Risso's dolphin images off Saltees, Co. Wexford

1st Apr 2014

We often get cetacean images sent to us by members of the public. They are sometimes reasonable "record shots" that help us confirm which species the recorder has seen, and as such are very helpful to IWDG and more often than not the recorder is delighted to have a mystery solved. Sometimes they are very strong shots, clear and close up, that help us not only confirm species, but pin-point unique features on the body that help us recognise the individual in question.  These images are invaluable for our photo Id catalogues and as such have a strong research value. But every now and then we get an image that has that WOW factor...today we got a CD full of them!













More importantly, they are of a species that are relatively infrequent in Irish waters, outside of a few known hotspots. Not surprisingly the images are from one of these special places for Grampus griseus or the Risso's dolphin to you and me. The Saltee Islands off the Wexford coast are consistently one of the best places in Irish waters to view this poorly understood dolphin.  The period late spring to early summer seems to be a very good time to view them off these Wexford islands. Not a species known for their acrobatic displays, William Kavanagh and Ruairi O' Brien were clearly fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time and in such perfect sea conditions for photographing cetaceans. These animals clearly behaving more like their bottlenose cousins. Other known sites which seem to attract Risso's dolphins are the North Wicklow coast, Dursey Island, Co. Cork and the Blasket Islands, Co. Kerry. 

IWDG appreciate any images that can accompany your sighting records. In the old days, there were only a relatively small number of wildlife photography specialists who could produce strong images, but with the advent of digital photography almost everyone has a camera to hand i.e. your smart phone, and your images may be significant in helping us understand more about cetaceans and how they use Irish waters.

As we gear up for the season ahead, we look forward to receiving and validating all sighting records that you the public can send to IWDG. It makes no difference if your sighting is of a very common species, and in an area where they are commonly seen. We treat all records the same, and a harbour porpoise sighting will be processed the same as that of a humpback whale.

Risso's dolphins, Saltees, Wexford 21/07/2013 © William Kavanangh

We have forwarded these images to Isabel Baker who co-ordinates the IWDG dolphin photo ID catalogues, and she will use a combination of software and more traditional methods to match any of these well-marked individuals to the existing and growing Risso's dolphin catalogue on http://www.iwdg.ie.

Nick Massett the other day asked if we could make images we show on www.iwdg.ie somewhat larger, and we agree, so these Risso's shots have been made somewhat larger, to do them justice. 

Any recommendations on how IWDG can improve the cetacean sightings scheme in terms of encouraging recording and participation, would be greatly appreciated. There can be no cetacean recording schemes without your support.

Pádraig Whooley

IWDG Sightings Officer

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