When I was out in Ireland recently the highlight of my trip was undoubtedly the day I spent with out on a boat at the mouth of the Shannon estuary with the guys from DolphinWatch Carrigaholt. They run superb nature-watching trips which I can’t recommend highly enough, it’s a superb area for wildlife with an extremely knowledgeable and friendly crew. As we patrolled around Loop Head at the end of the peninsula it wasn’t long before we found the resident group of Bottlenose Dolphins.
The group we encountered numbered between 10 -20 indviduals. The real highlight was when we spotted a baby in the group and to our amazement the little one proved the most playful of the group, swimming directly under the bow of our boat. I was determined to get an image (not easy with dolphins all around and being able to judge where she and Mum would surface next!) But my perseverance was rewarded with this lovely shot of her breaching beside her parent.
All too soon the group moved on searching for new shoals of fish across towards the Kerry coast side of their hunting grounds. We got a last look as they made their way but it was a magical 20 minutes or so in their company.
But that was by no means the end to our interesting sights for the day. The cliffs around Loop Head make for spectacular viewing in their own right and they are a haven for Gannets, Shearwaters, Fulmars and may other species, including this motley group of Shags.
Shortly after I took this image we had a slightly more unexpected sighting. A large group of Rock Pigeons suddenly burst into the air, grouping themselves tightly together as a small figure came swooping down over the headland. Geoff, our skipper, called it at the time as a Peregrine Falcon. Sorry to report Geoff, it actually wasn’t! When I looked at my images I wasn’t sure if it might have been a Merlin. I double-checked it with renowned peregrine expert Ed Drewitt and he kindly confirmed for me that what we had actually seen was a female Kestrel. Here’s the image I got of the moment she emerged over the clifftop to launch her attack.
If you ever find yourself in southwest Ireland, I really do recommend you visit the Loop Head peninsula and book yourself a place on one of the Dolphinwatch trips, you’ll have lots of fun!