Minkes still off east coast, and in decent numbers..UPDATE

19th Oct 2011 Report II, 19/10/11

No sooner has IWDG validated the Co. Louth minke whale activity below, than we've received another Co. Louth sighting which provides an interesting twist.

Nigel Griffen who was fishing on the FV Celtic Cross on the prawn grounds some 8 miles offshore of Clogher Head on 14th Oct. observed and reported a group of 4 killer whales travelling in a NW direction towards Dundalk Bay. IWDG had a conversation with Nigel to validate the species and we are confident that they were indeed killer whales.

So there may well be something very interesting happening in this section of the Irish Sea that is attracting both baleen and toothed whale in the same area. Hopefully we will get images of these kiler whales which might confirm their identity. But we note that the Scottish West Coast group of killer whales which are now occasionally seen in Irish waters, have been seen attacking and feeding on minke whales in Scottish waters. It would be fasciniating to document this behaviour in Irish waters. We'll keep you posted.

Report I, 18/10/11

On 14th Oct. we received another sighting from Ciaran Smith, SAR Helicopter from 13th Oct. of several whales (possibly killer whales) off Dunany Head, Co. Louth. He's already reported a confirmed Killer whale off the Kish, Co. Dublin on 30th June.

Even better, the helicopter's fixed camera secured footage of the activity and it was with some excitment that I opened the packaging and played the DVD. Lovely calm, slate grey water, loads of diving gannets and then surface lunges from not 1, but 2, and then 3 lunge feeding whales in a fairly tight area and only 4 miles off Dunany Point on the southern side of Dundalk Bay. Their relatively small size, white banding on the pectoral fin and absense of any obvious blow confirming them to be minkes. Colleagues of Ciaran's who likely had better views of the activity, feel there could have been upwards of 5+ whales in this area.

This activity of course may struggle to compete numerically with the minke whale soup that Nick Massett has been reporting in recent weeks off Slea Head area. For instance on Saturday 15th Oct. whilst looking for large whales, Nick steemed through an 1.5 mile box which contained upwards of a dozen minkes. But this East coast record stands out for two reasons; the large group size, and the fact that this is well-outside the summer period when we'd expect to find minkes along the east coast. Images from 7th August 2011 confirm at least one minke in Dundalk Bay this summer. Have they been present since?

This is further proof, not that it is needed, that there is a growing list of places outside of the expected "hotspots" where whale activity is now being documented. Is this down to more whales, or just a few pioneering individuals exploring new territories, or can it simply be explained by increased recording? Sightings such as this serve to remind us, just how little we know about our smallest and most frequently seen rorqual.

A break from the awful weather which has endured throughout Sept & Oct will hopefully enable us catch up with the main feeding group of fin whales off the South coast. For those with a sense of adventure (and humour )we still have a few places left on our Rosscarbery Whale Watching Weekend 28-30th October, based in the Celtic Ross Hotel. For further details see events banner on home page or email enquiries@iwdg.ie.

Huge thanks to Ciaran Smith and crew of SARS Coastguard Helicopter for securing this footage and reporting this interesting observation to IWDG. Remember, whale sightings only start to get interesting at this time of year!

Pádraig Whooley

Sightings Co-ordinator

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