Weekly Sighting Summary 27 May-3 June5th Jun 2008 During the bank holiday weekend period IWDG received many marine megafauna sightings from the public, totalling 96, from 11 counties. These break down as follows: Kerry (31), Cork (22), Mayo (10), Antrim & Galway (6), Sligo (5), Down (4), Donegal (3), Waterford (2) and one each from Dublin and Clare.
As you've probably guessed by now the dominant species wasn't a cetacean, as basking sharks once again dominated the sightings reported online on www.iwdg.ie with 44 records. Sighting so far this year are up by 54.8% for the same period in 2007, which in itself was a record year for basking shark records. Sightings of the planet's 2nd largest fish (and shark species) were no doubt made easier by the mirror calm seas around the coast (see pic above) and the abundance of zooplankton close to the shore. Again, these showed a strong SW and West Coast bias, although there were 2 records in the north Irish Sea. We do hope that this trend is evidence of a recovery of this once over-hunted species.
The 2nd most frequently reported species was bottlenose dolphin, with 15 records (16.5%) from all Irish waters. It was great to see a pod being tracked from Portrush, North Antrim (30th May) coast as it moved south towards Orlock Pt. and Portavogie, Co. Down on 31st. The big question is whether a similar sized group of c7 bottlenose dolphins seen off Howth Head, Dublin during an effort watch by Brian Glanville on 1st June were the same animals?
Harbour porpoises were the 3rd on the list with 13 sightings (14.3%). Their relatively low sightings does suggest that the large numbers of this, our most frequently reported cetacean species is still largely absent from inshore waters. We generally start to see them during early summer with a high proportion of mother and calf pairs, but as of now there is no evidence that this inshore movement has commenced.
Almost all of the 12 minke whale records came from West Cork & Kerry, but with one welcome exception with another nice record from the Portrush area, as fisher Desmond Stewert reported one off the Skerries on 2 June. (Thank Jim for passing it on). The minke remains the only whale species been recorded regularly at the moment and they represented 13.2% of all records in this period. There have been no sightings of the eagerly awaited fin whales, which may say more about the foggy conditions off the Waterford coast last week, where we'd have expected them to be picked up. But watch this space.
Last but not least thanks to several sightings of common dolphins by the Irish Naval Service from the LE Ciara, West of the Arans, we received 4 records of this pelagic species (Pic below).
May 2008 has been a very active month on the sightings front and a comparison of all sighting records reported to IWDG (incl. basking sharks) shows an increase in 68.4% of reports compared with May 2007. These are your records, this is your sighting scheme and we'd like to thank you all for helping us make it a model for biological recording in Ireland.
For those of you listening to the Mooney Goes Wild "Biodiversity" week show on Monday 2nd June, please ignore the advise to send your sightings directly to the new