Off the Hook

9th Jan 2012 The final month of 2011 proved to be a frustrating one as far as any sort of whale watching was concerned with strong south-westerlies keeping all but the most dedicated from the cliff-tops, let alone out at sea.

Reports of whales being seen all along the Waterford/Wexford coast before Christmas lead support to the idea of a largely speculative trip from Dunmore East being organized for 8th January, then cancelled, then rearranged entirely due to the vagaries of the Irish weather forecast! A full boatload of optimistic watchers headed out then in overcast but windless conditions. As it was exactly a year to the day since the discovery of the first humpback of 2011 Martin Colfer (our skipper for the day) guided the Rebecca C towards Tramore where that particular animal had been found. Alas we were to have no luck there so Martin travelled back towards the Saltees.

En route we were to have our first cetacean encounter of the day as a group of around 30 common dolphins came to bow ride the boat for a bit of the journey.

About 3k south east of Hook proved to be the ‘hotspot' for the fin whales and even an unexpected minke whale. The fin whales were proving to be very illusive, blowing only 2 times then disappearing before reappearing quite a distance off. Finally everything came together-a fin whale surfaced very close to the boat (which was idling engine off at the time) and allowed everyone to get the much sought after encounter.

Even the sun decided to come out at this stage allowing me to get some photos of the dorsal fin that should prove to be useful for photo ID purposes.

The voyage back gave us the 4th species of the day as 2 porpoises surfaced briefly close to the boat.

These whales should be around for another month or more so hopefully there will be opportunities for many people to observe them either from one of the many headlands in Waterford and Wexford or from the sea with one of the operators recommended on the IWDG page.

Many thanks once again to Martin for providing his fine boat for the trip, the Rebecca C is an ideal platform for whale watching.

Andrew Malcolm IWDG

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