First IWDG West Cork Winter Weekend of 201016th Nov 2010 Braving frequent westerly squalls and moderate sea conditions, 18 hardy IWDG members gathered in Rosscarbery, West Cork for our 1st winter whale watching weekend of 2010.
Participants met on Friday evening at the Celtic Ross Hotel, our base for the weekend, for the first of the weekend's two indoor presentations delivered by IWDG Sightings Co-ordinator, Pádraig Whooley.
Over drinks in the Kingfisher bar afterwords, it was clear that for most of the group, viewing large whales up close in Irish waters was what they were most looking forward to.
After a good breakfast on Saturday 13th the group travelled in convoy to Clonakilty for a brief stopover to see the the life-size humpback whale tail-fluke bronze at the Waterfront Plaza. We continued east to the Old Head of Kinsale where we spent a few hours watching from the Lusitania Memorial ducking in and out of some pretty awful westerly squalls, which reduced visibility to zero. In what were challenging conditions Mary & John Imber (visiting UK members) detected out 1st likely contender for fin whale during this watch.
With little sign of an improvement in the weather we cut our losses and headed down to the Speckled Door restaurant for a light lunch at 12:30. Replete after a bowl of chowder, we took the short drive across to Kilbrittain to view the recently mounted fin whale skeleton on display, which was a nice surprise and very popular. This is a fantastic resource and is a "must see" feature for anybody with an interest in cetaceans, dead or alive.
Continuing the West Cork "whale trail"we returned west towards Galley Head for our 2nd land watch, where we were met by attendant lighthouse keeper, Gerry Butler, who gave us access to the Lighthouse at this iconic whale-watching desination. No whales, but a lovely sunset greeted us before our five car convoy took the scenic route by Cloghna Head back to Rosscarbery where participants had three hours to relax at the hotel's leisure facilities before dinner at 19:30.
The 4 course meal and service were both excellent, and the night was finished off with a 2nd presentation on whale watching and IWDG research trips to Baja, Mexico and the Cape Verdes. Most retired early in expectation of a full day on the water the following day. A crisp frost outside was the first hint of the glorious day that was to follow as winds droped light and northerly overnight.
On Sunday morning after breakfast and collection of our lunch packs we drove out to Reen Pier to meet whale watch skipper Colin Barnes, who will need no introduction to IWDG members. We had put this whale watch trip back to the Sunday due to the poor weather on Saturday and this was a good move as we enjoyed seven glorious hours on the water in near flat calm seas and clear blue skies.
To facilitate the larger group size Colin brought in the MV Joree Jade which took our overflow along with other overseas members. This is a new angling/whale watching boat operating out of Union Hall, run by Peter Corcoran, and our clients were well pleased with how this vessel performed. IWDG wish Peter and crew the very best of luck with this venture in the coming years, and look forward to receiving sightings from this platform.
Over the next seven hours we searched 30 miles east to the Old Head of Kinsale and offshore to 10 miles on the way home. Sightings were made between the 2 boats of grey seals, harbour porpoise, common dolphins, Risso's dolphins, minke whale and another elusive fin whale