Another Humpback whale off Dublin....Fluke or what?

19th Jul 2011 You've no doubt been reading about the wonderful large whale activity off the Southwest, with fin whales in numbers off West Cork and humpbacks off West Kerry; see recent articles on

But while IWDG Kerry members were enjoying a rare glimpse of two humpbacks off Slea Head area on 14th July, IWDG Dublin member Matt Comiskey and friends were out sailing off Lambay on yacht Pomma Lady out of Rush, when at 11:15am they had the good fortune to spend c30 minutes on occasion within 30m of a "blowing" whale, which we can now confirm from images to be another East coast Irish Sea humpback whale record.

This individual observed 1 mile east of Lambay, Co. Dublin was travelling south, and so there is always a chance that it may still be in this area over the coming days. The weather may not be condusive to sightings of it, but it is worth some local watch effort and perhaps a boat trip in search of it. An hour previous the same animal was photographed by Julia Baer, whilst sea-kayaking mid-way between Rockabill and Lambay, also heading south.

It may be just a coincidence, but this sighting comes almost to the day of Sean Pierces' humpback encounter off Ireland's Eye on 15th July 2010. Whether they are one of the same animal may be difficult to prove as we have no strong images from last year's encounter. But individuals such as "Boomerang" HBIRL3 and this week's re-sightings of HBIRL10 & 15 off Kerry, tell us that humpbacks are, if nothing else, creatures of habit.

In common with most Irish Sea humpback encounters this year, (Curracloe, Co. Wexford Jan 11, Bangor, Co. Down 16/06/11), they appear reluctant to tail-fluke, which may be down to the shallow East coast waters. But you are looking for a smallish whale, broad in shape, c25-35ft length, with a definite "bushy" blow, and a pronounced hump forward of the dorsal fin. They are likely to be quite visible on the surface; in contrast with minke whales (20-30ft) who rarely exhibit a visible blow and are only briefly on the surface between long dives. Humpbacks may also be curious towards boats and as in this case can approach very close.

We hope this latest fascinating sighting from the Dublin area will encourage whale enthusiasts living on the East coast never to give up on seeing a whale off Baile Atha Cliatha. The ironic thing is that Matt came to Baja, Mexico with IWDG in 2009 to see humpbacks and blue whales, and it was often we joked about the paucity of such sightings off Dublin! A lot can change in a few short years.

A huge thanks to William Ormsby and Julia Baer for forwarding their images to IWDG which in time may help us establish the identity of this individual.

Pádraig Whooley

Sightings Co-ordinator

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