Newest addition to the Irish Humpback Whale catalogue

30th Jul 2013

IWDG are delighted to confirm the first addition to the Irish Humpback whale catalogue of the 2013/14 large whale season and introduce HBIRL23, who was observed by Nick Massett on both 27th & 28th July off Clogher and Sybil Heads, West Kerry. Fluke and dorsal shots have been run through the IWDG catalogue and we can confirm that this individual has never previously been documented in Irish waters. The flukes of this "type 1" are extremely white with >90% white pigmentation which is not common in Irish waters. The superb quality fluke shot (below) obtained by Nick Massett on 28/07/13 has been forwarded to colleagues in Allied Whale, Bar Harbour, Maine, USA, who curate the North Atlantic humpback whale catalogue, where it will be run through a database of over 7,000 fluke shots for matching. Let's see if they get an all important match. The animal remained in the area yesterday 29th July. 

HBIRL23 Fluke ID, 28/07/13, Sybil Head, Kerry © Nick Massett

So this is a wonderful opportunity for IWDG members and general public to head up to Clogher or Sybil head, Co. Kerry with optics to see if can catch a glimpse of one of the planet's most iconic animals.  But be warned most of Nick's sightings suggest it is a good distance out (c10KM+) and you will need reasonable quality optics.  On the day it was photo identified Nick and Vera O' Donovan estimated at least 12 minke whales and 250+ common dolphins all feeding in the same area.  Now that's world class whale watching.  Local Whale Watching trips are available with Eco Marine Tours. 



One group of large whales you definitely won't be able to watch from shore, or from 

Fin whales on the Porcupine Seabight, 28/07/13 © Gordon Kinsella, Irish Navy Service
a whale watching boat, are a group of fin whales on the same day (28th July) that were reported to IWDG and photographed by Gordon Kinsella of the Irish Naval Service vessel L.E. Aishling. They were 130 miles offshore in the Porcupine Seabight area, some 130 miles southwest of Mizen (image below). As in previous years they were associating in an area where the international tuna fleet are working and our understanding is that the fin whales are following the same krill as the albacore tuna.  It is possible that the fishing fleet are using the fin whales to help in the search for the tuna.  It was under similar circumstances, in same area, and same time of year that blue whales were recorded and photographed in recent years.  So IWDG would ask anyone fortunate enough to be in these productive offshore waters, to try and photograph as many large rorquals as possible, as we can't assume they are all fin whales.  Other than the size and colour differences, blue whales can and do tail-fluke, which should set them apart from the smaller fin does seem a bit odd placing the word "small" before  "fin whale, but it's a sign of the times. IWDG will keep you posted on how this story developes.

HBIRL23 breaching off Clogher Head, Kerry 28/07/13  © Nick MassettAs always, never assume that you have to travel down to the southwest region to see whales. On Thursday 25th July IWDG member Caroline Tuffy observed c6 minke whales from her watch site near the pier at Kilcummin Head, Killala, Co. Mayo.  There have also been several sightings of solitary minkes and a few pairs off the Northern Irish coast in recent weeks.  Please report any cetacean sightings to IWDG for validation on Sightings reported on facebook, while they might make for interesting reading, can not be validated.  All sightings of cetaceans once processed are fully available for online interrogation on

This activity bodes well for our upcoming All-Ireland Whale Watch Day on Sunday 18th August.  During "Whale Watch Ireland 2013" IWDG volunteers will guide free, land-based whale watches at 16 sites around the Irish coast. We hope you can join us. More details on this event to followe. 

Pádraig Whooley
IWDG Sightings Coordinator


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