Cork has had an unexpected visitor to its shores in recent days, with a species of seal normally found in the Arctic seen in Schull.
The adult male Hooded Seal (Cystophora cristata), appeared on New Year's Day.
"The large adult male Hooded seal was a healthy specimen measuring over two metres in length and appeared to weigh over 300kg, and was showing off his distinctive elastic balloon-like nasal cavity at the top of his head, known as the "hood" that only males possess," a spokesperson for Seal Rescue Ireland said. "First spotted on 1st January, our volunteers kept an eye on his while he had a well-deserved rest after such a big swim, ensuring he wasn't bothered by people, and he then returned to the water on the afternoon of 2nd January.
"We hope he stays safe and well on his journey."
It wasn't the only rare seal seen in Ireland this week, a young ringed seal pup (Pusa hispida) was seen in Glenbeigh in Kerry.
"Both these seals would normally be found on the drifting pack ice of the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic, so they have come a long way for a rest," the spokesperson added. "They would be sighted regularly off the coast of Greenland which is likely where these two have originated.
"Two arctic species turning up over a matter of days does raise questions as to WHY!? It's not completely unheard of for rare seals to visit our waters, with at least 5 cases now of Hooded seals, and other sightings over the years of Bearded seals and even Walrus'. There have been no recorded sightings of ringed seals here to our knowledge until this little one yesterday, though they are occasionally seen in Scotland so it's highly likely they could visit us here too and slip under the radar!
"As we see ever-changing weather patterns, we may start to see more unusual visitors to our island of Ireland!"