19 August 2019

Stranded Pilot Whales on Rutland Island

Reports have come into WWWC this afternoon of around 30 Pilot Whales having stranded on a beach in Donegal off Rutland Island. There animals are thought to be mainly mothers and calves which is very sad. There are no survivors.

It is thought that these may be part of a group seen feeding in the waters off Aranmore Island during this past few days.

The cause of this mass stranding is unclear.




WWWC received a report of blows of up to 7 whales off Mill Cove this evening. Probably Fin Whales we will report further when we have the full facts.

We had reports of Fin Whales off Ballycotton two weeks ago, but some way off.

Watch this space.


Wall to Wall Fine Weather..and fine sightings…

With probabley the best stretch of fine weather on record over the past eight weeks we have been having sightings to match…

From excellent sightings of lunge feeding Minke Whales around the Calf Islands and Tourane Rocks to an estimated 500 Common Dolphins as far up Roaringwater Bay as the Mullin Rock our sightings culminated last night with 5 Risso’s Dolphins close into The Gascanane Sound accompanied by a group of around 75 Common Dolphins feeding. One of the Risso’s had a curled over dorsal fin just like the adult Killer Whale we sighted a few weeks ago.

Lovely tail slapping and breaching behaviour from the Risso’s Dolphins with the characteristic “line abreast” feeding strategy of the Common Dolphins. All in the evening sunlight as the sun set over Cape Clear and the Islands of Roaringwater Bay…magic.


Exhibition of Nature Photography by Sheena Jolley…

The renowned wildlife photographer Sheena Jolley brings her stunning exhibition of wildlife photographs to Kinsale. To be opened by the journalist Donal  Musgrave on 6th July at 6pm in her new gallery in Kinsale,  “Island Magic” promises to be a truly magical experience. Sheena brings a quality and “feel” to her wildlife images seldom seen in other wildlife photographers.

Full details of Sheena’s forthcoming exhibition and other details of her work may be seen at her website:


Killer Whales in Baltimore Bay…and minkes and sunfish!

Following several days of stunning Minke Whale and Harbour Porpoise sightings we headed out again this morning on a glassy sea with slight swell anticipating finding some feeding Minke Whales offshore…

…a few moments later I picked up an animal surfacing around 100 metres away. Unmistakably the dorsal fin of a young male Killer Whale. Further scanning picked up two more. A larger animal and a younger, adolescent male by the shape of the dorsal fin. The larger animal had a completely bent over, curled dorsal fin. This happens occasionally, even in wild animals, but it is the first time I have seen this in a wild Killer Whale.

Killer Whales are an uncommon sighting along this part of the south coast so it is expecially exciting to be able to log this in addition to the great Minke Whale sightings we have been having. Later in the trip we encountered a large, feeding Minke Whale in Long Island sound no more than a mile off the old castle of Doonanore.

The presence of Killer Whales so close inshore might have accounted for the lack of Harbour Porpoise normally encountered when crossing Roaringwater Bay!!

All topped off with a medium sized, but rather shy, Atlantic Sunfish…


A stunning weekend of Minkes, Baskers, Porpoises and sunshine…

Wow. What a weekend!

Stunning views of all three iconic species for this time of year. The Minky Whales were very cooperative with some lovely feeding behaviour underneath clouds of Gannets diving into the water and Manx Shearwaters “buzzing” back and forth across the waters surface…both east and west of Cape Clear.

With the strong sunshine the plankton is high in the water column resulting in several Basking Shark sightings in all the old haunts along the Sherkin and Cape shorelines and as far east as Barlogue.

As if that was not enough the Porpoise sightings have been sublime. A shy, retiring little cetacean, sightings can sometimes be a little short…not so this weekend. Lovely views of this pretty little animal have made all our many customers very happy as we basked in the beautiful West Cork sunshine amid calm seas.

Weather pattern looking like holding for the immediate future…


First Sunfish…


Joy of Joys…

It’s not like me to follow on with another post so soon…but I just have to tell you the Minke Whale watching yesterday was superb…

Several animals both sides of Cape Clear but away off near the Fastnet Rock and Lighthouse we encountered an animal feeding hard. Creating the characteristic huge display of Gannets and Shearwaters this large Minke Whale circled the boat creating a huge bait ball in the water, surfacing regularly with noisy blows and gasps of admiration from my customers on the boat.

Minke Whale watching at it very best. If the weather holds there may well be opportunities for more sightings like that…I am lost for words, not something you are used to!


Exceptional sightings for the time of year…

It is always with great expectations that we look at the first part of the season in terms of variety of sightings. The timing of when the animals move inshore to feed varies enormously and the weather conditions can influence our sightings considerably…

Well, for the past three weeks the weather and the sightings have not disappointed in the least and have been, quite frankly, superb. Direct sightings from the boat have included feeding Minke Whales, Basking Sharks, Bottlenose Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises. All species we would expect to see at this time of year. Sightings have been made from as far west as Crookhaven to Galley Head in the east. Lovely sightings of these iconic species in lovely sea conditions.

Although we were “not in the right place at the right time” a Killer Whale was reported by the Cape Ferry as recently as yesterday moving east through the Gascanane Sound. With this being a rare sighting in these southern waters it causes great excitement among the whale watching and non whale watching population equally. The day before we had a group of Bottlenose Dolphins right in the harbour at Baltimore! We have not yet sighted “our” lone Bottlenose Dolphin that we have recorded along this stretch of coast annually now for the past five years…keep you posted.

With the considerable influx of Jellyfish these past 10 days we are expecting that great oceanic wanderer, the Sunfish any day now. Rest assured, we will report as soon as we have a confirmed sighting.

Our move to Baltimore has proved an enormous success. With passenger safety and comfort uppermost in our thoughts, the steps and easy access at Baltimore have made it possible to board many customers this year (and last year) who have some difficulty in movement, something just not possible with the closure of part of Union Hall Pier on safety grounds and the increasingly decrepit state of Reen Pier and the ancient boarding ladder there. With the planned improvements nearing completion at Baltimore, along with wheelchair access, the amenities for the many customers of Whale Watch West Cork can only get better. There is a move afoot to extend the old pier at Baltimore yet further which, along with the excellent places to get a snack or coffee or stay in the village, is fast making BALTIMORE HARBOUR  the whale watching capital of West Cork.

More anon…


Excellent sightings…last 10 days

Good weather conditions and excellent sightings off West Cork herald the start of an action packed season of wildlife sightings.

Bird sightings inshore these past six weeks have been stunning with rafts of razorbills, guillemots and occasional puffins delighting customers young and old. For pure showmanship the gannet steals the avian show with their jaw dropping dives from as high as 100ft into the water – and we have had many exhibitions of this marvel of nature during the past weeks.

We all wait with baited breath for the first basking sharks to arrive during late April and early May. We have not been disappointed this year. From early sightings in Roaringwater Bay we have had some wonderful encounters with large aggregations around Capre Clear, as far west as Crookhaven and east as far as the Galley Head and beyond with many more sightings being phoned in to Whale Watch West Cork by our wide circle of associates and friends along the coast. With warm and sunny weather predicted for the coming couple of weeks we hope these leviathans of the deep, the second largest fish in the world behind the whale shark, will continue to grace our shores well into May. One of the delights of basking shark sightings, especially when encountered in larger groups, are the spectacular leaps or breaches they make out of the water returning their huge bulk to the water with an enormous splash reminiscent of a depth charge going off. This unusual behaviour can be witnessed quite regularly off West Cork among the smaller animals and those reaching lengths in excess of 7 metres.

Talking of breaching. Early minke whale sightings have created some eye opening moments with a single animal breaching in Barlogue Bay and in Baltimore Bay. We encountered this animal in rather brisk conditions around 10 days ago when it breached no more than 40 feet in front of the boat quite unexpectedly following our observations of gannet diving activity in the bay. Later that week it was reported to us of an animal breaching further east along the coast no more than 100 metres from the shoreline and easily visible from the land. It is a lovely sight and one that was not particularly in evidence last year.

Porpoise activity, always a little subdued during the early months, is on the increase. Once the animals start to congergate in larger “family” groups then sighting take on a new dimension. We have had some lovely group encounters with this shy cetacean, Ireland’s smallest whale, during the last few days. Memories of last year’s encounters in the Gascanane Sound and further east off the Stag Rocks and The Galley Head still come back and we hope for similar sighting opportunities this year.

As we move through May we look forward to some of the “firsts” for the year. The first sunfish which were seen by us so early last year and the first to be recorded by us, of breaching behaviour in sunfish. This unique behaviour was seen on two separate occasions but not captured on film alas.

The first common dolphins always bring a surge of joy to even the most hardened hearts. Their playful behaviour, cheesy grin and obvious joie de vivre inspire us all. Although we do encounter groups in the months before July it is the later summer build ups that we look forward to where groups of animals in excess of 150 animals may be regularly encountered.

The mighty fin whale we await in eager anticipation…but we usually have to wait to the closing months of the year for these whales, the second largest on earth.

…’til then I will keep you all posted with details as the season unfolds.


Minke Whale activity on the increase…

Day before yesterday we observed a minke whale south of Rabbit Island followed by a surfacing animal east of Adam Island…possibly the same animal. Travelling and not attracting much bird activity we are looking forward to some settled weather and with lots of visitors about are getting out on the water regularly.

Out and about south of the Kedges yesterday we had a breaching minke whale. A young animal that was attracting a bit of gannet activity. There was a brisk breeze blowing from the notheast which was creating a lumpy, short sea but we saw this animal surface around 40 metres in front of the boat followed shortly afterwards by a single breach well out of the water…and a large splash on re-entry.

With a lot of “feed” showing on the echosounder we are hoping this activity may continue for a few days yet in Baltimore Bay…more blog to come after today.


Great Sightings in April…

April is traditionally a quiet month for cetacean sightings off West Cork as we wait for thr waters to warm and the plankton to bloom and rise in the water column…

This April however, has proved the exception. Although the waters off West Cork remain cold sightings that have been reported by us and others this month have included killer whales, pilot whales, first minke whales of the season, bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoise and basking sharks.

This lovely spectrum of species has culminated in basking sharks off The Kedges last weekend and bottlenose dolphins feeding in Squince Harbour yesterday morning and excellent harbour porpoise activity between Sherkin Island and Cape Clear.

Other fantastic and early sightings have been had to feeding gannets, Manx shearwaters, fulmars, razorbills and both species of guillemot. Lovely wildlife activity for so early in the season supported by some fabulous sunny and fine weather West Cork has yet again proved a mecca for the marine wildlife enthusiast from both Ireland and Europe.

Hopefully this early flush of activity is a harbinger of things to come. We look forward to a fine summer, warm seas, a wide variety of species. With Voyager operating since the beginning of April we are all looking forward to a great season…can’t wait.


Sea Shepherd is a Fundamentalist Darwinist Anti-God Organization?

Sea Shepherd and Captain Paul Watson are no strangers to controversy and the fall out from the apalling act of irresponsibility conducted by the Japanese whaling fleet when they deliberately rammed and sunk the anti whaling Sea Shepherd boat, Ady Gill, continues…

The latest bout of misleading, poorly written commentary to be published over The Christian Newswire, an organisation claiming to be the most respected organisation of its type, opens the article…

“…Last week’s clash between the Japanese whaling ship, the ‘Shonan Maru’ and the ‘Ady Gil’, a vessel owned and manned by the eco-terrorist group Sea Shepherd, highlights an animal rights battle that was launched when Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands in 1835 — a theme explored in detail on a featurette of ‘The Mysterious Islands’, a newly-released documentary that debunks the conclusions Darwin reached during his famous voyage of the Beagle. The featurette — entitled ‘The Galapagos Whaling Controversy: A Christian Perspective’ — takes environmental groups such as Sea Shepherd, Greenpeace, and PETA head on, and shows how their anti-hunting and worshipful view of animals flows directly from Darwin’s theory of evolution…”

This nonsensical claptrap continues throughout the piece…

True to form Paul Watson counters some of the comments made in the article with his characteristic firebrand style of clear thinking mixed with humour…the following is just one of his comments…

“…It turns out you see that the only reason we [Sea Shepherd] are down here in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary protecting whales is because we are fundamentalist extremist disciples of Charles Darwin. Yes sir, Charles Darwin is to blame for this mess because he started people down the road of thinking for themselves, instead of blindly following the dictates and guidance of a silly over-rated book written by a gang of chauvinistic sheep herding thugs in the desert a few thousand years ago…”

The whole debate may be read here

The Christian Newswire article may be read here


Humpback Whales off Wexford Coast…

During the closing stages of last week we received reports of Humpback Whale sightings off the Wexford coast…

…since that time confirmed sightings have been made by observers of a number of Humpback Whales off the County Wexford coast indulging in what is a fairly common behavioural activity for this species – launching themselves high out of the water in spectacular breaches, returning to the water with an enormous splash.

Both in 2009 and in 2004 when we had significant numbers of Humpbacks off the southwest coast, we encountered breaching animals. The charismatic Humpback Whales is one of only two species of baleen whales in Irish waters which may be encountered regularly breaching, the other being the much smaller Minke Whale.

One of the many questions we have fielded during the last two days has been “where have these animals come from and where are they going”. Whilst the migratory patterns of Humpback Whales in the eastern Atlantic remain the subject of much conjecture some information is well documented…

The migratory patterns of large baleen whales in the northern hemisphere cover lesser distances than those same species in the southern hemisphere. However, the Humpback Whale may be the one exception to that rule. Well studied, large Humpback Whale populations off the eastern seaboard of the United States, demonstrate migrations that see individuals travelling from Greenland to the Dominican Republic every year to calve and mate, returning to northern climes to feed in the nutrient rich waters off Greenland and the Denmark Straight.

Humpback populations in the eastern Atlantic are much smaller and are believed to travel between Icelandic and Norwegian waters and Greenland and traditional breeding grounds around The Cape Verde Islands, off the west African coast. The number of animals observed at any one time around the Cape Verde Islands however, number far less than the estimated total population of Humpbacks in north eastern Atlantic waters leading some observers to believe that some members of this population travelled across the Atlantic diagonally to the waters around the Dominican Republic. This is supported by the finding that an individual first identified in the Denmark Straight was identified nearly 18 years later in the waters of the Cape Verde Islands suggesting some “diagonal” west – east migration does occur. It is reasonable to assume that east – west “diagonal” movement occurs as well.

Given that concentrated Humpback activity is not a year round phenomenon off any part of the Irish coastline it is reasonable to assume that these individuals off Wexford are part of a general north – south migratory movement of Humpback Whales that occurs during the winter months opportunistically feeding on seasonal Herring spawning aggregations that occur of the southeast corner of Ireland during the winter months.

To be sure we would need clear photo identification showing animals off Wexford were the same individuals seen in both north east Atlantic waters and around the Cape Verde Islands. So far that type of conclusive evidence is not available.


Japanese Whalers employ dangerous tactics…

In an unprecedented attack on one of the Sea Shepherd vessels monitoring their illegal whaling activities in the Southern Ocean the Japanese whale catcher boat Shonan Maru No 2 rammed the much smaller Ady Gil causing extensive damage to the vessel and seriously endangering the crew.

This reckless endangerment of life on the high seas by the Japanese whaling vessel Shonan Maru should attract nothing short of international condemnation and censorship and international communities should demand an apology, reparations to repair/replace the seriously damaged craft and the captain and crew of the Japanese vessel responsible for the ramming should face criminal charges.

To watch the video of this blatant act click here