IWDG research efforts yield bumper results.

16th Jul 2011 Sometimes whale watching can be a little like trying to buy a property... It's all about location and timing. Take our 2nd summer weekend course on Cape Clear last weekend. Despite favourable viewing conditions, to say Cape was quiet on the blubber front would be an under-statement. As we were leaving Cape my phone picked up a TEXT reporting c25 dolphins at Crookhaven strand, just across Roaringwater Bay. To add insult to injury, that evening the 1st inshore sighting of fin whales was made by an IWDG MMO panel in West Cork; the following day Dave Wall reported the "mother load" of fin whales, with c20-30 all relatively close to the Old Head of Kinsale.

But here we were out on Cape with tantalisingly close activity, yet having to make do with such lean pickings. That said we did enjoy a lovely run with a small group of common dolphins during our Sunday morning boat trip, which wouldn't have happened had it not been for Seamus O' Driscoil, Cape Clear Co-op, who made the Island Ferry, Dun an Oir available to our group at very short notice. Go Raibh mile maith agaibh.

For anyone interested, there are still plenty of places on our 3rd and final Whale Watching weekend course of the summer on 9-11th Sept. Further details on www.iwdg.ie or email: padraig.whooley@iwdg.ie

So the forecast reliably predicted that Wed 13th July would be one of those rare mirror calm days off our Atlantic coast, and this fact didn't go unnoticed by IWDG who mobilised researchers, observer teams and members to make the most of the conditions. The strategy worked well.

In West Cork with a flow of reports of fin whales between the Old Head of Kinsale and Galley Head, there was only ever going to be one course of action. And so we chartered Colin Barnes and the MV Holly Jo for a long day's photo ID and biopsy sampling research, heralding the start of the 2011/12 large whale season. In order to help with the charter costs this cruise was made available at short notice to IWDG members on a 1st come, 1st served basis. With little risk that it would produce anything other than "world class" sightings, it was fully booked within the hour. IWDG members take note; it pays to read our group emails!

During the day the following 7 species were recorded in West Cork: grey seal, blue shark, sunfish, harbour porpoise, common dolphin, minke whale (x2) & fin whale (c9-10). The highlight of course were numerous memorable fin whale encounters as they surfaced from deep feeding dives on herring marks just 10m above the seabed. Many on board were fin whale novices, for whom this experience will not easily be forgotten. For those seasoned veterans of countless trips out with Colin, this trip was simply as good as it gets....anywhere. Waterford/Wexford watch out, West Cork is firmly back on the whale watching map!

The calm seas provided plenty of porpoise encounters of small groups. As we approached Seven Heads area we had our 1st and surprisingly only dolphin encounter of the day with a visit by c30-40 common dolphins, some of whom put on a lovely display of breaching in Courtmacsherry Bay with the Old Head of Kinsale in the background. But nobody had come this far to see porpoises or dolphins. And our luck was to change when we met up with IWDG local member Rob Howe on his own boat, who steered us in the right direction having just seen 3-5 fin whales southeast of Seven Heads.

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