The mystery of the dolphin in the lake...now solved!

1st Dec 2011 Report II, 1/12/11, 13:00.

IWDG have received a report from local whale watch expert, Colin Barnes, that he has just seen a dead dolphin washed up on the island on Lough Hyne this morning 1/12/11. He described it as a medium sized animal, and can confirm that it is a common dolphin.

This sighting brings to a close the mystery as to whether this animal succeeded in returning to open ocean. Alas, this outcome was predictable, and is yet another reminder that cetaceans are at high risk when they venture out of their "normal" habitats. Lough Hyne can now claim another first, as it can now add to its first cetacean sighting, its first cetacean stranding; albeit of the same individual.

Thanks to everyone on IWDG's facebook page who took a big interest in this story.


Report I, 28/11/11.

While we were up in Malahide, Dublin last weekend celebrating the IWDG's 21st anniversary, a most unusual sighting was taking place in Lough Hyne, nr. Baltimore, Co. Cork.

During the afternoon AGM Simon Berrow commented on how hardly a week goes by without a noteworthy sighting related event taking place. Well, Sat 19th Nov 2011 was one such day.

We heard of this incident via Jim Kennedy's twitter and on speaking to Jim on returning it seems that a very small dolphin, that Jim felt was likely to be a common dolphin had entered Lough Hyne, presumably via the rapids at Barlogue Creek. For those not familiar with Lough Hyne, it is unique in Ireland and the British Isles and is one of only two salt water inland lakes in Europe. Flushed four times daily by nutrient rich waters from the Atlantic, the lake is home to a rich diversity of marine species which includes other megafauna such as pinniped (seals) and alasmobranch (shark, ray and skate) species.


Having enjoyed many a swim in this Lough over the years, where the clear waters always seem a few degrees warmer and certainly a lot calmer than the open Atlantic, I often wondered whether a cetacean has ever entered this "natural wonder". Well now we have our answer. It also means we can add another habitat type that can potentially be utilised by Irish cetaceans, and of course those tasked with conserving and studying this unique conservation area can claim that its species diversity now extends to dolphins.

IWDG frequently document cetaceans in bays, occasionally in estuaries, rarely in rivers, but to the best of my knowledge and I'm open to correction, this is the 1st validated record of a cetacean in an Irish lake.

Jim observed and filmed this juvenile/calf over two days and images sent to IWDG yesterday by Alice Kelly (above) confirm it to be a young common dolphin. There were no further sightings after the 2nd day, but given Jim's observations that he felt it was very weak, IWDG would not be overly confident that it made its way out of the Lough via the rapids, into Barlogue creek and back to open sea. But without any stranding reports within the Lough, there is always a chance.

The IWDG would like to thank Jim Kennedy of Atlantic Sea Kayaking and Alice Kelly for helping us piece together this account. Any reports of stranded cetacean should be reported to IWDG directly via www.iwdg.ie

Pádraig Whooley

Sightings Co-ordinator