Bottlenose dolphins off Loop Head, Co. Clare

24th Apr 2009 Two groups of bottlenose dolphins totalling 13 individuals were observed off Loop Head yesterday during monitoring watches.

Immediately after conducting an interview with Derek Mooney on RTE Radio 1 on the bottlenose dolphins in Dublin Bay, two groups of dolphins were observed off Loop Head during monthly effort watches by Simon Berrow. One group had a juvenile present and one last years calf.

However, unlike the sighting in Dublin Bay this is not unusual as bottlenose dolphins are observed very regularly from this well watched site. Bottlenose dolphins have been recorded from Loop Head in all seasons and in nine months of the year. Interestingly the sighting rate has increased considerably since last year with dolphins now recorded on 40% of watches.

When I first started watching at Loop Head in 1991 you very rarely saw bottlenose dolphins despite them being resident in the adjacent Shannon Estuary. It certainly appears they are ranging further afield now and throughout the year. The reason could be food resources with changes in fish distribution and abundance forcing dolphins to forage elsewhere.

The dolphins were close enough to obtain images suitable for photo-idntification where individual dolphins can be recognised. All dolphins identified have been recorded only in the Shannon Estuary and adjacent Tralee Bay. Despite a high proportion of matches of bottlenose dolphins from all around the Irish coast in recent years, including between Dublin and Galway Bays, we have never found a Shannon dolphin outside the Shannon Estuary!

We would like to receive images of any bottlenose dolphins from around Ireland to further explore the movements of these animals and the implications for conservation.

Dr Simon Berrow

IWDG Co-ordinator

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