First Fin whales off Waterford and now Kerry..UPDATE

26th May 2007 25/05/07 Update Kerry Report II

Nick Massett of Ventry, Co. Kerry who has been carrying out regular "effort watches" from Slea Head area over the past two years, reports his first large baleen whale of the year on 25th May, when he observed a 30-60ft whale surface once among a large area of feeding gannets. The whale's length, tall blow and dorsal fin swept backwards, all suggest that this is another fin whale sighting.

This is indeed another early sighting of fin whales, as we've never seen them this early this far west. It just goes to show how we are only now truly developing a more accurate picture of their occurences in Irish waters. Thankfully, our historic reliance on West Cork for reliable sightings of this species is diminishing, as we are now as likely to observe this species anywhere between Hook Head, Co. Wexford and Slea Head, Co. Kerry.....which is however an awful lot of ocean.

But IWDG's policy of nurturing and indeed providing training and equipment to a growing number of interested observers willing to contribute by participating in our "Constant Effort Watch Scheme" is reaping rewards, as people are now seeing species like fin whales, where only a few years ago, we were being told there were none to be seen.

A huge thank you to the Andrew Malcolms and Nick Massetts of this world, who put in such long hours on the cliff tops scanning our horizons, for the love of it.

21/05/07 13:00 Update Report

Andrew Malcolm has just completed another 2 hour "effort watch" off Ram Head, Ardmore this morning and despite the presence of 500-1,000 Manx Shearwaters, the fin whales are now absent from the area. The reality is that these highly mobile whales, often referred to as the

"Greyhounds of the Sea" are well capable of covering long distances in relatively short periods, so they could be literally anywhere between Tramore, Co. Waterford and Roches Pt. Co. Cork. Alternatively, they may have travelled offshore and may be outside scoping range. Answers on a postcard to IWDG!

20/05/07 1st report

Andrew Malcolm, IWDG has just called in the first validated fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) sighting of the year with an impressive min. of 8 whales seen from Ram Head, Ardmore, Co. Waterford during an "Effort Watch" at Ram Head, Ardmore Sun. morning 20/05/07

Their initial phone call suggested a group of 3 whales c5 miles south of Ram Head but this estimate soon increased upwards around 12:30 when Andrew and Ann Trimble counted a minimum of 8 whales simultaenously in their scopes field of view. Their lengths, tall columnar blows, backward sweeping dorsal fins and absense of any tail-fluking, are all consistent with this species, which is the 2nd largest of the great whales.

There have been a few 2nd & 3rd hand reports of this species in the past month from the south coast, but there was insufficient detail to verify their accuracy, and as there was a reasonable chance that these were the more common minke whales, IWDG downgraded these sightings to a more appropriate category.

Interestingly, in 2005 Andrew also observed the 1st fin whales of the year from Ardmore Head, albeit a week later on 29th May 2005; while the 1st of 2006 were observed on 25th June from West Cork. So there is quite a strong trend now appearing since IWDG began monitoring their movements in 1999, that shows these whales arriving off the Waterford/Cork coast between late May and early June.

The presence of large numbers of gannets and manx shearwaters as well as commercial fishing boats in the same area as the fin whales, suggests they are feeding.

We'll keep you posted on the sightings section of our website on the very latest va

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