IWDG Sightings Summary 4-15 June 2008

16th Jun 2008 During the period IWDG received 54 marine megafauna sightings from 7 counties, all of which have been validated and are now available on www.iwdg.ie. These break down as follows: Kerry (33%), Cork (26%), Antrim (13%), Donegal (9.2%), Mayo (5%), Waterford & Down (3.7%), and Wexford (1.8%)

The big news is that basking shark sightings seem to have peaked, and during this period have been relegated to 2nd place and represent 25.9% of records, whereas in the previous reporting period 27 May - 3 June they represented 47.5% of all records. For the year to date basking shark records are 20.6% up on 2007. We'd expect that sightings of this, the planet's 2nd largest fish (and shark) species will continue in all Irish waters throughout the rest of the summer, but that they will not be as numerous in terms of sighting events and numbers of individuals seen.

1st place returns to the Harbour porpoise, Ireland's most frequently observed cetacean, which was reported on 15 occasions (27.8%). These compare with basking sharks 14 (25.9%), bottlenose dolphins 13 (24.1%), and minke whale and Risso's dolphin (see image below) both of which were observed on 4 occasions (7.4%).Risso's dolphin, Galley Head, W. Cork © Sean Ronayne

In general things are still pretty quiet on the cetacean front and if we remove basking sharks from the equation, we see that most "effort watches" in June so far have produced no sightings, reflecting the fact that summer as of yet hasn't quite "kicked in", although as ever there have been some amazing sightings from around the Irish coast in recent weeks. Bottlenose dolphins provided some stunning photo opportunities in many areas, and it was wonderful to finally get some photos of this species from Dublin Bay, when a group of c15 were photograpged by Susan Early, with calves present (see pic below). Bottlenose dolphin, Dublin Bay, Howth in background © Susan Early

One sighting which has captured a lot of media interest in N. Ireland was a sighting by David MacAulay of a pod of 4 killer whales mid-way between Torr Head, Co. Antrim and the Mull of Kintyre, Scotland on 30/05/08. This was the 3rd record of this "apex predator" in Irish waters to date in 2008, the other two coming from Mizen Head and Conamara, showing how this species can be expected to show up anywhere. See full report and pics on the following shortcut to: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7455427.stm

There is still no sign of fin whales along the Irish South coast, suggesting they are either: later than usual, not at their usual early season Waterford/East Cork haunts, or we've simply missed them. But minke whales are being reported at well watches sites from Waterford, Cork, Kerry and Antrim coasts, so keep your eyes peeled for this small, and often solitary whale. This photo below was actually taken by Nick Massett from the cliffs at Slea Hd. Co. Kerry, showing just how close this species can come to shore. Minke whale, Slea Hd, Kerry 14/06/08 © Nick Massett, IWDG

We'd like to thanks all of you who make the effort to report sightings & images to IWDG. Images help us on a number of fronts as crucially, they assist us in determing species ID, as well as enhance the quality of IWDG publications. Tory Is. Resident bottlenose and friend © Brian Caffrey

There are still places left on the 1st of our Weekend Whale- Watching courses on Cape Clear Is. 27-29 June. If interested in attending this or any other Cape Clear courses email padaig.whooley@iwdg.ie