Research survey of Whales Dolphins Porpoises Basking Shark
Paddy O'Dwyer, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group bursary
Two Risso's dolphins
Humpback whale near Sybil Head, Co Kerry
Survey of whales, dolphins, porpoises, basking shark in Dingle Bay / Blasket islands, West Kerry, S.W. Ireland
During last season IWDG [Irish Whale and Dolphin Group] offered a summer bursary for a survey of documented sightings [ using "logger" software on laptop, interfaced to on board GPS] to record the frequency of sightings of cetaceans - and basking shark - on a typical dolphin and whale watching tour boat off the Irish coast.
Blasket Islands Eco Marine Tours collarborated in this project and we were lucky enough to get Paddy O'Dwyer as research graduate for the project. The results of Paddy's research can be seen on www.iwdg.ie just click on Paddy's image on the botom right of the home page and / or his blog http://blasketblog.blogspot.ie/
Paddy summarises his findings as " all in all it seems like the whole endeavour was a success. I suppose seeing 1,302 dolphins, 116 porpoises, 79 whales and 19 basking shark is not bad for one summer".
From the survey we can make up two tables:
MOST COMMONLY SIGHTED SPECIES
Harbour porpoises 42%
Minke whales 29%
Common dolphins 18%
Basking shark 7%
Bottlenose dolphins 2%
Risso's dolphins 2%
LARGEST NUMBERS SIGHTED FOR SPECIES
Common dolphins 81%
Harbour porpoises 7%
Minke whales 5%
Bottlenose dolphins 3%
Risso's dolphins 2.5%
Basking shark 1.5%
Upcoming 2014 dolphin and whale watching season
The survey period lasted intermittently from June 8th to September 6th, 2013, a period of 43 individual survey days, out of total 130 days operated by Blasket Islands Eco Marine Tours from April 1st to October 31st, 2013 and as such represents almost exactly 1/3 of the total tour effort for the season.
Loosely interpolating the survey results this would mean that on an average dolphin and whale watching tour season in West Kerry, from the beginning of April to the end of October we would expect to see 3,900 dolphins, 350 porpoises, 230 whales and 50 basking shark, which we think is a nice prospect for the upcoming 2014 dolphin and whale watching season off West Kerry!
Of course these would not all be individual sightings of different animals but many would be repeat sightings of the same animals on different trips, as we often cruise the same known foraging areas on different trips and have a good idea where the different species are feeding at particular times.
Killer whales and humpback whales
Killer whales and humpback whales were not sighted on the bursary trips apart from one humpback whale sighting on July 28th, but killer whales and humpback whales were sighted on other "non bursary" trips.
Killer whale sightings are intermittent and unpredictable as they are normally in transit through the Blasket Sound, going to or from their usual hunting grounds off the west coast of Scotland. The exciting thing about their unpredictable local presence is that there is always a possibility to see killer whales on any of our various tours and we always keep a good lokout for them when traversing known hotspots.
Humpback whales were present off the Blasket islands for 3 months of the summer from July to September and 6 new humpbacks were photo identified here for the Irish humpback whale catalogue this summer but are often outside the normal range of the tour and are best seen on dedicated trips which we organise when they come closer inshore. For our 2014 whale watching season we hope to do more of these dedicated humpback whale watching trips, weather and sea conditions permitting.
M.V. "BLASKET PRINCESS" - GREAT MARINE RESEARCH PLATFORM AVAILABLE
UNFORTUNATELY WE HAVE NO RESEARCH BURSARY ARRANGED FOR 2014 DOLPHIN AND WHALE WATCHING SEASON BUT IF ANY RESEARCH INSTITUTION, UNIVERSITY, CORPORATION OR CONSERVATION BODY IS INTERESTED IN PROVIDING US WITH RESEARCH STUDENT(S) /GRADUATE(S) TO CONTINUE THE GREAT WORK STARTED BY PADDY O'DWYER AND SPONSORED BY IWDG, WE CAN PROVIDE A GREAT RESEARCH PLATFORM - M.V. "BLASKET PRINCESS" - AND A LAPTOP INTERFACED TO GPS WITH "LOGGER" SOFTWARE TO "PROVE" THE OPTIMISTIC NUMBERS FOR PROJECTED SIGHTINGS GIVEN ABOVE, FROM APRIL 1ST TO OCTOBER 31ST, 2014, WHICH SHOW THAT THE WATERS AROUND THE BLASKET ISLANDS AND DINGLE BAY, WEST OF DINGLE PENINSULA, CO. KERRY, S.W. IRELAND ARE POSSIBLY THE BEST PLACES IN IRELAND, THE BRITISH ISLES AND EUROPE TO WATCH WHALES, DOLPHINS, PORPOISES AND BASKING SHARK.