IWDG Whale-Watching weekend course 26-28 July

15th Jul 2013

IWDG Cape Clear Summer Whale-Watching courses...update

Update on July 26-28th Weekend course 

Our second whale-watching weekend course on Cape Clear Island, West Cork is filling up nicely now. There is however still room for bookings in the coming weeks.  But we'd advise that as this is the only one of our three weekends to clash with the "high season" period that people should book sooner rather than later in order to ensure you have a choice of accommodation providers. Cape Clear in common with all offshore islands has a limited range of accommodation options and can struggle to cope with high demand during peak holiday season. Given the activities over our whale watching weekend courses your options are realistically limited to one of just two Bed & Breakfasts, Cape Clear Bird Observatory (CCBO), Cape Clear Hostel, and the campsite.  Keep your eye on www.iwdg.ie to see the latest sightings around Cape Clear.  Enquiries or bookings to email: padraig.whooley@iwdg.ie, Ph. 353 (0)86 3850568 or see www.iwdg.ie/events for full details on our Cape courses. 


Course report update 03/06/2013


Last weekend May 31- June 2nd saw the first of the IWDG's summer series of weekend whale watching courses on Cape Clear Island, Co. Cork.  The 11 participants arrived on their respective ferries from Baltimore in calm seas and clear skies with high expectations of sightings over the next three days, driven by the favourable forecast.  During the weekend we carried out three land based watches from Cape's south facing cliff vantage points at Bullig and Blannan, with sightings of harbour porpoises and common dolphins at 2 of the 3 watches.

On Saturday afternoon we had our whale watch boat trip with local marine ecotourism operator Micheal Cottrell of Baltimore Sea Safari, which took us east towards the Kedge and beyond to the Stags, as we explored the caves and inlets around Barlogue Creek at the entrance to Lough Hyne.  This 3 hour trip despite the lack of sightings in a stiff enough breeze was one of the weekend highlights.  Huge thanks to Micheal for facilitating IWDG by making his fantastic RIB available for our course.  

There is no doubt other than sighting rates were lower than we'd typically expect from Cape Clear, but they are against the backdrop of a very cold spring and sea surface temperatues being unusually cold for this time of year, which is likely to have had a knock-on effect on larger animals of interest to us. But the 3rd and final watch of the weekend did produce nice views of harbour porpoises and distant encounters of common dolphins and there was a frustrating sense that activity was picking up nicely around Cape just as we were packing up.  No sooner was I home and checking emails than the messages were coming in thick and fast of basking sharks appearing during the afternoon at several sites to the north of Cape...oh the joys of working with wildlife!

Minke whale surfaces off Cape Clear © Pádraig Whooley, IWDG

Anyway, we look forward to our 2nd weekend course on Cape Clear and are not deterred at all by the lack of whale sightings during the 1st course.  It is still very early for whales along the south coast, although there have been some lovely minke whale sightings reported to IWDG from many sites along the south coast, as well as minke sightings from Wexford, Dublin and Donegal.  These weekends are more about showing people how to whale watch, and giving participants the confidence to carry out their own local watches, and to report their sightings back to the IWDG, which of course supports the conservation of these animals.  

We've still plenty of spaces available on the July 26-28th course. If you've like to learn more about what's involved or make a booking then drop us a line at the details below.

Enquiries to email: padraig.whooley@iwdg.ie or Ph. 353 (0)86 3850568 or 


Common dolphin off Cape Clear © Pádraig Whooley, IWDG1st IWDG weekend whale watching course on Cape Clear 

There are still some places left on the 1st of our summer weekend whale-watching courses May 31- June 2nd on Cape Clear, Co. Cork. The cost of these courses is €90 p/p which includes a years IWDG membership.  Over the weekend participants will learn both practical field-skills during land watches and a boat trip with Micheal Cottrell of Baltimore Sea Safari, as well as attend a series of talks covering cetacean ecology/biology, species identification and whale watching.  Given reasonable weather conditions these weekends generally provide sightings of porpoises, common dolphins and minke whales and at this time of year, we can't rule out basking sharks, although admitedly this has been a very poor year to date for this species, due to the lower than normal water temperatures.  


April 20013

As we are now in April, it’s a good time to remind wildlife enthusiasts, whale and yes, shark watchers that next month sees the first of the our Whale Watching weekend courses on Cape Clear Island, Co. Cork, which will be on May 31st – June 2nd. These courses are open to IWDG members and non–members alike and the €90 course fee includes one year membership. 

The timing of these weekends between May-September improves our chances of a  spread of cetacean sightings, and the May 31st course will also have a particular focus on the planet’s second largest fish, the basking shark.  Sightings of this gentle giant (pic above) generally peak off the Irish south coast during April-June, and so course participants will be at one of the best sites in the North Atlantic and at the perfect time of year to observe basking sharks.  In three of the last four Cape Clear weekends in May, participants have enjoyed sightings of basking sharks breaching at the mouth of South Harbour from the cliff top vantage points at Bullig and Blannan. 

(Postscript....1st basking shark sightings of 2013 made 4-6th April off Counties Waterford, Kerry and Donegal, so the  shark season has commenced. This is great timing for our May Cape Clear weekend.

It’s also the best time of the year to observe Ireland’s smallest and most abundant baleen whale, the minke whale, which move inshore to the waters off Cape Clear and Roaringwater Bay during late spring and early summer. They have already arrived in numbers along the Kerry coast. The arrival of both basking sharks and minke whale in fact seem to correlate quite nicely at this time of year, and this is likely to be determined by the build up of plankton blooms along the south coast which kick start the food chain. 

Of course what we see on any given weekend will be determined largely by the weather,  but given light winds, calm seas and good visibility we can always rely on ha

rbour porpoises and generally will enjoy sightings of short-beaked common dolphins and minke whales.  Other species that could make an appearance at this time of year would be bottlenose and Risso’s dolphin, but on Cape Clear you can never rule out killer whales, and although early in the year perhaps some distant “vapour plumes” along the horizon, as this is when we generally find the first early season fin whales arriving along the south coast.  Humpback whale off Cape Clear © Pádraig Whooley, IWDG

Early bookings give you a greater choice of accommodation, which can be in short supply on offshore Islands, and they guarantee your place on the weekend. Bookings have already been taken for the May course, but at time of writing there are still spaces available. For bookings or enquiries email: padraig.whooley@iwdg.ie or Ph. 00 353 (0)86-3850568. See www.iwdg.ie/events for further details.  








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