Return of humpbacks to West Kerry

11th Apr 2016

Nick Massett with local IWDG members preparing a watch at Slea HeadIWDG recieved our 1st humpback whale report of the 2016 large whale season from Ciaran Cronin, of Wildeye on Saturday morning, April 9th from Valentia Island, Co. Kerry. This sighting was of an adult animal that surfaced among large no's of gannets and newly arrived manx shearwaters within 150 m of the cliffs at Bray Head. And as if to confirm that this was no fluke, excuse the pun, Nick Massett followed this up this morning, Monday 11th with another west Kerry record, of 2 humpbacks from his cliff perch at Slea Head. This activity was close to the Blasket Island of Inis Na Mbro. So we can say with some certainty that humpback whales have at least arrived inshore along the Kerry coast, and hopefully the IWDG sighting scheme will detect more humpback activity from other areas in the coming weeks and months.

Initially, we felt that these records were very early, but in fact in the past 6 years most inshore, 1st humpback of season, have been during mid March and mid May, so these records fall within our expected norm for this species. We have still to add quite a few humpback Photo ID images from 2015/16, which will take the Irish Humpback whale Catalogue to 60+ recognisable individuals. Who knows, where we'll be by the end of 2016 large whale season?

Fieldnotes: Any whale that looks significantly larger than a minke whale (30-45ft range), with a consistent powerful bushy blow, and tail flukes (lifting their broad flukes clear out of water prior to a dive) is most likely to be a humpback whale and IWDG would love to hear of your sightings or have the chance to see any images you may have for matching purposes. If 2016 is anything like 2013, 2014, or 2015, then the best place to see this magnificent species between now and September is likely to be West Kerry, with West Cork coming in second. Daily, validated sightings can be viewed on the humepage of www.iwdg.ie which will enable you track their progress in the Irish southwest

As always a big thanks to Nick Massett and Ciaran Cronin for these important records.

By Padraig Whooley, IWDG Sightings Officer