Minke whale off Howth Head, Dublin

26th May 2009

On 25th May we received a report of a sighting of a whale off Ireland's Eye, Co. Dublin on Sunday between 12:00-13:30 from Eamon Mc Grattan. Along with his report was an image taken from the boat on which Eamon was angling. The image (above) which showed only the dorsal fin caused some debate on the thorny issue of species ID. Eamon reported it as either a minke or Northern bottlenose whale, and given the evidence it wasn't possible to be certain whether this was a small whale or a large dolphin, like a bottlenose. So the sighting was downgraded accordingly, as there was considerable doubt as to its species.

There was a nice twist in the story when last night 25/05/09 we received a 2nd sighting from the immediate area. This 2nd sighting was by Ray Kellett, a wildlife photographer from Howth Head, who luckily happened to have an 800mm DSLR equivilent lens with him and managed to obtain a sequence of three images, which this time showed more of the animal's body. This encounter was at 7:30am, and given that both sightings are from the same location, on same morning and both suggest strongly a small-medium sized whale species, we are confident both Eamon and Ray photographed the same whale, which we believe to be a minke whale.

This is a wonderful development and is only the third sighting of a minke whale off Howth Head, and is certainly the only time a whale of any species has been captured on camera from land on the east coast. This sighting is in keeping with sightings data from IWDG monthly ferry surveys in previous years which shows that minke whales can be recorded further offshore, from places like Rockabill and Kish lighthouse.

This is further proof that Whale Watchers should never assume that places like the Irish South and southwest have a monopoly on whale sightings. If you'd like to know more about the Minke whale, which is Ireland's smallest and commonly frequently reported baleen whale click on the following species profile link on http://www.iwdg.ie/species_profiles.asp?speciesID=2105

A huge thanks to Ray Kellett and Eamon McGrattan for taking the time to report their sightings and photographs to IWDG.

Pádraig Whooley

Sightings Co-ordinator