Irish Easter Sightings Summary 22 Apr -1st May...UPDATE5th May 2011 Report II, 04/05/11
We've just officially got confirmation, via Nick Massett that a days basking shark research off the Blasket Islands Co. Kerry on 29th April led by Dr. Simon Berrow, produced another huge count of c60 animals, of which over half (37) were colour tagged. This result comes one day after Emmett Johnston counted no less than 70 basking sharks off Tory Island, Co. Donegal. The timing of these aggregations is unlikely to be a coincidence, but again it is noteworthy that the main thrust of basking shark activity seems to be occuring off the NW and SW corners of the country.
The weather for the week ahead up to and including the weekend and early next week is starting to look ominously unsuitable for basking shark observations, as they are typically quite difficult to locate and observe in anything but calm conditions. But if you are fortunate you may just catch a glimpse of a tail or caudal fin breaking the surface.
At this time of year we receive a flow of reports of breaching whales, most notably humpbacks. These come at a time of year when there is very little evidence that humpbacks are present in Irish waters. And based on the evidence, images and our own observations, IWDG are confident that many of these "curious breaches" by large marine animals are from basking sharks and not whale sp. For anyone interested in this phenomenon, the IWDG is happy to forward a word document which highlights the key differences between a breaching basking shark and whale.
And just before the summer silly season takes hold, and those bastions of Natural History fiction, the "tabloids" and social networking outlets start the annual " Great white shark " debate; there is not a shred of evidence that Irish waters have or ever have been home to Great whites. IWDG has never validated a sighting or stranding of this species, and all of the many hundreds of images received each year of large sharks to date have been of basking sharks. But never say never, and perhaps best to keep an open mind in the future.
Report 1, 03/05/11
Settled weather since the begining of the Easter holiday period results in a 9 species tally, a record number of April sighting reports, and takes us past the threshold of 17,000 sightings validated by the IWDG.
Since the last sighting report two weeks ago, IWDG have received and validated 80 sightings between 22 April-1st May, which includes three rarely recorded offshore species: sperm whale, long-finned pilot whale and Atlantic white-sided dolphin; all of which were reported by Stephen Commerford (MMO) during a 3D seismic survey off the Porcupine Basin from the RV Ramford Vanguard. Unfortunately no images of these were obtained which is generally the case during work of this nature.
With continuous calm seas and light swells IWDG received a steady flow of sightings of both cetaceans and basking sharks. The latter comprised 43% of all records reported during the period. In all we received 162 sighting records during April 2011, an increase of 16% on April 2010. This sets a record for April, and almost certainly reflects more on the suitable viewing conditions that prevailed during the month, than any increase in animal activity. This busy month also sees us achieve another milestone as we pass our 17,000th validated sighting report, all of which are fully interrogable on this website's mapping facility, see "advanced search".
The majority of sightings (97.4%) were categorised to species level, breaking down as follows:
Basking shark (43%), minke whale (14%), harbour porpoise (11.4%), bottlenose dolphin (10%), common dolphin (9%), long-finned pilot whale (5%), Atlantic white-sided dolphin (3%), sperm whale (2.5%) and Risso's dolphin (1