Fin whales now arrive in numbers off Waterford coast update

16th Jul 2010 Report III, 16/07/10

They say a week is a long time in politics, well that old adage could equally be applied to whalewatching! Last Friday I observed up to 15 fin whales arriving in the inshore waters off Ram Head. Today we saw nothing. This is in itself quite a rare occurence at Ardmore, I would estimate that 8 out 10 watches yields at least one sighting, but considering the activity the week before it might seem a startling statisic. That is until we investigate previous years' records.

In the 3 years since 2005 that Ardmore has yielded the earliest records of fin whales to our inshore waters they have only stayed with us for just over a week, before presumably travelling west to Cork. But even this movement of animals is in doubt. For example in 2007 we recorded fin whales on 4th June and it wasn't until exactly 2 months later that fin whales were seen off Galley Head! Where do they go to in this time? These whales ar known as the greyhounds of the sea so it seems extremely unlikely it would take this long for them to travel such a relatively short distance.

With this relatively short period of residency of fin whales in the early summer at Ardmore, it seems likely that even on those years when no sightings were recorded, inclement weather may well have prevented us carrying out watches at the critical time of their arrival.

Until satellite tracking is carried out on some of these animals however it is unlikely we will ever know for sure.

Andrew Malcolm & Ann Trimble, IWDG


Report II, 09/07/10

Well, we all know that one swallow doesn't make a summer, but 12-15 fin whales does certainly mark the beginning of the large whale season.

An effort watch this morning before the big weather front arrived provided Andrew Malcolm with enough of a weather window to justify heading down to Ram Head, Ardmore, Co. Waterford to his regular watch site. From the very start of the watch Andrew detected large blows along the horizon to the south of Ram Head. Species ID can be confirmed as fin whales, and best estimate of numbers was an impressive 12-15 animals....the mother load.


This watch combined with his previous encounter of fin whales on Monday 5th July, confirm their arrival in our inshore waters. Let's hope we have opportunities to get out among them to continue our photo ID efforts in the weeks ahead.

IWDG would really appreciate any sightings reports of these or any whales in the whale season ahead.

Fin whales have an impressive 6-8m blow which appears as a white "inverted cone", length 50-75ft, and often in small aggregations of 2-5 animals, or larger feeding groups.

Pádraig Whooley


Just three weeks after Dave Wall, IWDG reports on the 1st offshore sighting of a fin whale in Irish waters of 2010, Andrew Malcolm reports on their arrival in inshore waters.


.....With what looked like a brief window of opportunity we arrived yesterday evening 5th July at 19.40 to carry out one of our 100 minute effort watches at Ram Head, Ardmore, Co. Waterford. With sea conditions and visibility excellent, it seemed likely that if there was anything out there we'd have a good chance of seeing it.

Within half an hour Ann picked up on a "low puffy" blow about 8 km east-south-east of us. The animal proved to be extremely elusive and it was another 20 minutes before it was seen again as it headed towards the horizon. Yet again it disappeared and as Ann stayed watching the area where this whale was sporadically surfacing, I decided to continue my scan. There in the usual ‘hot spot' for whale activity, due south of me was our first fin whale of the season. This animal was behaving in a much more reasonable manner. Three or four tall vapour plumes appeared in sequence as the whale steamed towards Capel Island.





The l