Whalewatching Success off Loop Head, Co Clare

25th Jun 2002 The sea-state was surprisingly acceptable with only a light breeze but a long swell seemingly from the other side of the Atlantic. Bird activity was low with rafts of guillemots washing themselves below the cliffs and flocks of kittiwakes hovering over the breaking waves.

After about 40 minutes two fins were seen slicing through the swell and the unmistakable profiles of bottlenose dolphins were recognised. Over the next 20 minutes up to 15 dolphins, including a young calve, were watched surfing through the swell within 200m of the expectant whale-watchers on the cliffs. In over 5 years of regular watching from Loop Head the course leader, Dr Simon Berrow, had never seen dolphins so close to the headland before.

After this excitement, the group headed back to Kilrush where on a dolphin trip a further 10-12 bottlenose dolphins were observed in the Shannon estuary.

As the rain fell from the heavens on Sunday morning the course continued with a slide presentation on how to identify and record stranded cetaceans including examination of skulls collected from local beaches. Hopefully now the course participants can confidently spot the difference between bottlenose, common, white-sided and Risso's dolphin skulls.

With the sweet smell of dolphin skulls still lingering the group retired to a local hostelry in hope of the sweet smell of success from KoreaE

A second whale-watching course will be run on 28-29 September when we hope to see minke whales from Loop Head.

Note: Whale-watching is defined as any activity, which observes cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) in their natural environment.