New Year activity summary

7th Jan 2011 2010 was a record year for cetacean recording in Ireland with 1,788 cetacean (and basking shark) records received, validated and collated by IWDG. These sightings are as always fully interrogable on our website's "advanced search" facility, where you can track either the very latest sightings or you can analyse in detail all historic records either in a mapping or tabular format by: date, region/county/location/ or by species/group. It's a uniquely powerful tool in biological recording in Ireland and we'd encourage readers to play around with it in order to learn more about cetaceans in our waters.

IWDG wish to thank everyone who has contributed to our understanding of these highly mobile marine mammals, by reporting their observations to A special thanks to those of you who carry out systematic year-round "effort watches", monitoring from local headlands. You know who you are.

Looking ahead to the new year, we've just added our 2011 events onto the Events Section of this site, click on "IWDG Events". These events comprise both one day sightings and strandings workshops in Kilrush, Co. Clare and weekend courses such as our summer events on Cape Clear Island. These events are open to both members and non-members alike. Some of our events such as the autumn and winter whale watching weekends based in Rosscarbery, West Cork, are open only to current IWDG members, so if you are interested in attending these, you'll need to become a member. Please book early to avoid disappointment as these weekends are invariably oversubscribed and we had to turn away bookings in 2010.

So, where's it all happening at the moment? Well 2011 took up pretty much where 2010 left off. The sightings and images being sent to IWDG in recent days suggest that the fin whales off Co. Waterford and Wexford are still active in the area. And vantage points in Waterford worth visiting when the current Atlantic weather improves are Ram Head/Ardmore, Helvic, Dunabrattin, Bunmahon. It seems that the Wexford animals are still being seen off elevated sites such as Baginbun Head on the Hook Peninsula where they have been reported in recent days up to and including yesterday 6th Jan mid-way towards the Saltees.

Click on the Rescue 117 Facebook to view a series of three aerial images taken from the R117 Rescue helicopter c5 miles south of Hook Head on 4th Jan. They clearly show the diagnostic lower right white jaw, which confirms their species. Well done to the crew for taking such great images.

Infact Andrew Malcolm is still picking up fin whales albeit in low numbers off Capel Island area of East Cork. So we can say with confidence that fin whales are still occurring in multiple locations along a 50 mile stretch of the Irish south coast. And fin whales are likely to be seen from several vantage points along this coastline where herring are abundant. As always, if you find the prey and you'll find the predators.

There is little evidence of inshore humpback whale activity in the area, but it may just be a matter of time before a few of these acrobatic giants join the fray. If they do make an appearance, all eyes will be peeled on any flukes shots to see if the individual #HBIRL11 is among them. This animal put on that fabulous breaching display off Hook Head which featured on "Wild Journeys" which was recently repeated on RTE (image below). It has been a frustrating year on the humpback front, as we have documented several individuals visiting counties as far apart as Dublin in July and Kerry in October, while an impressive group of 4 humpbacks was confirmed c20 miles south of Hook Head back in October. Alas despite the sightings, we obtained no useable ventral fluke images.

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