IWDG Celtic Sea Herring Survey - Updated

13th Oct 2012

IWDG surveyor Enda McKeogh is onboard RV Celtic Explorer on the annual Celtic Sea Herring Survey recording cetaceans on behalf of the IWDG.  He will provide regular updates of his trip during the next three weeks.

21 October 2012

Fin whale showing powerful blow c30 miles offshore Hook Head, © Enda Mc KeoghWednesday 17th October was not a day for the crows nest, 7-8m swell and winds touching force 10 at times. Needless to say there were no sightings! The next day was just good enough to make it up to the crows nest but conditions were far from ideal for sightings with a sea state of 6 for most of the day and 2-3m swell. The day ended without a sighting. Friday was a perfect day for sightings though and made up for previous days. The final tally for the day was five sightings of common dolphins, three minke whales, one very young basking shark which was somewhere between 1.5 and 2m long and a probable porbeagle.

Saturday was another top day, although it did not have as many species sighted as the previous day, we were able to add another species to the list; fin whales! We were 30 miles south of Hook Head when we had our first sighting. There were 17 sightings of fin whales throughout the day but it is likely that there were between 4 and 7 fin whales in the area. Some were seen feeding at the surface on sprat. There was also a sighting of a pod of unidentified dolphins in the distance that were also feeding. Today we were closer to shore and stopped in Dunmore east to drop off and pick up personnel. There were two sightings of common dolphins for the day. Just over a week left in the survey so hopefully the run of sightings will continue.

 Fin whale, c30 KM offshore Hook Head, © Enda Mc Keogh

17 October 2012

Day 4 of the survey we had 4 sightings of common dolphins with group sizes ranging from 4 to 7. There was also a sighting of a whale blow in the distance which was likely a fin whale due to the size of the blow but it was too far away to identify with certainty. On day 6 of the survey I had 2 sightings of common dolphins, both with 11 or 12 individuals in the groups. In the distance I also spotted a lone unidentified dolphin feeding under diving gannets. The day ended nicely with a probable fin whale sighting. Hopefully we will have a closer encounter with a fin whale at some point so I can get some photos. Yesterday then I had three sightings of common dolphin, group sizes ranged from 4 to 12. The weather deteriorated last night with strong winds and heavy swell making for an uncomfortable nights sleep. It calmed this morning so I could return to the crows nest. The only sighting today was a single unidentified whale blow in the distance. We are expecting very heavy swell and strong winds tonight and tomorrow so sightings will be slim.

 

13 October 2012

We set sail from Galway on Tuesday night and headed south towards Loop Head where the survey would start. Day 1 started well with a sighting of two porpoise. I had hoped there might be a sighting of the resident population of bottlenose dolphins but no such luck. The next area to be surveyed was Dingle Bay which I was looking forward to as there had been humpback whale sightings there in the last week. Unfortunately we didn't come across them but I did record two minke whales which were headed for an area where gannets were diving. This was the last sighting of the day, overall a good start to the survey.

The first half of day 2 was spent anchored in Dunmanus Bay while the acoustic equipment was calibrated. I had no sightings for the rest of the day but the bird survey team did manage to spot a lone bottlenose dolphin.  Day 3 started off with very promising conditions,  clear skies and a nice and calm sea state 2 - good conditions for sightings and it wasn't long before I had my first one of common dolphins. The conditions deteriorated quickly after that though and soon the sea state was at 6 making it difficult for observing. The common dolphin sightings continued though and kept me happy for the day. Five sightings of common dolphin for the day in total with some of them bow riding the explorer giving me a chance to take some pictures. Hopefully the flow of sightings will continue and conditions will improve.

Enda McKeogh