Dublin produces the 1st fin whale of 2009 season..UPDATE

19th Jun 2009 Report 11, 19/06/09

We've just received our 2nd fin whale report now, albeit from offshore waters along the western slopes of the Porcupine Bank, where Dave Wall, IWDG, has just seen c8-10 fin whales. Dave is currenly on the NUIG Climate Change Survey in the Porcupine Bank & Seabight, with NUI Galway / Marine Institute on board the RV Celtic Explorer

Dave's daily reports can be seen on the following link http://www.iwdg.ie/ShipSurveys/?id=68, or by simply clicking on the Offshore Survey Daily Reports icon on the right side of home page. They offer a wonderful insight into the diversity of species that occur in our offshore waters, many of which we only rarely get to see in our shallow inshore waters.

Report 1...updated 18/06/0/

Hot on the heels of the recent bottlenose dolphin activity in the Irish Sea, Dublin has remarkably produced the 1st confirmed fin whale Balaenoptera physalus of 2009 large whale season with a sighting at 21:00 on 17th June 2009, c9.4 miles east of Dublin, within scoping range of Howth Head.

The sighting was made by ORCA researchers on board the cruise ship MV Spirit of Adventure. IWDG have been in touch during the week with cruise leader Chris Bielby about other sightings they've made during their passage down the West Coast from Derry to Foynes, which included minke whales and basking sharks.

Ironically, our last conversation was just hours prior to their departure from Dublin on a track across the Irish sea, during which we discussed what species might be encountered. Of course the usual suspects were mentioned such as: harbour porpoises, common & bottlenose dolphins, and minke whales, but I did mention the very remote possibility of fin whales. There has been a small cluster of validated fin whale sightings in recent years off the Dublin coast during the period late May to June. In fact the last confirmed sighting from this area was on 18th June 2005 within a mile of Howth head. This close timing of these sighting events is unlikely to be a coincidence.

The description of a massive vertical columnar blow reaching 20ft, a long rolling back and a backswept dorsal fin leaves us in little doubt other than this was indeed a fin whale, which was observed surfacing twice in among a frenzy of feeding gannets. No images were secured.

In recent years, the 1st fin whales have been reported in late May and of the past 6 years, 2 of these have surprisingly not only come from the Irish Sea, but right off the Dublin coast, another two have been from Ram Head, Co. Waterford, while West Cork and Kerry can both claim one each.

So once again, the message is that there exists whale watching potential, for those willing to make the effort putting in the hard hours, in areas that are well outside the often percieved south and southwest coast hotspots. In recent weeks the Dublin and Wicklow coastal areas have produced sightings of no less than five species including minke and fin whales.

We hope this will encourage increased land and boat based watch effort from some of those wonderful vantage along the east coast. There is some lovely weather forecast for the coming weekend, perhaps some readers will be interested to explore c20 miles off the Dublin coast and report back to us....Oh, and please bring a decent camera!

A huge thanks to Chris Bielby of the Orca Survey team for passing us on this sighting.

Pádraig Whooley

IWDG Sightings Co-ordinator