A WEST Cork charter boat operator got the surprise of his life last week when he manged to capture a rare image of a killer whale about to attack a group of dolphins 15 miles offshore of Clonakilty Bay.
David Edwards, who operates West Cork Charters out of Courtmacsherry harbour, was out on ‘Silver Dawn’ last Tuesday (May 21st) when he came across the rare sight.
‘I was out on my boat in search of minke wales and managed to get some great close up shots of them. The next thing I knew I got a brief glimpse of this killer whale approaching the dolphins,’ David told The Southern Star.
‘The dolphins of course began to scatter. As far as I know there were three killer wales there but there was a lot of commotion too. It was only after examining the pictures that I took that I could see this tall fin belonging to one of the killer whales in the pictures.’
He added that while he has seen killer whales twice in his time at sea it was the first time he saw one attacking dolphins. The fact that he has a large fly bridge on his boat allows for high up uninterrupted views to help spot activity in the sea.
Riggers on the Kinsale Gas Platform contacted David after they heard about his sightings and told him they saw two killer whales the day after near them.
David sent his photos to the Irish Whale & Dolphin Group (IWDG) and sightings officer Pádraig Whooley was able to confirm that it was indeed a rare photo of an adult male killer whale (orca) in pursuit of short-beaked common dolphins.
‘While we do get an average of about six to eight killer whale sightings annually from all Irish waters, what is so special about this photo is that we’re looking at a predation event. There are at least three dolphins in the photo and the killer whale is in the background with its prominent fin and is about to attack them,’ Pádraig told The Southern Star.
‘Killer whales can reach lengths of 8-9m and despite their name, they are the largest member of the dolphin family. People may be surprised to see that dolphins do have a dark side and this is a case of dolphin eating dolphin.’
UK-based Sea Watch Foundation also contacted David about what he captured and told him that he might be the first to record killer whales attacking dolphins in Irish or UK waters.
West Cork has already experienced a boom in the sightings of common dolphins, basking sharks and humpback whales off our coast this year and this trend is set to continue as the summer season begins.
Last Saturday the IWDG held a free guided land-based whale watch at Cloghna Head layby between Owenahincha and Long Strand as part of Biodiversity Week.