IWDG deliver 1st of two Weekend Whale Watching Courses at CECAS

Now in their 3rd year, IWDG has just delivered the first of this season’s residential weekend whale watching courses at the CECAS Ctr. In Leap, west Cork.

A pretty dire weather outlook for much of the weekend left us with a few challenges for the Saturday in particular, but it’s clear that this venue and its impressive location on a 60 acre woodland estate, gives us options a plenty when it comes to bad weather alternatives.

With high pressure obliging by holding on till Friday night, after check- in we car pooled up to nearby Toe Head signal tower and within less than a minute of getting out of the cars we found feeding seabirds and among them were a pair of minke whales along with a small group of common dolphins in Stag Sound. This was to be our first and last sighting of the weekend, but the relative proximity of this activity provided most course participants with reasonable views of Ireland’s smallest rorqual.  On returning to CECAS, we’d time for a quick cuppa before our first indoor presentation of the weekend, which focussed on the IWDG’s recording schemes, with a general overview of cetacean biology and ecology of the most frequently seen species in Irish coastal waters.

Discussing the finer points of land-based whale watching

Watching minke whales in Stag Sound from Toe Head, on our 1st and really our only watch of the weekend….in good sea conditions!











Day 2, Saturday 25th

The rain did exactly what Met Eireann and our Apps said it would do….it poured all day!  This, and the >3 mt swell, meant of course that we cancelled our boat trip with Cape Clear Ferries, which freed up plenty of time to delve deeper into the topics that were up for discussion on our 2nd indoor session, which covered whale watching field skills and the thorny issue of species identification. Then course participants we’re in for a special treat with a presentation by local natural history illustrator, William Helps ,who shared his unique approach to illustrating cetaceans, along with some wonderful anecdotes and ending the session with an entertaining game of Pictionary!  Thanks William.

After a nice lunch at CECAS, with the rain by now even heavier, we attended a really interesting and quirky 2 hr workshop onsite on the noble hazel tree, which not surprisingly was delivered by a girl called Hazel…only in west Cork!  We gave everyone a few hours to themselves before our earlier than usual evening meal at 19:00 and by the time it was over, the rain had stopped after 10 hours with patches of blue sky giving us the perfect cue to put on our boots and walk through the wonderful Myross woods down to the estuary, where among an assortment of flora and avi fauna we also observed our third marine mammal species of the weekend with a hauled out common seal in the estuary….the tide was too high for otters, which are regularly seen from this site.  We finished the evening with a viewing of the IWDG’s 2018 Ireland to Iceland Humpback whale expedition, followed by a Q & A on the trip.

Sightings officer, discussing IWDG humpback whale photo ID


Group shot outdoors at the Idyllic pier at Myross Woods.












Day 3, Sunday 26th

While still fresh, the rain stayed off and after breakfast, we adjourned for our 3rd and final presentation of the weekend, which focussed on basking sharks and other marine species as well as responsible whale watching and the legislative framework.  After checking out, we headed east to our 2nd land-based watch off Cloghna Head, near Ownahincha, which produced no mammal sightings but did give people a chance to put into practice some of what they learned the previous day.  We finished the weekend with a swim at the Warren Strand in Rosscarbery, before calling an end to our 5th successful weekend whale watching course at CECAS in Leap.


IWDG Sightings Officer uses William’s latest cetacean illustrations…a good opportunity to see who could spot the difference between a bowhead and a Northern right whale?

IWDG Education & outreach officer, Claire Kelly discussing the value of IWDG Local member’s groups











This wonderful venue again demonstrates that we can still deliver successful weekends here, even if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

We extend a big thank you to those 21 hardy souls who attended last weekend’s course, enduring perhaps more indoor time than they might of liked, while maintaining such high spirits. We hope you’ll come and join us for the pelagic trip component of our next Residential Weekend Whale Watching & species Identification course at CECAS on September 20-22nd. Also thanks to my colleagues Csilla Trungel, Claire Kelly and Cian Nilan for their support over the weekend.

If interested in joining us on this next weekend, see details and bookings on….


Any further enquiries can be directed to e: padraig.whooley@iwdg.ie or Ph. 086 3850568

By Pádraig Whooley, IWDG Sightings Officer 


Watching from Cloghna Head or Galley Viewing Point, into Rosscarbery Bay, West Cork