12 November 2018

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.


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