IWDG Return to the Cape Verdes

27th Apr 2009 This 3rd IWDG visit to the Cape Verdes to carry out photo-identification on the winter breeding grounds of the Eastern North Atlantic humpback whale population, came courtesy of Crossing the Line Films (CTLF), who are working on a new Irish wildlife series covering the fascinating subject of animal migrations. Other species which will feature are butterflies from Morocco and barnacle geese from Greenland.

As always IWDG were delighted to work with CTLF on what was a great opportunity to raise awareness of humpback whales in Irish waters and to follow the likely winter migration to their tropical breeding grounds. This TV series will air later in the year and will showcase the research currently being carried out by IWDG on the large whales which routinely visit the Irish south coast.

Flying from London Gatwick on a Thompson Air charter direct to Boa Vista, we arrived in Sal Rei, Boa Vista on 17th April. Despite the prevailing strong north easterlies, we spent every available day on the water in order to maximise our chances of encounters. As we've come to expect from this remote archipelago, the sea conditions were far from ideal for locating, photographing and capturing recognisable features on the tail-flukes of humpback whales. And despite it being rather late in the season, there was still humpback activity in the Bay of Sal Rei, a known humpback hotspot.

We enjoyed some marvellous humpback encounters, with daily sightings from our platform the 62ft steel hulled ketch, "Icimi Queen". Other than filming the wonderful landscapes and people of these islands the trips's main objective was to record the Photo ID process and to explain what can be learnt from this research technique.

During the week we photo identified three humpbacks off Boa Vista, and can confirm that none of these are known to the Irish Humpback whale catalogue. But Rosie Seaton, curator of the North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalogue based in Maine, USA has just confirmed on 27th April that this whale photographed above is a re-sighting of HWC# 4917 photographed in the Cape Verde Islands in 1999. So this is an important re-sighting, illustrating again how small the remnant humpback population in the Cape Verdes is, and serves to remind us just how important it is for us to continue our efforts to establish the link between this winter breeding ground and Ireland.

A huge thanks to Ross Bartely, Colm O' Meara and Cepa Giblin of Crossing the Line Films for inviting IWDG to participate on this project.

Pádraig Whooley

Sightings Co-ordinator


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