Humpbacks still gorging themselves off Co. Kerry

23rd Oct 2011 It's always fascinating charting the movements of the large baleen whales each autumn/winter off our coastline. The arrival of large whale season along the south coast often marks the end of the whale activity off the southwest. The general trend eastwards is likely to be a reflection of the herring movement along the coast. Off the Dingle peninsula we have been observing fin and humpback whales for a number of years but generally in small numbers and interestingly with a bias of humpbacks. 2006 was a bumper year for sightings and now 2011 is proving to be an even better year surpassing that and still going strong…..

Clogher Head 13.30 October 22nd

Having picked up the low bushy blows of two whales at a range of 7-8 miles with the scope I was fairly confident that they were humpbacks. This was confirmed when one breached, its' outline unmistakeable with those huge wing-like pectoral fins. With the clarity of light improving the occasional side profile and tail-flukes were observed as well as associated diving gannets. This activity intensified over the next two hours until both animals began bubble-net feeding in close proximity to one another. The head of one humpback would appear and maybe twenty seconds later the other although it seemed a little too random to be truly coordinated feeding. Because of the range involved I was missing some of the lunges but the impression I got was of two animals feeding independently but close together. A boat platform would have been required to get a better picture of what was happening but it was getting too late in the day to launch my RIB, the Míol Mór.

This makes for a span of nearly 15 weeks now that humpbacks have been documented feeding in this area, the first sighting this year was of two animals HB IRL 10 and HB IRL 15 on July 12th. Subsequently HB IRL 15 was again documented in the same area on August 22nd. If these are now the same two animals it is possible that this is a primary feeding ground for these particular humpbacks.

Nick Massett

[Ed. Humpbacks have been observed on or near all of the northern hemisphere breeding grounds (Hawai'i; West Indies and Cape Verde) in the past fortnight, signalling the early start of the breeding season. It remains to be seen how long these Kerry whales will hang around before heading south... They could overwinter in high latitudes and skip a breeding season, something that has been recorded in the Western North Atlantic. Conor Ryan]

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