Wildlife

Overview

The Irish Sea isn't overly abundant with marine mammals but if you keep your eyes open porpoises and dolphins are likely to be seen, and if you are lucky - basking sharks.

For general information about cetaceans, to obtain recognition charts, and to report sightings visit the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society www.wdcs.org.

Rissos Dolphins

Usually only seen in southernmost part of the Irish Sea.

Basking Sharks

In the image top right, if you double click and enlarge the image, look ahead of the fin in the to the left and lower and look for a vague white horse shoe shape - this indicates the size of the head and body in relation to the size of the fin visible above the surface.

In some years the Editor has seen no sharks, whilst other years seem to be relatively good. For example, in 2000 I saw 7 sharks; one west of the Point of Ayre, one off Maughold Head lighthouse, and five during 4 weeks cruising round Ireland.

This year (2003) others have seen a group of sharks off Douglas Head, and the same or another group lingering for a few days near Port Erin.

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Bottle Nosed Dolphin

Detail to be added.

Good places for sighting are off Strangford Lough, and in the vicinity of the Whitestone Banks (NE of Isle Of Man).

Porpoises

A good place for sightings is the north coast of Anglesey. Usually single animals seen.

In Manx waters, best locations are in the vicinity of Calf Sound, between the Calf and Langness Point, and near the Whitestone Banks.

Gannets

Usually you see these birds sitting on the water in calm weather, or diving vertically into the water from 50ft. The only reason this one was on deck was because we had just cut it free from fishing nets and rope - it was tired and still in shock. This species is found throughout the Irish Sea.

Hotspot is Ailsa Craig, the UK's largest Gannetry. Often on calm days large numbers of birds in rafts close to the island.

Guillemots

Two types.

Black Guillemots not widely distributed in the Irish Sea. Hot spot is Belfast Lough where boats are requested to avoid unnecessarily disturbing them. Can often be seen within Bangor Marina. May also be seen near Saltom Bay.

Gulls

May be encountered anywhere within the Irish Sea.

Herons

Places where they are seen include Llandrabrig cove Cemaes Bay, Anglesey.

Manx Shearwaters

May be encountered anywhere within the Irish Sea.

Minke Whales

Easily distinguished by their sickle shaped dorsal fin. Best places for sightings (within the limits of this cruising guide) are within the North Channel and approaches to Firth of Clyde and Mull of Kintyre.

Sightings are quite rare close to the Manx coast, but in Sep 2003, Minke Wales were seen off Laxey Bay by canoeists.

Razorbills

May be encountered anywhere within the Irish Sea.

Puffins

Seen out at sea - though not in large numbers as elsewhere in the UK.

Seals

Often sea swimming within Peel Harbour, occasionally within Douglas harbour. Often present on Kitterland and Thoulsa (Calf Sound). May be seen anywhere within the Irish Sea. Hotspots include the Narrows within Strangford Lough - where Common Seals often present.

Sunfish

Quite rare - I don't expect that you'll sight many of these ! If about, it will be late summer.