Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Whales not quite in Wales or are they?

Image: Rich Crossen

As yet another of our Celtic Wildcat small boat surveys is blown out, news from the west from Malcolm Andrew of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group of big numbers of Fin and perhaps Humpback's arriving in the Celtic Sea area. Given that we had two contacts with the Whales last August, the situation is even more frustrating!



Large numbers of fin whales off Ardmore...and elsewhere!
2 August 2010
Having had an effort watch that yielded absolutely no sightings from Helvick Head early yesterday afternoon we decided that as the conditions were so good it was worthwhile visiting Ram Head and seeing if there was anything happening there.
After another 90 minutes of total lack of cetacean activity at Ardmore, just as we were considering packing it in I noticed a large splash of a dolphin breaching 8 kilometres offshore. As the clock ticked on to the 100 minute mark (the time usually allocated to an effort watch) we decided to draw a line under this particular effort but to dedicate some time to trying to identify what species of dolphin it was. As Ann continued to try and get some idea of this animals identification, or even its size (it was proving very elusive!) I decided one last scan of the horizon might be worthwhile. And so indeed it proved to be!
In an almost uncannily similar pattern to observations made on the 9th July I first of all picked up numerous ‘blows’ over the horizon to the east-south-east of us. Initial observations were quite strange as wherever the animals where in relation to us, the light or the curve of the earth was distorting their proportions making them look they were rearing out of the water and their dorsal fins looked as big as a killer whale’s!As we watched the animals began to move over the horizon towards us before circling to the south (see map below). The most fascinating part of this observation was revealed on returning home. The whales were first seen about an hour after low tide which tied in exactly with the timing of their first sighting over the horizon on 9th July.
With fin whales now being seen regularly off the west coast of Cork at the same time this would seem to indicate a large influx of these animals this year. Interestingly this is also the first time for us to see fin whales in August from Ram Head...any chance they might stick around for Whale Watch Ireland day on the 22nd?
Andrew Malcolm & Ann Trimble, IWDGUPDATE: A phonecall this afternoon from Martin Colfer on board the Rebecca C about 22k south of Ram informed us that he had both common dolphins and fin whales in that location. Communications from Padraig Whooley added to the picture as he encountered large numbers of fin whales in waters offshore Co. Cork -up to 16 animals some of which might have been humpbacks. A watch from Ram this evening yielded another 7 whales again to the east of us and about 12-15k offshore.