12 November 2018

One of my great delights…

Nothing really beats being out on the water and seeing cetaceans of all sorts in their environment going about their daily business. From the smallest and humblest of Harbour Porpoises to the mighty Fin Whales, all are an absolute delight to encounter and give great pleasure to our many customers, many of whom rarely have much opportunity to get out on the water and enjoy marine life as we do.

There is however, one sighting scenario that always creates a crescendo of excitement in me and the family. That is, sightings from the observatory up here on top of our hill overlooking the islands Adam, Rabbit, High, Low and Horse. With 180 degree view from The Toe Head in the west to The Galley Head in the east we have a commanding view of Castlehaven and Rosscarbery Bays and 12-15 miles out to sea given our elevation.

We have been getting out every day of this fine weather over the last 14 days but of an evening while the light lasts I settle into “my” chair with a good pair of binoculars and perhaps a glass of red wine and scan the seas from east to west and to the south…

…a patch of birds catches the eye. Sitting on the water. Are they Gulls or Gannets? Gannets. Perhaps there was some feeding earlier that I missed. No. There are a few still diving further west. The diving stops but these harbingers of cetacean activity are still milling around. Is it Harbour Porpoises? Possibly a Minke Whale? Suddenly, as if orchestrated by some unseen deep sea conductor, the surface of the sea boils and Common Dolphins erupt into the air with an exuberance and Joie de Vivre so typical of these charismatic little toothed whales. Barrelling along these animals can reach speeds in excess of 20 mph only to disappear again as if the power has been switched off, surfacing again a few moments later . They are in hunting mode as they cooperatively pursue the pelagic fish species that make up their diet in these inshore waters. Sightings of Common Dolphins these past few weeks have been excellent both from the boat and from land in groups varying in size from a dozen animals up to 100-120 animals. Sightings of the Harbour Porpoise from land this season have been down on our previous annual records but as regular readers of my blog will know this year has seen some unusual and spectacular encounters with this attractive little toothed whale from the boat. Groups as well as adult and calf pairs.

Perhaps the most evocative of sights when scanning the ocean for cetacean acivity is that of the blow of that leviathan of West Cork’s waters, the mighty Fin Whale. A 20 foot high eruption of vapour and spray in the field of view heralds the arrival of these annual visitors, the second largest baleen whale in the world and the hope that they will settle to feed as in previous years. Both from personal observastions during the past three weeks and conversations with colleagues from Youghal to Baltimore we have yet to have any meaningful movement of Fin Whales into West Cork’s waters although we have “encountered” them both from the land and from the boat already. Several encounters have been recorded offshore and sent into Whale Watch West Cork by Fishermen and Yacht delivery crews including one stunning report of a group of Humpback’s in The Irish Sea.

We will blog the news as reliable reports build of further Fin Whale sightings off West Cork.


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