Dolphin Watching in Ireland
There has been a rapid growth in dolphin watching in Ireland during the past decade. The most frequently sighted species is the Short-beaked Common Dolphin and the Bottlenose Dolphin. These are resident around Ireland and may be seen all year round off the south and west coast. During 1994 a new species of dolphin was created by splitting the Common Dolphin into the short-beaked and long-beaked species. These two species exhibit distinct morphological differences in pattern, shape and geographical range but they do overlap in tropical waters. These dolphins travel in groups of 5-6 up to several hundred throughout the range in which we observe them. They are boat friendly and acrobatic making them a popular sighting amongst the many visitors who come dolphin watching with Whale Watch West Cork in Ireland. In addition to the resident populations of Common Dolphins and Bottlenose Dolphins there are chance sightings of other dolphin species during our dolphin watching tours. This includes Risso's Dolphins and the two largest members of the dolphin family, Killer Whales (Orca) and Long-finned Pilot Whales. More rarely there are sightings of other oceanic dolphins such as the Atlantic White-sided Dolphin and the White-beaked Dolphin but they more usually favour the deeper waters of the Eastern Atlantic at the edge of the continental shelf. These later two species are frequently referred to as "lag dolphins" which is derived from the generic Latin name for the animals, Lagenorhynchus.
Dolphin Watching West Cork Ireland
The species we most commonly encounter on our dolphin and whale watching boat tours off the West Cork coast is the Short-beaked Common Dolphin - Delphinus delphis. This is a typical oceanic dolphin of the family Delphinidae that frequents coastal waters much of the year, exhibits a falcate dorsal fin, a prominent beak, strong social bonds and is very acrobatic and capable of great bursts of speed in the water. This species frequently rides the bow wave of our tour boat and research vessel providing some stunning opportunities for the keen wildlife photographer. The Short-beaked Common Dolphin is beautifully marked with a so-called hourglass patterning. In the Western Atlantic this animal has been known as the Saddleback Dolphin due to an apparent saddle shaped marking behind the falcate dorsal fin. Some of the most famous Irish dolphins are the so-called "friendly" Bottlenose Dolphins that have chosen to interact with humans on a more intimate level. Several coastal communities in Ireland have had associations with solitary dolphins. The most famous of Irish dolphins is Fungie, the Dingle Bottlenose Dolphin who has been freely associating with humans longer than any other dolphin on record - over 20 years. We consider these "solitary" animals are showing unusual behaviour patterns by living alone and in a restricted area. Bottlenose Dolphins are typically highly gregarious animals that range over wide geographical areas. Another exception to this is the population of Bottlenose Dolphins that live in the Shannon Estuary and appear to restrict their activities very much to that area of Ireland
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