Minke whales galore in Irish waters...Update10th Jul 2013
Report update: 11th July 2013
Once again, multiple whale sightings reported to IWDG from the southwest region. Minke whales were reported from land based watches off Galley Head while Jerry Smith of Aquaventures, Baltimore reported upwards of 5 minkes in the area between the Stags and the Kedge. IWDG also observed several minkes during the day on the water in Roaringwater Bay. Significantly, Nick Massett had another fin whale c5-10KM NW of Clogher Head, Co. Kerry. So it looks like fin whales may be taking up station......and guess it's only a matter of time before humpbacks make an appearance too. Onwards and upwards.
Report update: 10th July 2013
In parallel with the heatwave, we are continuing to receive a high volume of sightings and yesterday actually produced the season's first validated fin whale sighting from Nick Massett at Slea Head, Co. Kerry. Not surprisingly the fin whale's huge blows were picked up in among a group of 6 minke whales and c150 common dolphins. Others may have reported fin whales in recent weeks at other sites along the south coast, but the level of detail provided did not leave us confident enough to determine species identity. A good rule of thumb would be that if it doesn't have an impressive visible blow, and if it's not several times larger than your average pleasure boat, then it's unlikely to be a fin whale.
While in West Cork a whale watch trip with Cork Whale Watch (Colin Barnes) produced no less than 12 minkes whales as well as porpoises and a small group of common dolphins. Thankfully I was on board this trip with friends from Patagonia, Argentina who have seen a lot of whales, and they were equally enthralled by the spectacle of 3-4 juvenile minkes swimming around and under the MV Holly Jo for up to 45 minutes. Colin's explanation was that a shoal of "whitebait" were using the hull of the boat as protection from the whales....not sure it was such a smart idea, but it did provide us with incredible views of our smallest baleen whales.
But other sighting reports in the last 24 hours show minke whales were also recorded off Cape Clear and Mizen head (West Cork) and Power Head in East Cork. With another Northern Irish record of a single minke whale from Ardglass Co. Down sent in my John Smyth, which is a nice run of minke sightings now for the north. So without a doubt, the 2013 whale watch season is well and truly in full swing. Guess were expecting a bit much for this weather to last till All-Ireland whale watch day on Sunday 18th August? But if your interested in whales and whale watching/conservation and would like to learn more about whales in Irish waters, then pencil Whale Watch Ireland 2013 into your diaries. Full details of all the 16 sites we'll be covering around the coast will be posted on www.iwdg.ie shortly.
Happy Whale Watching and please keep the sighting reports coming in...we'll get to them eventually!
IWDG Sightings Coordinator
Report 9th July 2013
The fine weather which is increasingly turning into a heatwave has resulted in a big increase in sightings being reported to IWDG, and of course with this comes increased pressure to keep on top of the sheer volume of sightings, all of which require validation. So we'd ask all recorders to bear with us if your sighting takes a day or two before it appears on www.iwdg.ie. Speed is less important than accuracy.
Noteworthy among these reports are a big increase in minke whale sightings, and it's not just the number of reports but their geographic spread that stands out. Of course, as we'd expect the biggest numbers are from the Southwest waters with reports from all the familiar hotspots in Cork/Kerry area. One of these is courtesy of Ronan Mc Laughlin of the Irish Naval Service who reported a min. of 12-24 minkes in an arc between the Old Head of Kinsale and Roche's Pt, Co. Cork yesterday 8th July. One of Ronan's stunning images (above) shows a minke whale leaping clear of the water, which is as good a minke whale photo as we've ever seen from anywhere.
Other noteable locations are off Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo, where at least 2-3 minkes were reported on the 7th July. This is in keeping with 2012 records from Donegal Bay area, which had a good run of minke whale sightings. The record however that stands out among all others perhaps, comes from Ian Enlander who not only observed, but also photographed several minke from Whitehead, Co. Antrim at the entrance to Belfast harbour. There is unlikely to be a whale recorder anywhere on the Island who has spent as much time carrying out regular land-based effort watches on a local patch and yet seen so little bar the local porpoises. So it was perhaps fitting that this nice run of minke whale sightings from around the country began with this one from the Antrim coast. It just goes to show how regular land- based watches from a local site can and will over time start to produce a more complete picture of how other species may be using local waters.
There is understandably some confusion with species identification, as a few people who are clearly watching minke whales are reporting them as fin whales. A safe rule of thumb is that if what you are looking at is in the 20-30ft length range, is not in close association with any others, does not show any visible blow (may however be audible) and does not tail-fluke, then in the absence of anything to the contrary, this is most likely to be a minke whale. But pelase visit the Species Profile section of www.iwdg.ie if you'd like more details. We'd also remind readers, that we still have some spaces on the IWDG Weekend Whale Watching course on Cape Clear Island, Co. Cork 26-28th July, and these covers cover the whole area of cetacean ID quite extensively. Enquiries to email firstname.lastname@example.org