby and as we watched it surface, it became obvious that there was a second, larger minke in the area also. The evening was calm enough to hear the whales blowing but as they swam away into the distance, the blows were replaced by the busy splashes of common dolphins Delphinus delphis

Valentia boat trip © Mick O'Connell, IWDG

Surprisingly, there was no gannets associated with the minkes or the common dolphins despite the fact that the dolphins appeared to be feeding and had only passing interest in the boat. Some of the dolphins were young and appeared to be only around one metre long. With sunset approaching, it was time to head back to the marina but again there was a diversion as a good sized basking shark (a live one this time....) was feeding on the north side of Valentia.

Valentia boat trip © Mick O'Connell, IWDG

A brief look at the IWDG sightings database map would suggest that most of the cetacean/basking shark 'action' is taking place around Iveragh's northerly neighbour, the Dingle Peninsula. This is most likely a reflection of 'observer effort' and gives an indication of the importance of submitting records to the sightings and strandings schemes.

We would like to thank all the members and friends who came along on Friday and contributed to making it such a fabulous evening, to Henry and Barry Macauley and Martin O'Farrell of Kerry Marine Tours for subsidising the boat trip and to Eddie Mc Cormick for lugging all those spotting scopes up to Bray Head!

Mick O'Connell,

Stranding Co-ordinator