Fin whales still in Waterford waters

1st Mar 2010 Although there had been no sightings of whales during an effort watch on Saturday 27th February, with conditions looking extremely favourable it seemed worthwhile heading to Ardmore again today 1st March. And so it proved to be...eventually!

In absolutely perfect conditions there were no sightings recorded of any cetacean species after almost 2 hours, indeed if the day had not been so balmy and the watchers hadn't nodded off on a couple of occasions the watch may well have been called off before the first fin whale was seen.

For the last few weeks with the conditions being so good it had been possible to identify the same 2 animals in the same location, approximately 8k south of Ram Head. One smaller animal had a very falcate dorsal fin wheras the 2nd larger animals fin was much more upright. This 2nd animal had another very curious identifying feature, the absence of a visible blow during many surfacing sequences which is not something that I have ever encountered before with a fin whale.

Today these 2 animals were joined by a 3rd individual as they all moved close to Capel Island at the mouth of Youghal Harbour. This 3rd animal was also in the company of several very active common

dolphins, perhaps this melanistic one I had photographed a few weeks previously was still amongst their numbers.

As a watching experience this must rank up there as one of the most rewarding as the conditions were so good and the animals so close that you could actually anticipate with a high degree of accuracy where they were going to surface. Several times I was lucky enough to be able to see the 2 whales that were swimming together whilst they were still underwater, and watch through the scope 2 whales noses pushing through the water simultaneously before they exhaled and the tell tale vapour plume hung in the still air for several seconds.

This is the 3rd year since 2005 that fin whales have been seen from Ram Head in March. On each of these previous occasions the animals have not returned here again until much later in the year, namely November. The years that they have left our waters, for who knows where, in January or February they have been recorded in Ardmore again in late May. A pattern? Perhaps, but as we have learned to our cost before, just as we begin to think we are identifying some sort of regular behaviour cycle by these creatures they immediately do something unexpected. We'll just have to wait and see!

Andrew Malcolm IWDG

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