Large whales move east along the Celtic Sea

5th Jan 2017

A little bit closer to home than Sri Lanka.....

Recent sighting reports to IWDG suggest that the annual eastward movement of large whales, namely fin and humpbacks, along the Irish South coast is underway. In recent days whale watchers Andrew Malcolm and Ann Trimble from Ram Head, Ardmore Co. Waterford have had memorable fin whale encounters with some animals so close that their blows were audible from the cliffs. In many years of observing fin whales from this site, they've never before seen fin whales so close to shore. Their observations have not been restricted to Ram Head, as the following day Wednesday 4th Jan they encountered another 3-5 fin whales from Helvic Head. Some of these were so close inshore that Andrew and Ann could recognise one particularly well-marked individual, FWIRL2 or "Scar", (image left) who we first documented in West Cork on 24th June 2005. Since then "Scar" has been re-sighted during 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2016 and 2017, giving us at least 7 inter-annual resightings of this individual. "Scar" is easily identified from the large white scar on left flank forward of dorsal fin and small nick on trailing edge of dorsal.

But it get's better, as it seems we also have humpback whale activity further east, with images taken yesterday (Jan 4th) from Martin Colfer's MV Rebecca C which operates out of Duncannon. Yesterday's trip in the waters off Hook Head, Co. Wexford produced both fin and humpback whales. High resolution images (below) sent to IWDG today from John Burke who was on board, confirm a new addition to the Irish Humpback whale catalogue, bringing this fabulous resource to 78 individually recognisable humpback whales in Irish waters. For more information on potential whale watching trips around the Hook area see www.charterangling.ie. With a nice forecast for the weekend ahead, we could also recommend some of the following land-based whale watch sites in the Waterford/Wexford area, all of which regularly produce large whale sightings in January, which coincide with the herring spawning period: Ram Head/Ardmore, Mine Head, Helvic, Bunmahon, Dunbrattin, Annestown, Brownstown Head, Hook Head or Baginbun.

So even though we are now in the mid- winter, the land and boat based potential to observe some of the planet's largest and most iconic whales along significant stretches of the Irish south coast remains very good. Our marine megafauna doesn't just disappear in winter! As always we really appreciate all sightings of large (and small) whales from around the Irish coast. Your sightings and images go towards helping IWDG build the all important big picture which informs us of how these animals use Irish waters year round. All sightings can be reported directly to IWDG on line on www.iwdg.ie.

If you'd like to learn more about whale conservation, whale watching in Ireland, species identification and the IWDG's cetacean recording schemes, the IWDG is delivering this 1 day whale and dolphin recording workshop in conjunction with the National Biodiversity Data Centre in Waterford. This event will be of interest to any "Citizen Scientist" with an interest or curiosity in Ireland's marine megafauna, who'd like to learn more, or get involved in local recording of cetaceans.

Workshop leader: Pádraig Whooley

Venue: National Biodiversity Data Centre, Waterford

Date: Saturday, 22 April

Time: 10am - 4pm

Level: Beginners & intermediates

Fee: €20

Enquiries through Web www.biodiversityireland.ie