Waterford strikes back...Updated with video footage!

10th Nov 2007 It had been almost five months since we had seen any large whales from our Ram Head vantage spot. The briefly gained kudos of having seen the first fin whales of the season on the 20th May 2007 had long faded from our memories. Since then, as usual Cork seemed to be getting all the attention and the plaudits!

As we arrived it became immediately clear that the day could not have been more perfect for watching. A mirror calm sea and light variable winds meant we had no excuses for missing anything! In fact the first sighting of the day was not in fact a sighting at all. The conditions were so good that we heard a small pod of common dolphins blowing less than a kilometre offshore before we saw them.

What I thought was going to be the most noteworthy aspect of the watch as the day progressed, became apparent as we spotted an old friend. A dolphin with a deformed dorsal fin that we had first encountered off Youghal last year, showed itself to be in the area again. This was particularly interesting, as whilst on a trip with Colin Barnes in mid-September I had filmed this same animal in West Cork.

Then I noticed 2 harbour porpoises feeding in Ardmore Bay accompanied by an otter that at close to a kilometre away from shore seemed to be in training to become a sea otter (an animal only found in the Pacific).

We were ten minutes from the end of our allotted time for our ISCOPE effort watch and I decided to do one last (very quick) scan of the horizon. This time my eternal optimism paid off as about 8 kilometres due south of us I picked up an enormous blow. “Fin whale!” I exclaimed and then very quickly readjusted my opinion as the animal “fluked”. It was a humpback whale.

Ann quickly picked up on another animal that this time was very definitely a fin whale, as we both saw a very distinct dorsal fin as the long back rolled and the whale dived. The effort watch looked as if it may be extended somewhat!

The remarkable thing about this particular humpback whale that we concentrated on watching was the size of the blow. Previous encounters with these animals had persuaded me that a humpbacks blow was much lower, bushier and wispier than a fin whales. This blow still had the characteristic humpback “V” shape, but was dramatically more powerful than anything I had seen before. We watched this animal for another half hour during which time it was briefly joined by a minke whale.

The humpback displayed a remarkably constant surfacing routine of four blows followed by a fluking. As it began to get dark and we began to freeze to death we reluctantly decide to retreat homewards.

So, five species of cetacean encountered in less than 2 hours watching. Sometimes the perseverance does pay off.

By Andrew Malcolm & Ann Trimble

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