First minke whale of 2014 "whale season"?

30th Mar 2014

A sighting report from our man on the cliffs at Slea Head, Co. Kerry, Nick Massett, suggests that the 2014 whale watch season may be gearing up. On Friday 28th he had a nice watch in reasonable sea states which produced sightings of c30 common dolphins and what is likely to be the first minke whale of this years "season".

We need to be careful however in how we word this, as it is not the first validated minke whale of the calander year, as between the 2nd-17th Jan 2014 IWDG validated sightings of minke whales from the Bloody Foreland area of Co. Donegal. In fact on Jan 16 Gareth Doherty of Selkie Sailing reporting 4 minke whales off Brinlack Point, which brought to an end a run of minke whale activity innorthwest Donegal that started back in November 2013.

This is the 2nd consecutive year that Nick has recorded the first minkes of the season and is consistent with sighting trends in recent years that suggest minkes and indeed humpback whales seem to be drawn to the very productive waters of Dingle Bay earlier in the season, than say other cetacean hotspots along the Irish south coast. But there is little doubt from effort watchers who put in the time whale watching, that at this time of year both our smallest baleen whale (the minke) and the planet's second largest fish, the basking shark, will start moving inshore to feed and in good sea watching conditions can be viewed.

Basking shark aerial view  © Sligo Rescue ServicesWhile on the subject of basking sharks..... tune into RTE1 TV, Tuesday 1st April at 7:00pm for the latest in the series of "Living the Wildlife" presented by Colin Stafford-Johnson, who joins up with his namesake Emmet Johnson (no relative) the NPWS Conservation Ranger in North Donegal to discuss and film the process of tagging basking sharks in our northwest waters. IWDG Executive Director Dr Simon Berrow has collaborated with Emmett over the years on this project.  Any basking shark sighting records can either be reported to IWDG on www.iwdg.ie or to the Irish basking shark project on www.baskingshark.ie.

Over the coming months make sure to check out the sightings section of www.iwdg.ie for details on the very latest validated sightings of cetaceans and basking sharks in Irish waters, and of course please report cetacean sightings directly to us in IWDG. It is only by recording them, that we can protect them.  If you'd like to learn more about cetacean recording in Ireland and how to observe and identify some of the 24 cetacean species recorded to date in Irish waters, you might check out our summer series of whale-watching weekend courses on Cape Clear island on 11-13 July and 12-14 September 2014. AS we are only running 2 of these weekends this summer on Cape, please book asap, as places are already filling up, and accommodation on our offshore island in high summer is limited.

Pádraig Whooley

IWDG Sightings Officer