1st IWDG Cape Clear Weekend Course Report

25th May 2011 IWDG have delivered our 1st Whale Watching weekend course of the season, and despite the weather, Cape once again managed to work its special brand of magic.

Having delivered almost 30 Cape Clear weekend courses over the past decade, during which we have introduced this special place to around 650+ wildlife enthusiasts and whale watchers, we can see a clear trend emerging. Cape doesn't need calm seas and clear blue skies to work its charm. The very fact of being on Ireland's most Southerly tip seems reward enough for those who venture out from Baltimore on the Cape ferry.

The signs for our 1st weekend course of the year were looking ominous as early as mid-week, and we were clearly going to be on the receiving end of some pretty nasty weather. And once I'd made this fact clear to all 21 participants, I expected some cancellations. But to the eternal credit of all the participants, not a single person cancelled. The word is clearly spreading that there is more to these IWDG courses than Cape's fantastic potential for sightings.


Our only real opportunity for a meaningful watch was on the Friday afternoon, when conditions were still quite good, with reasonable visibility and relatively calm seas. Unfortunately, those on the last ferry missed this watch, but those who made it were rewarded with what must be one of the fastest sightings in the history of these weekends. No sooner had we arrived up at Bullig and sat down, when a large explosion erupted just off the tip at the mouth of South Harbour. This was surely a breaching basking shark, but it was missed by some who were still searching their bags for binoculars and settling down for the watch. But now primed for another breach, we all focused on the spot and sure enough within 30 seconds of the first breach, another.

It wasn't the biggest specimen basker ever recorded, but to sit on a cliff and watch the planet's 2nd largest fish and shark species breach "whale like" clear out of the water within seconds of arriving was almost akin to having a 5 course meal, with desert at the start.



Unfortunately, we had to dine out on this memory for the remainder of the weekend. Such is the nature of wildlife watching, and participants were realistic enough to appreciate that as the storm system drew closer to Cape's rugged shores, the chances of further sightings where plumetting as fast as the islands barometers. That said we still managed to brave the gales and showers on Saturday for a 2nd land-based watch off Bullig in the morning which produced a harbour porpoise sighting and plenty of seabirds, forced inshore by the southerly winds.



After complimentary coffee and scones in Ciaran Danny Mikes (CDM) the group was informed of our decision to cancel the afternoon pelegic trip. To be honest the decision was very much made for us, as by then Cape was enveloped in a full on gale with driving rain, and even the Spanish fleet were heading into Baltimore. So partipants had the afternoon to explore, rest and some used this opportunity to visit the Cape Clear Bird Observatory to meet up with its warden, Steve Wing, who as always was on hand to talk about the work of CCBO and the latest bird news on Cape.



After evening meal back up in CDM's, the group was treated to the now traditional after-dinner talk on whale watching around the world. And a relatively early night was had by all in expectation that the weather Gods on Sunday wou