First Minke whales of 2007

28th Mar 2007 The IWDG have received the first confirmed report of minke whales in 2007, with two seen west of the Old Head of Kinsale, Co. Cork, 25th March by Shane Egan.

Although reported as “probables”, their length (12-30ft), the absence of either a visible blow or “tail-fluking” strongly suggests these were indeed Ireland's smallest and most frequently observed baleen whale.

Interestingly, they started showing up in late March last year off Slea Head area, Co. Kerry. Annual trends in the past 5-6 years, suggest strongly that this species is largely absent for much of the winter, re-appearing in the March-April period. They can then be seen throughout the summer and autumn with relative ease in calm conditions, on known whale watching hotspots.

For those of you who are not that familiar with this species; they are generally seen alone, but may appear in loose feeding groups of 2-3 individuals. They are small, and from a distance may not look much larger than a large dolphin species. They geerally do not produce a visible vapour plume on surfacing, nor do they “tail-fluke”, (lifting tail out of the water) before diving. Minkes will occasionally breach quite energetically, which may cause some confusion with the larger humpback whale.

This sighting heralds the start of the whale watching year. But this is against the backdrop of regular fin whale sightings right up to 17th Feb 2007, which highlights how fortunate we are in Ireland to enjoy the potential for land-based whale observations for at least 10 months of the year.

We encourage all members of the public to report cetacean sightings and strandings to IWDG online via this website www.iwdg.ie

Pádraig Whooley

IWDG Sightings Co-ordinator