West Cork fin whale reports: 26/11/07-4/12/07

4th Dec 2007 Report 13: 4/12/07

Neil Deasy reports a sighting from the east side of the Old Head of Kinsale, Co. Cork, of what are likely to be upwards of 6 fin whales between 09:00-14:00 yesterday 3rd Dec. This is indeed an important record, as it is our first evidence this year that the fin whales have started their annual drive east, which has been documented by IWDG since 2000.

Unfortuantely, we are the mercy of the weather, which is looking totally unsuitable for whale observations for the rest of this week. Your sighting reports are of even greater conservation value now that the fin whales have moved outside the known West Cork hotspots.

IWDG will endeavour to keep you informed of their movements in all Irish waters

Report 12: 30/11/07

The last known sighting of fin whales comes from IWDG, UK member, Mike Scott-Ham, who observed 1-2 lunge feeding fin whales on Fri 30th Nov. from Sheep's Head, Beara Peninsula. Whether these belong to the core group of 7-8 individuals we've been observing in the area between the Kedge and Baltimore in recent weeks, or whether they are new fin whales, is uncertain.

Fin whale lunge feeding 26/11/07, West Cork © Padraig Whooley, IWDG

Alas, those of you who have waited for the "perfect moment" to come down to West Cork to observe this stunning whale activity, may have literally...missed the boat! The projected forecast for the entire week is to say the least, pretty grim, and December isn't exactly renouned for its benign weather. Our challenge will be to locate the fin whales once the weather calms, and hopefully there will be further opportunities to continue the photo ID effort later in the season (Jan/Feb) off the Waterford coast. All eyes will no doubt be on Andrew Malcolm's watch results from Ram Head, Ardmore, Co. Waterford in the coming months.

Report 11: 29/11/07

Reports from Colin Barnes' whale watching trip today on the MV Holly Jo suggest that the fin whales were far more dispersed and more difficult to locate. Although by the end of the day, he still found three fin whales and a handful of minkes, which anywhere else in the world would be considered a fantastic day's whale watching. But we set high standards in West Cork!

Fin whale blowing 26/11/07, Nr the Kedge, West Cork © Padraig Whooley, IWDG

Colin suggests two possible scenarios.

1. the herring have spawned, in which case the large spawning shoals may have broken up, and the whales will also leave as they drive east along the Celtic Sea in search of further herring spawing grounds.

Against this is the fact that there is very little hard evidence that the fin whales are feeding exclusively on herring. We've always felt that sprat form an important part of the fin whale diet.

2. large mid-water pelagic trawls have found the same shoals that have been keeping the fin whales busy here in recent weeks, and you guessed it...the shoals are now being salted, packed and iced on a pier somewhere along the south coast.

Against this is the fact that there is not a sprat fishery in the area.

A 3rd option is of course that the fin whales, after weeks of intensive feeding, have depleted the supply of available food in the area and will now move east.

It's unclear whether today's results herald the end of the large whale season for West Cork. But if this is the case, it's probably good news for Waterford and Wexford whale enthusiasts, who generally enjoy large whale sightings after Christmas, extending well into February.

IWDG will keep you posted on their movements around the Irish coast.

Pádraig Whooley

IWDG Sightings Co-ordinator

Report 10: 26/11/07

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