Rare humpback sighting confirmed for Rathlin Island.

22nd Jul 2010 Atlantic white-sided dolphins now added to the Rathlin mix

IWDG have just validated sighting no. 15601 which we've upgraded to Atlantic White-sided dolphin. This latest Rathlin area sighting of 10-12 dolphins was made yesterday 21/07/10 c1 mile north of Ballycastle Harbour on route to Rathlin on the Rathlin Express Ferry. Species ID was confirmed by image taken by Michael Cecil.

As with the humpback whale sighting, this is another 1st for N. Ireland as it is the 1st confirmed sighting of Atlantic White-sided dolphins since records began. That said we can't escape the fact that there are 8 validated stranding records of AWSD in N. Ireland.

Summary of last week's humpback whale sightings

Sun 11th July, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim by Julie Staines, RSPB

Mon 12th July, Outside Dublin Bay, Co. Dublin by Jonathan Shackleton

Tue 13th July, no confirmed sightings

Wed 14th July, Skerries, Co. Dublin, by Neil Cramer

Thurs 15th July, Howth-Ireland's Eye, Co. Dublin, by Sean Pierce

It is very likely that these sightings are of the same individual, but it would be great to be able to prove it, and thus prove that this humpback is travelling south down the Irish Sea. If any members of the public have been fortunate enough to have seen a whale in the past few days, your images may help IWDG unravel this mystery which would be another important stepping stone in our understanding of these magnificent animals in Irish waters. Images or sightings can be emailed to IWDG on: enquiries@iwdg.ie

This graphic (left) shows the track of a female humpback whale migrating north towards summer feeding grounds. She is currently c600 miles off the Irish West Coast along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and travelling at an average speed of 50 miles each day. Given her track lines over the past 10 days it is unlikely that she will divert east towards Irish waters and is almost heading towards Bear Island, northern Norway where she has been observed in previous years.

Humpback whale, Report 20/07/10

Hot on the heels of the recent Dublin sightings on 14th & 15th July 2010, the IWDG can now confirm an even rarer humpback whale sighting off Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim a few days previous on 11th July.

IWDG have just confirmed that photographs sent to us this morning are indeed of a humpback whale from Rathlin Isl., Co. Antrim on Sun 11th July. This is an extremely important sighting as it is only the second validated sighting of this species in N. Irish waters. In fact as the previous sighting was closer to Colonsay, Islay, Scotland, we could easily argue that this is in fact the 1st record of a humpback whale in N. Irish waters.

Interestingly the only other sighting in the past century was on 15th July 2002, only separated by 4 days from this current sighting on 11th July 2010, when Julie Staines of RSPB, and Jo Corkish observed and photographed a medium sized whale within 100m of the cliffs on the West side of the Co. Antrim Island.

IWDG are awaiting high resolution images which may enable us match this Rathlin humpback with the Dublin animal who turned up off Skerries, North Co. Dublin on Wed 14th July and the following day off Howth on Thurs. 15th July. If we can find they are the same animal, it shows this animal moved south down the Irish Sea, a distance of c135 miles in 3 days.

Co-incidentally, IWDG also today received track data for a humpback whale mother satellite tagged in early May off Guadeloupe, in the Lesser Antilles, Caribbean.

Phil Clapham, leader of National Marine Mammal Laboratory's Cetacean Assessme

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