Fin whales take up residency at Hook Head

25th Nov 2010 As the fin whales seem to have temporarily left their more traditional November habitat in West Cork reports have steadily been coming in of large whale activity both to the east and west of Hook Head.

For several weeks I had been trying to organize a trip out with RTE radios Seascape presenter Marcus Connaughton and finally the elements, personnel availability and whales all coincided nicely yesterday. Marcus was on board Martin Colfers catamaran, the Rebecca C, which is such an ideal platform for these trips. He was coming out to interview Martin as to how he had become interested and involved in both whale-watching and the work of IWDG.

Martin was previously a commercial fisherman in these waters and as we left Dunmore East harbour his contacts within the fishing community proved immediately profitable as we were informed by radio of fin whales in the midst of huge numbers of sprats and herring near Baginbun Head.

As we rounded the Hook lighthouse we could see huge flocks of seabirds feeding amongst several fishing boats.

Between one of these boats and the cliffs we spotted the tell-tale tall columnar vapour plume of a fin whale. Keeping a respective distance from this animal we gathered some images that will hopefully allow it to be identified and added to the IWDG catalogue.

This animal was within 2km of land and in water that was only 18m deep. As fin whales grow to over 20m long this animal could readily have been described as practically ‘paddling'! We are indeed incredibly lucky here on the south coast to have the 2nd largest animal on the planet come so close to our shoreline.

As we headed back into harbour a brief encounter with a group of 45 common dolphins just as we approached Hook Head capped off a very successful mornings work. Marcus had never encountered whales and dolphins in Irish waters before, so as you can tell he was very happy!

The show will be broadcast on Friday 3rd December on RTE radio 1.

Andrew Malcolm IWDG

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