16 November 2018

Latest Sightings off West Cork

In spite of the recent bouts of unsettled weather we have had some lovely sightings between The Galley Head and Cape Clear over the last few weeks.

The Common Dolphins have moved inshore right on cue at the beginning of August and groups of up to 50 animals have provided us with some stunning viewing from the boat. Groups that have included some very young animals and adolescents which is very heartening to see. Feeding beneath huge clouds of Gannets, with Manx Shearwaters milling about on the surface, Guillemots and assorted Gulls make for a feeding spectacle of “Attenborough” like proportions – and just off West Cork!

Following some of the best Minke Whale watching so far this season only a few weeks ago these enigmatic denizons of the deep have been keeping us guessing. Around two/three animals have been patrolling Roaringwater Bay, the area southeast of Cape Clear and east of Sherkin Island providing good, if only rather fleeting sightings. August has never been considered the best time for Minke Whale watching anyway but we would have expected more activity as Cape Clear, The Brow Head and Roaringwater Bay are traditionally good areas for Minkes.

More unexpected has been the amazing sightings of Harbour Porpoises. The opposite to the boistrous and charismatic Common Dolphin these smallest of Ireland’s whales usually avoid close encounters with boats, people and engines. With engines off and drifting on the tide we had some stunning close encounters with groups of these small cetaceans where they have swum close by and under the boat apparently without regard for our presence, delighted our many customers. On one memorable encounter we came across a mother and tiny calf patrolling the harbour entrance off Baltimore. We stopped immediately and turned off our engines and unexpectedly this pair swum close around the boat within just a few metres. One keen photographer on board took some of the best pictures of Harbour Porpoises I have ever seen!

We have not received any more reports of Humpback Whales in the Irish Sea but a couple of further reports of Fin Whales offshore and off the UK coast take us back to the amazing viewing of these two species we had last autumn. Once the Fin Whales move inshore again, hopefully over the coming weeks, readers of this blog will be the first to hear.

My colleague Rory Jackson has reported more Bottlenose Dolphin activity off Cork Harbour and off The Tuskar Rock during yacht deliveries to and from Dublin. We have had our fair share on Bottlenose activity in and around Baltimore this season with around 14 animals in the harbour some weeks ago and a lone Bottlenose Dolphin encountered within the harbour only a couple of weeks ago. An animal that we have encountered along this coast several times over the past four years…always on it’s own though.

More anon as the season progresses…

Bottlenose Dolphin in Baltimore harbour

Stop press from Voyager out in Baltimore Harbour timed at 0950 on Sunday, 9th August 2009.

Lone Bottlenose dolphin patrolling harbour waters. This is an animal that has been observed from Voyager many times over the last four years and appears to be living a solitary life in the immediate area.

We would be grateful if all boat users in the Baltimore area would be mindful that this dolphin is in the vicinity.

More to follow later today…..

More Minkes…More Porpoises…

More of everything really…

Huge rafts and flocks of Manx Shearwaters all around Roaringwater Bay and the Islands, east to The Stags and south to The Fastnet. One of the key avian indicator species for Minke Whale activity at this time of the year…well they are doing their job!

The last few days has had some lovely Minke Whale sightings around “Cape” and in Long Island Bay well out towards The Fastnet Rock and Lighthouse and in Fastnet Sound. Although evidently feeding when they surface with throats distended they frequently attract little bird activity. They may be feeding very low in the water column resulting in the traditional “bait balls” at the surface not materialising. The Minke Whale is considered to have a wide range of fish species on which it feeds.

Very active porpoise groups in the area we patrol. This attractive but traditionally shy and retiring little whale entertained us all on one occasion last week by swimming under the boat (engines were off of course) giving us clear views of this cetacean swimming just under the surface of the water. Not often seen and a delight for all, adults and children alike.

Some lovely late Sunfish activity. We manoevered the boat upwind and up tide of a medium sized Sunfish last week and turned off the engines. It graced us by swimming alongside the boat and remained motionless in the water for several minutes before swimming off. With the sun behind us we had some stunning views of this unusual yet attractive mid-summer visitor to West Cork’s waters.

All this in spite of the bouts of unsettled weather that keep passing through…plenty of sunshine though and warm with it!


Another Great Minke Day…

Yet another day of great Minke Whale sightings. Right inside the Gascanane Sound. Lunge feeding but quite unusually NO BIRDS at all attracted.

There has been Minke Whale activity in and around the area of The Gascanane Sound and Sherkin’s south eastern “corner” for the last 10 days almost continuously.

Lovely feeding Harbour Porpoises in the ebbing Gascanane tide race this evening. Surgeing and breaching activity…very animated!


Sublimke Minke Whale Sightings off Sherkin Island…


Some of the best Minke Whale sightings this year off Sherkin Island. South East corner of the Island almost in the Gascanane Sound. Two animals lunge feeding and surfacing with mouths agape and throat pleats distended. All topped off by dramatic Harbour Porpoise encounters in much the same area. Dramatic sea conditions to enhance the experience…

Quite magical and it rarely gets any better than this.

No reliable inshore sightings of Fin Whales yet off West Cork but lots of reports being sent into Whale Watch West Cork of Fin Whales in groups offshore along with Humpbacks. Common Dolphin sightings on the increase, especially in the east of the county.

Will blog as soon as we have sightings of Fin Whales inshore to report.


More Minkes…

Blessed with some lovely sunshine around the islands this week we have had some stunning Minke Whale sightings close in around the Gascanane Sound and right into Roaringwater Bay.

Harbour Porpoise activity has increased significantly over the last couple of weeks with some fabulous feeding behaviour being exhibited east of Cape Clear and Sherkin Islands. Many young animals in evidence which is very heartening showing some animated behaviour – for a Porpoise!

Reports submitted to us these past two weeks of Fin Whale activity further offshore with further Humpback Whale sightings in the Irish Sea. Hope they all come this way!

Huge build up of Manx Shearwaters these past weeks has rafts of birds up to 500 strong with some lovely Gannet activity over feeding Minkes.

We are anticipating the August build up in Common Dolphin sightings anytime now. Several sightings so far this year but no very large groups. Lots of reports of Common Dolphins from customers crossing The Irish Sea on the ferry.

Memories still linger of the Bottlenopse Dolphin activity along this part of the West Cork coast during June and July this year…

Watch this space.

Minkes, BND’s, Fins, Humpbacks and Pilot Whales…

The last couple of days has produced sightings by us of Minke Whales off Baltimore Harbour entrance and south of Rabbit Island with a group of Bottlenose Dolphins in the harbour at Baltimore and earlier in the entrance to Union Hall harbour.

Further reports have been sent into Whale Watch West Cork of Bottlenose Dolphins off Castlepoint, around 40 Common Dolphins west of Sherkin Island and Minke Whales southwest of Cape Clear culminating in a colleague delivering a yacht from Dublin to West Cork texting me in the early hours of this morning with news of five Pilot Whales off the Tuskar Rock.

Carefully validated reports sent through to WWWC during the last week or two indicate sightings of Risso’s Dolphins off Cape Clear, a “family” group of Humpbacks in the Irish Sea and Fin Whales off Garretstown, County Cork.

Combined with the numerous Basking Shark, Harbour Porpoise and Sunfish sighting we have recorded during this early summer period it yet again shows West Cork and the southern Irish coast as a mecca for a wide variety of marine wildlife producing some excellent sightings for visitors and locals alike…

Watch this space…and our video blog for the latest sightings and updates.

Basking Sharks, Minke Whales and Harbour Porpoises…

In spite of the unsettled weather this past few days the preceeding two weeks had us running some lovely wildlife tours out of Baltimore Harbour. The facilities at Baltimore providing our guests with additional comforts during these early season tours…followed by stops for tea at North Harbour on Cape Clear.

With numbers of Manx Shearwaters increasing daily and Gannets feeding inshore we have recorded Basking Sharks off Rabbit Island (following earlier sightings off Baltimore), Minke Whales in their traditional haunts along the eastern and southern shores of Sherkin island and Harbour Porpoise activity in both the Gascanane Sound and off Kedge Island east of Baltimore Harbour. We suspected a feeding Minke Whale east of Rabbit Island two days ago but due to rough seas were unable to confirm.

On one glorious occasion a colleague of mine sailing along Sherkin’s eastern shore encountered a breaching Minke Whale…after the initial shock as this animal launched itself out of the water close to his boat the crew all enjoyed the spectacle – one of the most spectacular to occur along this part of the southern Irish coast and one that we have had the priviledge to witness on many occasions both from the boat and during land based whale watches.

For our early visitors the bonus of sunshine and the beautiful islands of Roaringwater Bay with Choughs wheeling above North Harbour on Cape Clear Island and Gannets diving close into Calf Island West provides a memerable backdrop for early season tours off West Cork.


Justice must be done for the Tokyo Two…

The trial of the Tokyo Two charged with stealing whale meat during an undercover operation to expose the embezzlement and corruption at the heart of the Japanese whaling industry has moved more in favour of the two.

Click the title link and see what you can do to support the Tokyo Two.


Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival…

After four days of screenings, workshops, discussions and audiences with such notable members of the Irish and International film scene as Jim Sheridan, Tony Barry, Jack Gold, Kirsten Sheridan, Greg Dyke and Gerard Stembridge the Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival concluded last night with the presentation of awards.

The lovely Irish made film AN COSC took Best of Festival. Directed by Vincent Gallagher this stylish short film tells the story of two young friends from opposite sides of the town who share a passion for hurling. When local sporting politics get in the way as they grow up the effects go right to the top of the Irish Presidency.

The offerings from the workshops organised and run by Mark McCarthy and Tony Barry were rated spectacular considering they were shot using small inexpensive cameras, edited using over the counter editing suites and produced and directed by a crew as young as 14. Shot on location in and around West Cork during the first few months of this year the winning film out of three submissions, HOW DOES THE HEART KNOW WHAT THE EYES CANNOT SEE was written and directed by Alan Tobin and tells the story of a young boys discussions with his dead mother.

A number of environmental themed films were submitted to the festival with OF BEST INTENTIONS carrying away the award for best use of music and RETHINK THE SHARK being shortlisted for an award.

The environmental film THE AGE OF STUPID starring Pete Postlethwaite was shown during the festival. Telling the story of an old man in the ravaged world of 2055 looking back at archive footage of the impact of global warming and climate change and asking why we did not do anything about it while we had the chance.


Chimney’s Afire

Poor quality video but just makes a mockery of the term “Scientific Whaling”…

Bottlenose Dolphins, The Long Strand, West Cork, Ireland

Bottlenose Dolphins off West Cork…

A spectacular display of aerobatics by four Bottlenose Dolphins last evening through Rabbit Isdland sound had us enthralled for over 30 minutes. Moving slowly down the sound they moved close into Squince Harbour before rounding Myross Point and heading off down Big Sound.

Spyhopping, tail slapping and multiple jumps amongst the repetoir of aerobatics…lovely, quite lovely…

West Cork at it absolute best…


Humpback Whales feeding off West Cork

Humpback Whales feeding off West Cork. Fin Whales get in on the act. Several of the Humpback Whales we see in successive years.

Nice sightings during early expeditions out of Baltimore…

During the beautiful spring weather we have been having since early April, when we put the boat back in the water, we have had some lovely wildlife watching expeditions “out west”…

Running out of Baltimore Harbour at the moment we have found our visitors taking full advantage of the lovely warm weather and enjoying a variety of wildlife encounters from The Kedges to Brow Head and Castlepoint. Voyager’s deck have been buzzing with anticipation of the next key marine mammal sighting off west Cork.

First Basking Shark encounters off west Cork in Rabbit Island sound two weeks ago
(11th April) with some spectacular Basking Shark encounters east of Sherkin Island during the past week. Bird activity, particularly Gannets, Razorbills, Guillemots, Fulmars, Cormorants and Shags with the first phallanx of Swallows putting in an appearance two weeks ago surprisingly far out to sea off Cape Clear. Beautiful Great Northern Diver activity at the head of the Ilen River Estuary round behind Quarantine Island and both Common and Atlantic Grey Seals off Toormore Rocks and behind Ringarogy. West Cork in the spring is a delight to behold! Our many visitors these past three weeks have been marvelling at the Black Guillemot breeding activity. Flying fast and low over the sea these pretty little birds with their irridescent black breeding plumage and white wing bars entertain us for hours. No sign, where we have been, of any Manx Shearwaters…any day I’d say!

Porpoise feeding activity west of the Calf Islands amid diving Gannets and Cormorants with the first west Cork Minke Whale sightings suspected off The Brow Head a week ago. Rather large swell and poor visibilty saw an animal rise once 100 metres away with a dorsal fin and back that looked just like a Humpback Whale! No further sightings unfortunately so we were unable to confirm species 100%. No blows visible so we suspect Minke Whale but memories of our first west Cork Humpback Whale sightings by WWWC off The Toe Head and Sherkin Island last year got us very excited…it does not take much!

Exciting developments with Whale Watch West Cork these past few months. Our new and comprehensive Code of Conduct is a year old today and has been received extremely well in the press and most importantly by our very well informed visitors who demand a high level of professionalism during marine wildlife encounters. We also believe that our methodology results in less potential for stress among those animals we encounter. Writing in her new book Ecoescape Ireland the Irish travel writer Catherine Mack describes us in the following terms “….Nic’s expertise has led him to draw up a Code of Conduct for whale watching to encourage best practice in conservation and education in the whale watching business. Let’s hope all other operators follow suit….”. Our Code of Conduct is the first of it’s kind in Ireland and we hope to incorporate it into an accreditation scheme for marine tour operators. Whale Watch West Cork have been closely involved these past few months in initiatives to develop marine tourism in the southwest and Nic brings his lifelong committment to sustainable development to these initiatives. Nic acclaimed regular newspaper column in The Southern Star on marine conservation matters and the environment today continues to be popular as it enters it’s second year of publication and Nic was asked to provide a comment on the Courtmacsherry Fin Whale stranding which was published in the national newspaper The Examiner in January.

Ann Donnelly of O’Mahony Donnelly who manages our website has included major upgrades to our website this spring make it easier to follow Whale Watch West Cork online through our regular BLOG, our





All our fully verified sightings will be placed on our Blog regularly which will provide a link through to the Sea Watch Foundation to whom we supply all our sightings as part of their extensie UK and Ireland cetacean sightings research database. Dr Peter Evans, Director of The Seawatch Foundation has been collecting data on sightings in the UK and Ireland for many years as part of his organisation’s committment to quality cetacean research designed to enhance the conservation status of marine mammals in the coastal waters of Ireland and UK.

Lastly. Whale Watch West Cork and Nic featured on Duncan Stewart’s acclaimed Eco Eye programme on RTE 1 in February, talking about the whales and dolphins of west Cork and their conservation status. We had a lot of fun during filming when Duncan was down in west Cork and a number of spin off projects are under review at this time…watch this space for further information.