Fin & humpback whales off Hook Head, Co. Wexford

10th Feb 2006 Success at last...... God knows how many years it took though, and having seen everything else one could possibly see in the sea, these two species have eluded me in Irish waters....

At about 10:45am I picked up a large concentration of gannets, SE off Hook Head, feeding intensively offshore. There were about 200 or so birds involved and there was serious diving/feeding taking place. I concentrated on the flock for a while, hoping to see some dolphins breaching as they shared in the spoils. Though distant, I could still see individual birds diving and the splashes they left.

At 1056hrs I suddenly noticed a large blow in the foreground of the flock, followed within a few seconds by a large tail fluke. The blow was big and broad, and clearly that of a humpback whale.

I watched the area for a while but did not relocate the humpback whale. The gannet aggregation drifted further off shore and east and had broken up totally before 11:15/11:20 hrs. Then shortly afterwards, at 1122hrs, a little west of the humpback whale sighting, two near simultaneous blows were seen, clearly two animals. The blows were different to that of the humpback whale in that they were taller and thinner blows (still massive though), and seemed to hold their integrity right to the top before dissipating.

They were from Fin Whales, which seemed to be heading west, though this is only an impression. I concentrated again on this area but saw no subsequent blows. It appeared as if the feeding frenzy, having lasted over half an hour was over and perhaps the whales were moving west.

Another smaller concentration of gannets was assembling at 11:45hrs, though it was in the same general area, there were fewer birds involved and they were further offshore, this feeding frenzy lasted about ten minutes, but no cetaceans were noted here.

Tony Murray

National Parks & Wildlife Service

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