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Minke whales, dolphins and basking shark in Dingle Bay and around Blaskets

minke whale in dingle bay 2-68

Photo by Massimo Sommacal

Whales galore in Dingle Bay, County Kerry, Ireland

Minke whales, common dolphins and harbour porpoises are back around the Blasket Islands and Dingle Bay in some numbers. Although the weather is unseasonably cold at the moment with strong and cold south easterly winds, on March 20th when we brought our eco marine tour boat "Blasket Princess" from her winter berth in Valentia island to Dingle town for annual Dept. of Transport inspection survey we encountered 2 Minke whales on passage without any dedicated watch effort and on the same day our fellow IWDG member Nick Masset encountered 3 more Minke whales further west from our position, indicating that there is plentiful feeding in the Bay at the moment. There are also feeding flocks of gannets from Skellig rock and occassional small schools of common dolphins. Latest forecast is for the weather to calm down by Thursday, April 4th and we hope to officially start our dolphin and whale watching season then and also check out whether the Manx shearwaters and puffins have arrived for their summer breeding period on Inishvickillaun and the outer Blasket islands. Last count of grey seals on the Trá Bán [White Strand] on the Great Blasket Island was in excess of one thousand seals hauled out on the beach. So there is lots of wildlife to see out there.

Basking sharks soon to arrive at Blasket Islands

Apart from the humpback whale and the killer whale [orca] we regard the basking shark as one of the most interesting of the megafauna we regularly see around the Blasket Islands and Dingle Bay. Basking shark - Cetorhinus maximus - are called "ainmhí sheoil" in Irish meaning "the beast with the sail", "peregrino" in Basque because of their association with the pilgrims arriving for the Compesta de Santiago in the Spring and are the biggest fish in the North Atlantic and the second biggest fish in the world after the whale shark. Their favourite food which they like to dine on when they come to Irish waters is the zooplankton copepod "calanus finmarchius" which comes to the surface when the water temperature approaches 12 degrees.

 

On Friday 15th March we had a diver down servicing our moorings in Ventry Harbour, Co. Kerry for the 2013 season and were surprised to note that the water temperature was still around 8 degrees. Our guess is that it is now about 10 degrees approaching 11 degrees and when these cold winds end midweek and seas calm down and temperatures rise slightly we may see the first of the basking shark for the 2013 season. Why not join us on one of our trips and perhaps get a stunning photo of this marine megafauna basking and feeding on the surface alongside our tour boat "Blasket Princess". It's a stunning and unique exhibition of marine wildlife which may be unique to Irish waters as they also appear to mate during this season ie when water temperature has increased to 12 degrees. You can watch as they swim parallel to each other and nudging each other or two or three nose to tail creating the impression of a giant sea monster with multiple fins and tails and it is no coincidence that the area south of the Great Blasket island which they love to frequent was formerly known as "Gleann na bPéist"- the valley of the Serpents.

 

On one memorable occassion we were priviliged to see a group of four huge individuals massed together in the Blasket Sound south of Beginish island in a flurry of swirling tails and fins engaged in a mating ritual. It appears that all species on this wonderful planet from frogs rolling around in a ball by a pond to humans in a disco with swirling lights and thumping music have very interesting sex lives and mating rituals!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Video: Trevor Read

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