THE rare sighting of a bearded seal from the Arctic earned wildlife tour operator, Paul Connaughton, 90,000 Facebook views, a BBC interview and airtime on RTÃ.
Paul, who operates Shearwater Wildlife Tours, was on his way home to Ballinglanna in Clonakilty at around 6pm on Friday evening when he spotted a pale seal hauled up out of the water, just beyond the petrol station in Timoleague.
âI always carry my telescope, binoculars and camera with me,' said Paul, who managed to get some fine shots of the visitor to our shores.
âImmediately, I knew this was something different, but, in the end, it was easy enough to identify it as the bearded seal from the Arctic because of its long whiskers.'
Nevertheless, Paul, who is an experienced tour guide and the chairman of Birdwatch Ireland West Cork, contacted his friend Padraig Whooley of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, as well as the Irish Seal Sanctuary, and they confirmed that it was a bearded seal.
Paul put his photographs out through Twitter and Facebook and the images on Facebook reached 90,000 people in a single day. The BBC rang to interview Paul and RTÃ sent a film crew down and the report was broadcast on Tuesday night.
Paul reported that people are driving to Timoleague in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the seal â the likes of which has only ever been seen in Ireland once before.
When asked by The Southern Star if he could tell if the seal was male or female, Paul said: âIt's hard to tell â¦ even the females have moustaches.'