Estimates of 1,000+ common dolphins off Kinsale Gas Fields

15th Feb 2011 Mícheál Cottrell who'll be better known by his inshore reports during the summer/autumn from his RIB trips with Baltimore Sea Safaris, reports on another exceptionally large feeding aggregation of cetaceans. This time it's common dolphins off the Kinsale Gas Fields area, Co. Cork on Fri. 11th Feb from a commercial fishing boat.

Mícheál reports...." On Friday we were hauling nets @ 51 05N 008 22W, c30 miles south of Old Head of Kinsale. As we hauled skipper called my attention to common dolphins which were to the south of us and were going in a NE direction. There was a huge pod (herd), bigger than I had ever seen must have been a minimum of 1000 CD's. They were ¾ of a nm by 1 ½ nm on the radar, a few came to the boat but soon all to the NE a high speed, on a mission."

Although clearly not possible to confirm the numbers present on the day, such large feeding groups have been noted before during late winter. Common dolphins, despite being a pelagic species, have even been recorded in Cork harbour at this time of year feeding on sprats in similar group sizes. They seem to find foraging far easier if they co-operate and form very large feeding groups. This strategy has also been adopted by several other species such as Dusky dolphins in the Southern hemisphere.

Unfortunately, with the current poor Atlantic weather, opportunities to get out to the vantage points along the coast to try and observe such activity are few and far between. But it just goes to show that given a weather window, there remains wonderful whale watching potential along the Irish South coast...especially in the depths of winter.

Pádraig Whooley

IWDG Sightings Co-ordinator

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