Whales and Dolphins in Dingle Bay / Blasket Islands, Co. Kerry, Ireland, 2013 whale watch season.
Common Dolphin in Dingle Bay
Humpback Whale and the tour boat 'Blasket Princess
Whale, dolphin and porpoise sightings in 2013 whale and dolphin watch season
There is a relative abundance of whales, dolphins and porpoises off the Kerry coast, S.W. Ireland during the "Summer months" - April to October- as well as regular sightings of basking shark; daily sightings of grey seals and increasing sightings of sunfish [called moonfish in some countries] as the sea water warms during the summer months.
Looking over the sightings log for "Blasket Princess" for the 2013 season from April 1st to October 31st in total, Blasket Islands Eco Marine Tours recorded sightings of over 3,000 common dolphins; over 300 harbour porpoises; 240 whales - mostly Minke whales, but occasionally killler whales and humpback whales when conditions were suitable to go where they frequent which is slightly outside our normal tour range and requires suitable weather and sea conditions; and 40 basking shark. Of course some of these animals would have been the same animal either recorded on a separate trip or a separate day as a lot of them have strong site fidelity [especially the Minke whales and humpback whales] and by now we are able to predict with reasonable accuracy their favoured feeding areas.
Harbour Porpoises, Dolphins, Whales, Basking Shark.
Harbour porpoises appear to be habitually present during the summer months and the determining factor on whether you will see them or not on one of our trips is calm glassy sea conditions, as they are our smallest cetacean and diffficult to spot in any kind of even moderate chop.
We see Minke whales on a daily basis i.e. on at least one of our three daily trips and their favoured feeding grounds are directly on all of our tour routes.
Sightings of common dolphins are more unpredictable though also regular and vary from small family groups to super pods jumping and cavorting around the boat and of course their favourite pastime is bow riding and glancing with one eye up at passengers as we steam along.
We always include basking shark in our information regarding sightings because though obviously a fish and not a marine mammal [cetaceans have horizontal tail flukes, mega fish like basking shark have vertical tail fins] they hold the same fascination for wildlife viewers as big whales. Although present over a period of about 2 months in 2013 they were not as plentifulf as in previous years but because we are familiar with the areas where they like to graze on the sea surface for their favourite food of plankton we had some memorable encounters with them.
We encountered bottlenose dolphins and Rissso's dolphins in about equal numbers. The bottlenose dolphins followed us as far as our home port of Ventry Harbour - Ceann Trá -on a number of occasions and Risso's dolphins mainly like to feed on the edge of the tide whether in the Blasket Sound or the Black Sound further west.
Two killer whales passed up through the Sound one memorable morning from Slea Head to Sybil Head and as usual were identified as members of the [Scottish] West Coast Community of North Atlantic Killer Whales who are quite regularly spotted passing through the Sound.
HUMPBACK WHALES, SEALS, SUNFISH, JELLYFISH.........
The highlight of the year was undoubtedly the presence of up to six humpback whales off the Kerry coast for three months during the summer, including a juvenile and a calf, and giving six new entries to the Irish register for humpback whales- HBIRL23 to HBIRL28 - not bad considering there are only 28 in total in the register of photo i.d. humbacks. ref. www.iwdg.ie Like in 2012 they could regularly be seen with a good telescope, from a vantage point on Clogher Head or Sybil Head, blowing and breaching, but as this area is the open Atlantic and subject to strong winds, tides and ocean swell [ which makes the area ideal for upwelling of nutrients and presence of zooplankton, krill and sprat - the soup of humpbacks] it was not always possible or desirable to bring passengers out this far as the comfort and safety of passengers is always our primary concern. But whenever conditions were suitable and the humpbacks were present we were treated to an unforgettable show with the humpbacks bubble netting beside the boat, up to a dozen Minke whales lunge feeding at bait balls of small fry and a super pod of dolphins as far as the eye could see. For anyone who took their eye off the spectacle there was the backdrop of Sybil Head, the Three Sisters and Mount Brandon in the distance and no doubt in anyone's mind that not only has West Kerry got the best whale watching in Ireland, the British Isles and Europe on a good day during the "Summer months", but on a day like July 28th, 2013 possibly the best whale watching in the world!
This year with the increase in sea water temperatures we had many interesting varieties of jellyfish including sea gooseberries, comb jellies, purple stingers, moon and compass jellyfish and even jumping sun fish [mola mola] - no wonder they are jumping, with up to 54 species of parasites on board (Sherkin Comment 2013 Issue No. 56)
We also had a "pram bug" [Phronima] Arthropod - the animals that have achieved the greatest diversity on earth with more than 1.5 million species including insects, spiders, scorpions, crustaceans and most of the ocean's zooplankton - from the deep using the half -hollowed out casing of a sea gooseberry as a living pram for its young, which gave the idea to the makers of the film "Alien" to create the monstrous alien queen Xenomorph Regina. It is interesting to speculate that in millions of years time when homo sapiens has self destructed along with all the surface planet, whether miniscule adaptive creatures like this from the deep, surviving cataclysmic natural events on the surface will thrive, multiply and massively increase in size like our present day leviathians have increased from humble beginnings on land to adapt to new circumstances and the ocean environment.
After all it is only one cosmic year ago [ 225 million years - the amount of time it takes the sun to circumnavigate the centre of the galaxy] since the most advanced life form on earth were amphibians; even the dinosours had yet to appear! Perhaps in another cosmic year advanced forms of life on the planet now like homo sapiens and cetaceans will be extinct and highly adaptive creatures from the deep , like the "pram bug" Phronima who fashion their home and vehicular device [pram] and entrapment tool out of the body of salps- which are like floating sea squirts -or the living tissue of another creature like a sea gooseberry which they also use as food for their young, will begin to inhabit the upper reaches of the oceans and increase in size and other adaptations to suit the challenges of their new enviroment and become the new leviathians of the future. Now that would be an interesting time to do Eco Marine Tours!
Click on link above to watch video of pram bug amphipod!