Humpback whale off Newcastle Co. Down ...Update 10th June10th Jun 2017
Report III, update 10th June
The latest sighting report of this humpback whale was Friday evening off Bloody bridge, near Williams harbour at 20:30 by Jessica Koquert & Marc Viñas, where they observed it with optics heading in the direction of Annalong. There were several other sightings of it in the Newcastle area around lunch time. There are lots of folk out looking for this whale this morning, and we'll keep you posted here on IWDG if there are any other sighting reports. Thanks to everyone for your reports thus far...still no images of it!
Report II, update 9th June
We are just hearing from contacts in the Co. Down that there are unverified reports of a whale being observed this afternoon Fri. 9th June around 15:00. One such report is from Frank Kelly, who has been watching it off Newcastle from the Kilkeel Road and we gather it has also been seen by a local boat owner at lunch time. It seems likely that this is the same humpback whale seen on 6th June. Again, this is a rare opportunity to observe this species in N. Irish waters.
Report 1, 8th June
Late on Tuesday evening 6th June we received a 2nd hand report from Caroline Harper of a large whale species in Newcastle Bay, Co. Down around 21:30, but with failing light it wasn't possible to follow up on this report. However, yesterday Wednesday 7th June a land based effort by IWDG member David Williams, who has been carrying out timed watches from this area since Feb. 2003, confirms a humpback whale sighting at 14:05 just a little further south off Bloody Bridge and at 15:30 off Donard Cove. His initial observation was of the whale as it breached on 6 occasions quite close to shore heading north. It was during the encounter observed as close as 250 mts from shore by the outfall bouy. While we can't be certain be certain that these sighting events over the two days are connected, it does seem very likely that they are of the same animal.
Humpback whale sightings in Northern Irish waters are rare events. Since the recording of cetaceans commenced formally in 1990, IWDG has only validated 6 humpback whale sightings records during this period (see map), all of which were of single animals and have been between April-July. Five of these sightings have been in the past decade, and of these 4 have been from the Co. Down area: Bangor 14th Jun 2011, Strangford Narrows 12th Apr. 2012, Donaghadee 20th Jul. 2014 (image right), and Bloody Bridge 7th Jun 2017. This is the first validated humpback whale sighting record for Northern Ireland in the past 3 years. So this week's sightings is a great opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts and whale watchers in Northern Ireland to head out to the Dundrum Bay area with your binoculars or spotting scopes, where we'd suggest land based viewing points like Bloody Bridge or Newcastle. Sightings of this whale can be reported directly to IWDG via www.iwdg.ie by clicking the Report a Sighting link on the homepage.
If you are fortunate enough to get out on the water on a local boat, we'd really appreciate your taking the time to try and get any images of the whale's ventral (under) surface of the tail-fluke, as these images will help IWDG researchers confirm whether this humpback is new to Irish waters or one of the 83 humpback whales currently documented on the Irish humpback whale Photo ID catalogue.
In addition: Just to show that there is currently strong potential for land based observations of whales along the Northern Irish coast at 11:00 this morning 8th June, Gary Burrows, DAERA, observed and photographed a minke whale about 500 mts off Dunluce Castle, in Co. Antrim (see image left). So minkes off the north coast and humpbacks off the east coast in the past 24 hrs.... enjoy!
By Pádraig Whooley, IWDG Sightings Officer