Settled weather brings superb whale watching opportunities

3rd Nov 2006 During the current calm weather, whale watching and research opportunities off the Irish South coast have been excellent, and we'd advise you to make the most of this weather window.

On each of the past three days this week IWDG observers have been monitoring fin whales inshore off Counties Cork and Waterford. Fin whales Balaenoptera physalus are the 2nd largest animal on the planet, second only to the blue whale, and they have been visible close inshore from places like Ardfield, Galley Head, Ownahincha and West towards Rosscarbery Bay as well as Ardmore, Co. Waterford.


Although here in small numbers, with 2-3 seen most days, they can on occasion be observed “blowing” without the use of optics, although using binoculars or a spotting scope will offer better views.

We can confirm that one of the fin whales photo-identified on Nov 1st from Colin Barnes vessel, the MV Holly Jo, is the same whale #FWIRL2 on the Irish Fin whale catalogue, which Ray Darcy photographed on 11 Oct 2003 during filming of the "Wild Trials" TV Series which showed on RTE. This individual was also photographed in the same area of West Cork on both 18 Oct & 8 Nov 2004. So this is this animal's 4th re-sighting and 3rd inter-annual resighting, all of which are in the Oct/Nov period. Such information is crucial as re-sightings provides us with data which may help us establish population estimates and tells us more about the whale's use of these inshore habitats.

On Thurs. 2nd Nov Andrew Malcolm observed 3 fin whales within 3km of Ram Head, Ardmore, Co. Waterford and these were in the company of c100+ common dolphins. So these opportunities to observe some of the most fascinating and certainly largest wildlife Ireland has to offer, are superb. But be warned that opportunities to view them will end fairly abruptly once this settled, anti-cyclonic weather system is replaced by more Atlantic weather systems. So make the most of the weekend ahead and please report any cetacean sightings to IWDG via www.iwdg.ie

The IWDG fin whale catalogue is now at 15 individuals, many of whom are quite well-marked with nicks on their dorsal fins, scars on their bodies and an assortment of naturally occurring marking which act as useful “fingerprints”.

As of 3rd Nov we have had no opportunities to either observe or photo ID humpback whales, and we hope that they will soon join their larger rorqual cousins during the month of November, which tends to be the peak month for sightings of large baleen whales off the Irish South coast.

The IWDG would like to express gratitude to the Vodafone/Conservation Volunteers Ireland Nature Fund for continuing to support our large whale research by funding the IWDG Photo ID project in 2006/7

Photo above is of a fin whale off Galley Head, with Dunworley Point, Seven Heads, Co. Cork in background, 2nd Nov 2006 by Pádraig Whooley, IWDG