Risso's dolphins in the Blasket Islands

15th Mar 2010 A sighting of a group of Risso's dolphin in the Blasket Islands, Co Kerry is unusual for the time of year.

With perfect conditions and after spotting my first couple of minke of the year I decided to launch the RIB for a look around the islands. The Blasket island chain with their turbulent currents, upsurges and tidal races make a good feeding ground and habitat for numerous cetacean species. By their nature they are also diificult to comprehensively monitor from land as there are numerous blind spots with large swathes of ocean being hidden by the islands themselves. Hence the benefit of the occasional circumnavigation by boat.

Mid-March is still early enough in the season but a speculative trip in a sea state 1 has always got to be worthwhile. There's always the chance that species are being under-recorded at this time of year due to the normally inclement weather, particularly here off the southwest. And so it transpired when west of Inis Tooshkert crew member Britta Wilkens spotted the tall scarred dorsal of a Risso's dolphin. As we slowed to a halt another adult with a juvenile in tight proximity appeared about 30 metres away.

In all, there were between eight and ten animals very loosely spread in typical Risso's fashion. Also typically there was no interaction with the boat and consequently photo ID shots were somewhat tricky to capture. There was no associated bird activity with these animals and some of the dives were lasting for a minute or two, so possibly they were feeding at depth in the sixty five metre water. With the distinctive scarring of the Risso's the ID shots taken can now be compared to the catalogue to check for a match. Now that's a job for the next rainy day.

Nick Massett

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