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!

Jan 312010

A humpback whale off West Cork, IrelandIn the wake of the spectacular humpback whale encounters off the Wexford coast recently, and the incredible footage shown on the RTÉ news, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) is calling for funding to help them find out more about the humpback whales that visit Ireland’s coastline every year.

We’re incredibly lucky to have these amazing animals, and other large whale species, as regular visitors to our shores, and finding out more about them is a crucial step to the conservation of these magnificent animals.

I’ll let Dr. Simon Berrow of the IWDG explain:

I hope you have all got to the see the amazing images and footage of the humpback whale off Co. Wexford. Hopefully too, some of you will be able to go and see this magnificent creature for yourselves.  It might not breach, but humpback whales are still one of the most enigmatic and popular species on the planet.

This is the 11th individual humpback whale the IWDG have recorded in Irish waters.  All previous whales have been photographed in more than one year and although this is the first time we have recorded this one, we fully expect to see this whale again !  This shows that humpback whales are returning to Ireland each year where they are spending a considerable period of time, but we do not know if they are passing through on their way to somewhere else or where they go when they leave.

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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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