Aug 192010

Whale Watch Ireland, Galley Head, Cork Whale Watch Ireland is an annual all-Ireland land-based whale watching event run by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG). This year’s watch will take place on Sunday 22 August between 2pm and 5pm at 15 headlands around the Irish coast.

This is a completely free land based watch (no boat-trips involved), and experienced IWDG guides / spotters will be on hand to give you the best chance of spotting some of the 24 cetacean species encountered around the Irish coast.

IWDG Sightings Co-ordinator Padraig Whooley showing children a whale jaw-bone at Whale Watch Ireland Some of the species you’re most likely to spot include harbour porpoise, common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, minke whale, if you’re lucky you may see fin whales blowing offshore, and if you’re REALLY lucky perhaps a humpback will put in an appearance.

As with all wildlife related events, there are no guarantees you’ll see anything – but the anticipation and uncertainty all adds to the excitement… and it’s a fabulous, free family outing at some of Ireland’s most spectacular natural locations.

Here’s a list of Whale Watch Ireland 2010 locations from the IWDG site:

Location Meeting Point Watch Leader
Howth Head, Dublin Balscadden Car Park Brian Glanville
Bray Head, Wicklow Pitch & putt car park Dinah Boyne
Hook Head, Wexford Hook Lighthouse Kevin Mc Cormick
Ardmore, Waterford Ram Head signal tower Andrew Malcolm
Galley Head, Cork Lighthouse Pádraig Whooley
Garranes, Beara, Cork Dzogchen Beara Ctr Patrick Lyne
Slea Head, Dingle Penisula, Kerry Slea Head Shrine Nick Massett
Brandon Point, Kerry Car park Mick O’Connell
Loop Head, Clare Lighthouse Aoife Foley
Black Head, Clare Lighthouse Joanne O’Brien
Downpatrick Head, Mayo Car park Conor Ryan
Mullaghmore Head, Sligo Mullaghmore lay by Fiona Farrell
Lough Swilly, Donegal Fort Dunree Dermot Mc Laughlin
Portstewart Head, Derry Harbour Hill Jim Allen
Larne, Antrim Larne Town Park, Glenarm Rd Ian Enlander

So get yourself to a headland near you on Sunday to find out more about the whales and dolphins around Ireland, and hopefully see a few for yourself.

I’ll be at the Galley Head watch in Cork… if you’re in the vicinity come say hello!

Apr 052010

More and more killer whales are being spotted in Irish waters these days… with many of the recent sightings identifiable as members of a well known pod of whales known as the Scottish West Coast Community Group.

(Photo via the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group website, © John Dennihy)

Two of these whales were spotted from Colin Barnes’s whale watching vessel The Holly Joe not far from Galley Head, West Cork on 27th March 2010… (identity confirmed by Andy Foote from the University of Aberdeen), with a larger group of 4-5 killer whales spotted a little further west (close to Baltimore) later the same day.

Interestingly these sightings coincided with the first West Cork basking shark sightings of the season… leading Padraig Whooley, the IWDG sightings coordinator, to wonder whether the simultaneous arrival of the ocean’s apex predator and the huge but docile basking shark in Irish waters was somehow related.

Could basking shark be on the killer whale’s menu, or were they arriving together purely by chance?

There’s more information on these whale sightings on the IWDG website, and you can see details of all recent reported killer whale sightings around Ireland here.

Jun 292009
Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) photographed...

Image via Wikipedia

I just got this via e-mail from Simon Berrow of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

Apparently the autopsy of the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) that stranded in Courtmacsherry bay in West Cork back in January is going to be shown in a new Channel 4 series called Inside Nature’s Giants.

Here’s the e-mail text:


The post-mortem of the fin whale stranded in Courtmacsherry Bay in January 2009 will be shown on Channel 4 in a new series starting this week.

The programme is entitled "Inside Nature’s Giants" and the four part series covers an Elephant (29 June), Fin whale (6 July), Crocodile (13 July) and Giraffe (20 July). All programmes are at 9pm on Channel 4.

The IWDG were contacted by Channel 4 the day the whale stranded having picked up the story from our website. As we did not know what was going to happen to the whale, or subsequently its’ carcass, it was hard to know how we could facilitate and whether indeed a post-mortem could be carried out. We had never tackled such a large animal before so were literally going into the unknown.

After lengthy discussion Windfall Films decided to fly over a large whale researcher from the US. Even then access to the whale was not certain as Cork County Council policy was removal or burial. Fortunately everything worked out and Channel 4 got their autopsy, we learnt more about whales in Ireland, Cork County Council got the whale removed and Kilbrittain community got their skeleton !   Joy Reidenberg from the US was absolutely incredible and took us all through the process of post-mortem examination of a large whale.

See the amazing footage on Channel 4 at 9pm on Monday 6th July.


Sounds a tad on the gruesome side… but I, for one, will be watching with interest. The series kicks off tonight with the dissection of an elephant!

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Jun 232009
Walrus at Kamogawa Seaworld, Japan

Image via Wikipedia

Just got an e-mail from Padraig Whooley of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group re. a possible walrus sighting of Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

At 19:30 this evening Tues. 23rd June, we received a call from a Johnny Byrne informing us that at 15:00 he had seen earlier what he believed to be a walrus off Maherabeg, heading north from Magherabeg beach, 50 yards off the rocks, towards Magheramor beach in Co. Wicklow.

Padraig, who is the sighting’s coordinator with the IWDG said he spoke to Johnny at length, and while he’s convinced the sighting is something unusual they can’t confirm a walrus just yet.

The IWDG has informed National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Irish Seal Sanctuary, as the animal could turn out to be another vagrant pinniped like a hooded or bearded seal, which have also been recorded in Irish waters.

There have been confirmed sightings of walruses in Irish waters before, with most sightings, perhaps unsurprisingly, coming from off the northwest coast.

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Dec 012008

West Cork is a truly amazing place for getting up close and personal with some of the largest and most spectacular creatures on the planet. Every winter large baleen whales congregate off the South West coast – with a lot of activity focussed off the headlands of West Cork.

On Friday I was lucky enough to head out on a Whale Watching Trip with Colin Barnes out of Union Hall. We saw a total of five cetacean species on the trip: Fin Whales (Balaenoptera physalus), Minke Whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena and more than a hundred Common Dolphins (Delphinus delphis).

A fin whale surfaces not far from the boat

A Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) surfaces not far from the boat

Common dolphins bow riding a fin whale off the West Cork coast

A common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) appears, riding the bow-wave created by the large whale

Dolphin bow-riding large whale off West Cork, Ireland

… and behaves exactly as it would when bow-riding a boat, demonstrating, perhaps, the origins of this curious habit.

We had an amazing trip – the second best I’ve ever been on (my best whale watching trip ever was one four years ago, also with Colin Barnes off the West Cork coast). We saw literally dozens of fin whales blowing all around us, about half a dozen minke whales, four humpbacks, the occasional porpoise and a hundred or more common dolphins. One of the highlights was seeing three different species of whale swimming together – two fin whales, a humpback, and two minke whales in one place. Amazing!

A humpback whale and a fin whale surface together off Galley Head, West Cork

A humpback whale and fin whale surface together just off Galley Head, West Cork

This is the best time of the year to see large baleen whales off the Irish coast… November, December and January are when you get peak whale activity. So if you want one of the most spectacular wildlife experiences on the planet, get in touch with Colin (who incidentally also does gift vouchers, if you’re looking for an unusual Christmas present).

Ireland really is a hotbed of cetacean activity at this time of year – but enough of my wittering, here are some more photos. Judge for yourself:

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