IWDG August 2002 Cape Clear Whale Watching weekend results

12th Aug 2002 Despite the continuing unsettled weather, the 2nd Cape whale watching weekend in August proved every bit the success of the earlier July course, which produced harbour porpoises, common dolphins and minke whales over a three day period.

This 2nd course produced killer whales, harbour porpoise and the seemingly ever-present minke whales. Unfortunately, only a quarter of the participants saw the killer whales, as they were seen during a 2hour watch on the evening of Friday 9th before most arrived on the evening ferry. The group of two comprised an adult male and female and we observed them breaching and “fluke slapping” for 35 minutes as they traveled west past the cliffs at Bullig towards the Fastnet Rock.

On Friday evening the group were welcomed to Cape, got their resource packs and was given an illustrated talk on Cetaceans in Irish waters. The following morning we had a 9.00 start with a short talk/slide presentation on field identification of Irish cetaceans. We kept this brief to avail of the calm sea, light breeze and limitless visibility so essential for whale watching. Within the hour the group had picked up 2-3 minke whales feeding out towards Gaiscanaun sound. By the end of this, the 1st of three watches, all participants had seen minke whales, for many, this was their 1st whale encounter; Harbour porpoises were seen by some on this watch.

The 2nd watch after lunch, produced minke whales again. Despite the dis-improving conditions the whales having moved closer to our cliff perches were easier to see and the former novices were now spotting them with relative ease. Harbour porpoise and two Grey seals were also seen.

Despite the deteriorating weather the group opted to do a pelagic trip on the “Maid of the Isles” which took us around the Fastnet Rock and into South Harbour. This boat trip brought us close to a feeding frenzy of diving gannets and big numbers of Manx shearwaters among which a minke whale surfaced once, and was seen by many. Also seen on the trip was a sunfish (Mola mola) and big numbers of Storm petrels. After the evening meal we finished off a very full day with a slide show of the IWDG expedition to Baja, Mexico in search of the blue whale.

The 3rd and final land-based watch was on Sunday morning at 9.00am. The winds had picked up considerably giving a sea state of 3-4 and poor visibility with showers: hardly the ideal weather conditions for observing cetaceans. There were just 2 brief sightings of harbour porpoise during the watch, which merely reflected on the increased sea state, hammering home the point made at the work shops that Whale-Watching is a fair weather activity.

So ended our 2nd whale watching course on Cape Clear with everyone again leaving the Island well pleased having seen at least one species (minke whale), about half saw two species (minke whale and Harbour porpoise) and the fortunate ones saw three species (minke whale, Harbour porpoise and killer whales). Add to this the wonderful bird activity, array of other fish, mammal and even reptilian fauna that was observed and the stunning scenery that Cape offers and you begin to appreciate why the IWDG Whale-Watching courses on Cape Clear Island, West Cork have proven such popular events.

Pádraig Whooley

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