Record number of sightings in June 2009

2nd Jul 2009 A combination of very settled weather in June 2009 and a 3rd successive "big" basking shark season have combined to produce a record number of combined cetacean and basking shark sightings reports for June 2009.

In the previous 6 years 2003-2008, the mean no. validated sightings is 162, but June 2009 has produced a massive 264 sighting reports, which will almost certainly grow in the coming weeks, as not everyone reports sightings to IWDG immediately.

A total of 11 species were confirmed in June. The most frequently reported was not surprisingly the basking shark, which made up 33.3% of all sightings or 248 animals. In 2nd place was another strong showing for bottlenose dolphins at 17.2%. 3rd place went to the Harbour porpoise (15.7%) reflecting the fact that the inshore movement we expect of mother and calf pairs in early summer, really hasn't yet made an impact. Our smallest baleen whale, the minke showed well in 4th place at 12.3%. Common dolphins lagged in 5th place (5%) and Risso's dolphins 6th place at 3.8%.

June 2009 saw the arrival of both fin and humpback whales, although in strange locations and under worrying circumstances, with a fin whale off Dublin and a humpback entangled, but successfully released from fishing gear off Hook Head, Co. Wexford.

The weather in early July isn't looking quite as settled as last month's, but the flow of sightings and species diversity reported to IWDG, go some way towards showing just how good the whale watching potential can be, even in early summer, once the weather conditions are obliging.

One of the many highlights was this pod of 3-4 killer whales Orcinus orca photographed by Francis O' Donnel, SFPA, north of Achill Island, Co. Mayo on 24/06/09. The same pod were were also reported some hours later off the Iniskeas.

IWDG extends a huge thank you to the hundreds of you who reported sightings and forwarded images to the Irish Cetacean recording scheme.

It could be a very interesting summer indeed.

Pádraig Whooley

Sightings Co-ordinator