Sightings Summary 15-19th May

21st May 2008 We received 24 sightings over the weekend period of 6 species from 6 counties, breaking down as follows: Kerry (8), Cork (7), Donegal (5) and one each for Sligo, Galway and Waterford.

The run of basking shark records continued and they were the most frequently reported species during this period. They represented 39.1% of all sighting reports, which was well ahead of bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoise both at (13%), minke whale & common dolphin (8.7%) and Risso's dolphin & humpback whale (4.3%)

The distribution of basking shark records shows a strong southwest and northwest bias, but a quick glace at these sightings mapped on www.iwdg.ie shows that the core activity remains the following 3 peninsulas of the Beara, Iveragh and Slea Head with multiple sightings from each of these areas. Several of these reports were of breaching basking sharks (see photo below), which throws up all sorts of issues on the validation front, as some recorders are for obvious reasons, assuming that these a breaching whales.

The most significant sighting in this period was that of a humpback whale off Malin Head, from Ineuran Bay by Ronan Mc Laughlin on 17/05/08. This is the 1st validated humpback whale sighting of 2008. Ronan was scoping at the time during a bird count and observed a large whale "fluking", exposing the white ventral surface and patterning on its tail-fluke. Ronan has seen and reported this species before while at sea with the Irish Naval Service.

We had another 1st in the last week as an IWDG survey on board the Irish Ferries ferry Ulysses on 11th May produced 2 minke whales. These are the first minke whales recorded in the Irish Sea for 2008.

Kenneth & Joe Roddy of www.skelligstrips.com have had a string of superb dolphin sightings of a range of species during this calm period and sent us this great image of breaching Risso's dolphins off the Lemon Rock while returning from a Skelligs trip (see below). Risso's dolphins Lemon Rock area, Kerry 17/05/08 © K Roddy, Skelligs Trips

The weather for the coming week will be less settled and will no doubt limit the number of reports we receive in the coming days. It will be interesting to see if the lumpier conditions will have any impact on the zoo plankton which has gathered inshore and attracted so many basking sharks in recent weeks.

All Irish cetacean (and basking shark) sightings are available for mapping and interrogation under "advanced search" facility on www.iwdg.ie. So you can establish at a glance what's happening around the country.

There are still some places left on the IWDG Cape Clear Weekend Whale Watching course on 27-29 June. If interested in attending this or any other Cape Clear courses email padaig.whooley@iwdg.ie or phone 023-38761.

Happy whale watching

Pádraig Whooley

IWDG Sightings Co-ordinator