Flying porpoises to fluking fin whales....what next?

11th Jan 2007 Arriving at Ram Head at 10.15 this morning 10/01/07, I spotted my first whale of the day within 10 minutes. From the height of the blow alone, I immediately identified this animal as a fin whale, and a large one at that. However, due to the 2metre swell, I was unable to catch sight of its back to spot the telltale dorsal fin.

Then after the third blow I saw something totally unexpected, and to me unprecedented. I saw the animal's tail lift from the surface of the sea. Having seen humpbacks fluking on a few occasions now, I immediately felt that this wasn't a humpback whale, largely because of the angle at which the tail was lifted from the water. A humpback raises its tail in an almost deliberate fashion to nearly 90 degrees before a deep dive. The tail of the whale that I was watching was raised to only about 20 or 30 degrees above the surface. Maybe it was because of the swell that this happened, and the fin whale was diving into a trough producing an accidental fluking (a fluke fluking?!) but this behaviour was particularly noteworthy and probably something that I will never witness again.

Andrew Malcom, IWDG

.......Note: The following rare image of a fluking fin whale was taken by well known bird artist Killian Mullarney in West Cork in September 2003

So in much the same way that we can't assume every breaching whale in Irish waters is a humpback, nor can we assume that every large baleen whale seen to tail-fluke (lifting its tail out of the water on diving) is a humpback whale.

Pádraig Whooley

IWDG Sightings Co-ordinator