Whale Watch Ireland 2011 Results

25th Aug 2011 On Sunday 21st August the IWDG delivered Whale Watch Ireland 2011. This All– Ireland Whale Watch day comprised guided land-based whale watches at 13 sites throughout the four provinces. This event now in its 10th year is one of the largest events on the Irish wildlife calendar and was attended by c1,250 whale watchers and visitors alike at 13 sites, spread out over 11 coastal counties. To maximize the impact of this event it was once again timed to coincide with Heritage Week, thus helping us introduce this event to an even wider audience.

The main objective of this event is to raise awareness of the 24 species of cetaceans (whales and dolphins) recorded in Irish waters, and to promote their conservation, by encouraging participation in the IWDG sightings and strandings schemes.

Favourable weather prevailed at 10 of the 13 watch sites, producing some really good cetacean sightings at 7 of these (54%). In fact at 3 sites there were two species seen, although we appreciate that not all participants would have seen all animals. In recent years this event has struggled with poor weather, which is surprising given the time of year, but thankfully the high pressure dominated at most sites.

Species seen:

Harbour porpoise, bottlenose dolphin, minke whale and fin whale. The only difference with 2010 being the absence of common dolphins but the addition of fin whale, when at least one made a distant appearance as it surfaced regularly to blow along the horizon about 12 miles to the south of Galley Head.

Number individual animals:

Harbour porpoise x 31 (Howth, Bray, Galley, Crow Heads and Portmuck. see image below)

Bottlenose dolphin x 35 (Loop Hd & Bray Hd, & Mullaghmore)

Minke whale x 1 (Loop Hd)

Fin whale x1 (Galley Hd)

As usual there was a good mix of both Irish and overseas visitors to the watches, and for many attending, this was their first encounter with a cetacean in the wild in Irish waters. Those attending at many of the sites were provided with interpretation by IWDG personnel experienced in the ecology, biology and the conservation threats facing cetaceans in Irish waters. An assortment of whale artifacts were on view at many of the sites and there was plenty of free handouts and information sheets supplied by both IWDG and the event's primary sponsor Inis Cologne.

IWDG are very pleased with the results of this year's watch, and we hope that among the many who attended, we will gain some new members and dedicated whale watchers who are willing to volunteer some of their time and energy in furthering our understanding of the whales and dolphins that live in Irish coastal waters.

Whale watching in common with most other aspects of wildlife watching can be a bit of a lottery, and so events such as this will always produce a few surprises. One such surprise was that among the sites where no cetaceans were recorded were two hotspots which we've come to rely on in recent years for almost guaranteed sightings; they were Ram Hd, Ardmore, Co. Waterford, and Slea Head, Co. Kerry. To make matters worse, just as Nick was packing up after his blank on Slea Head, he received an SMS to alert him to the possibility of a humpback whale just around the corner off Clogher Head. Low and behold within 15 minutes of the end of Whale Watch Ireland 2011 he was sitting on an adjacent West Kerry headland watching HBIRL15 lunge feeding off the Blaske

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