A great day for Irish Humpback whale research..UPDATE

4th Oct 2009 Report IV, 05/10/09.

Just talking to Nick Massett, in Kerry this morning (5/10/09) while he was watching the humpback whale #HBIRL10 (above) from Slea Head, "Pec-slapping" some 10 miles offshore. Nick first observed this adult humpback three weeks ago on 19th Sept and has recorded it on 8 days in the interim period. Nick's effort watch from Slea Head on 1/10/09 recorded it breach no less than 25 times in an hour, which must be something of a record for this species in these Isles. It's great to know that this whale has found such suitable feeding conditions to keep it in this area for such a long period. Long may it last.

Report III, 01/10/09.

Nick Massett has been watching the humpback breaching this morning at 9:30 from land-based observations at Slea Head. As the wind has picked up a little on previous days, land- based watching with spotting scope or good optics is likely to be a better alternative to venturing out into the outer reaches of Dingle Bay in a small boat.

It will be interesting to see whether this whale known as HBIRL10 will make it east towards West Cork later in the season.

Report II, 30/09/09.

Following from Nick's successes yesterday we ventured out again into Dingle Bay from Ventry pier. En route we passed several minke whales and a large aggregation of c200 common dolphins feeding under clouds of gannets. Dingle Bay is certainly a marine mammal "hotspot" with a high diversity of cetacean fauna at present.

On board was also Simon Berrow who wished to secure a biopsy sample for genetic analyses. During the 2008 large whale season IWDG successfully biopsied 11 fin whales and one humpback #HBIRL9 in West Cork under a special research licence granted by NPWS.

Within the hour we located HBIRL10 in much the same area where Nick had observed it the previous day. We successfully secured a biopsy sample, and the whale showed no reaction when struck by the biopsy dart which is fired from a standard crossbow. It then entered a period of "bubblenet" feeding, with some spectacular lunges through the ring of bubbles in which it had trapped its prey.

Throughout the observation period we continued to update our catalogue of photo ID images of this whale, which can be seen on the following link


We left the humpback once we had achieved our objectives, while of course taking a little time to take in the awesome spectacle of a humpback whale feeding against the stunning backdrop of the Blaskets and Slea Head peninsula.....the stuff of dreams.

....Jill and Ian Crosher from Slea Head report watching the humpback still feeding to the Southeast of Barrack Rock area up to 17:00. That's a lot of fish!

Report I, 29/09/09.

After weeks of perseverance with frustratingly distant “blows” offshore, Nick Massett's land-based watches off Slea Head, Co. Kerry bear fruit. The more Nick scoped this activity from Slea and Clogher Head the more certain he was that at least one of these whales was a humpback whale, as it had the characteristic “low & bushy” blow profile. But it wasn't till he finally saw it tail-fluke over a week ago that he could be certain it was indeed a humpback whale.

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