Huge aggregation of bottlenose dolphins in Lough Swilly

15th Dec 2009 Emmett Johnston, NPWS has just reported an unusually large aggregation of c150+ bottlenose dolphins in Lough Swilly, Co. Donegal heading south past Fort Dunree, and continuing as far as Buncrana.

The flat calm conditions are providing great viewing conditions to locals living along the Lough. Emmett described what initially looked like a series of waves of dolphins as they travelled at speed down the lough. Their aerial displays and large size confirms these to be bottlenose dolphins, although such large aggregations would more typically be associated with the much smaller common dolphin.

If a boat can be secured, Emmett will attempt to venture out onto the water to secure photo ID images of these animals which may reveal whether any of these are known individuals currently existing on the IWDG bottlenose dolphin catalogue

At the other end of the country, the recent spell of cold air, has brought a welcome relief from the driving wind and rain of November, and has given us our 1st real chance to establish where the large whale activity is concentrated along the south coast. Having put in a lot of time watching off West Cork, since the weekend, it seems that the fin whales are currently absent from their familiar hotspots between Seven Head and Roaringwater Bay. But a steady stream of sightings from further east in the county would suggest that east Cork and West Waterford are the best place to spot the vapour plumes of distant fin whales.

Land-based sightings from Andrew Malcolm at Ram Head and crew on board the Naval Service vessel L.E. Ciara would suggest there are currently low numbers of fin whales inshore in this sector. It is too early yet to “write off” the 2009/10 large whale season, as last year we enjoyed fantastic whale activity in West Cork up to the 2nd week in January. So fingers crossed we'll still have an opportunity to carry out photo ID on these animals before they leave the Irish south coast later in the winter.

The photo above was taken on 14/Dec/09 by Petty Officer Gordon Kinsella of the L.E. Ciara.

Pádraig Whooley

Sightings Co-ordinator

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