We picked up the survey track this morning well to the South of the Saltee Islands where we happened upon a large group of common dolphins which came bounding in towards us, straight for the bow. What initially seemed to be a group 20 animals rapidly increased in number as we looked out into the distance and saw wave after wave of groups of 10 or so dolphins breaching one after the other in a wide sweeping arc on our starboard side. Our best estimate on group size was a minimum of 200 animals but no sooner had we got our head around what was happening then they were gone! Not exactly a 'super-pod' (a term probably best used to describe groups of 500+) but this brief and exciting encounter was certainly the highlight of the trip so far for some!
A small part of the large pod of common dolphins. No chance of fitting them all into one pic! © Niall Keogh
Not long after however the seas began to pick up and conditions got too rough for effective surveying out on deck. The decision was made to steam back to Cork Harbour to take shelter and the rest of the day was spent watching from the bridge, but we still picked up on small groups of common dolphins coming in to bow ride for a short while. It was great to see some of the seabirds following the ship in this weather also, making the most of the air currents bouncing off the side of the R.V. Celtic Explorer, fulmars in particular looking very much at home on the high seas. An adult glaucous gull and a great skua added interest among the large flock of gulls in attendance with the ship.
Hook Head © Ryan McKenna
We are now docked in Cork, waiting out the worst of the weather and will hopefully head back out West as soon as a suitable break presents itself. In the mean time we'll be catching up on data entry, report writing and going through the finer points of distance sampling methodology with our enthusiastic team of students!
Some serious methodical recording going on! © Ryan McKenna