Ireland’s first April humpback sighting

Humpback whale HBIRL18 photographed off Galley Head on the 03/04/2012 by Ciaran Cronin / WildEyeHumpback whales have returned to Ireland’s south coast during a month that was, up until now, the only month of the year with no reported large whale sightings from inshore Irish waters.

The whales – at least two and probably three animals, including one juvenile, were originally spotted on the morning of the 03 April from Galley Head in West Cork by local birders and IWDG members.

This unusual sighting has the experts confused, and highlights how little we still know about the behaviour and biology of these magnificent visitors to Ireland’s coastal waters

Here’s an excerpt from the Irish Whale and Dolphin group’s report of the humpback sighting.

We’re not quite sure how to interpret this sighting, as it’s a little like getting a Christmas card in June. So whether this a late record from the 2011/12 large whale season, or the 1st record of the 2012/13 season is unclear. This is the 1st time since the large whale project commenced in 1999 that humpback whales have been recorded along the Irish South or Southwest coast during April, which has been, up till now, the one month in which large whales have consistently been absent from our inshore waters.

While efforts to relocate the whales from land the following day were unsuccessful, there is a strong possibility they are still in the area, with local whale watching operator Colin Barnes suggesting there is sufficient food in the local bays to hold the whales for some time.

If you are in the area and want to look out for the humpbacks the IWDG suggests vantage points at Ardfield, Dirk Cove and Galley Head itself, or Cloghna Head overlooking Rosscarbery Bay. Please report all Irish cetacean sightings to the IWDG through the sightings form on the organisation’s website.

Photo Credit: © Ciaran Cronin, April 2004, all rights reserved

About Calvin Jones

Calvin Jones is a freelance writer, author, birder and lifelong wildlife enthusiast. He is founder and managing editor of He is also the tour leader and wildlife guide on our West Cork based Discover Wildlife tours.
Calvin is also co-author of bestselling digital marketing titles and offers digital business consulting services and training through Digital Marketing Success


  1. Anna Law says:

    Hello Calvin,
    It was just by chance mum and I found this website, because on Monday the 16th of April when we were in Carrigillihy we think we saw a whale.We are not to sure what kind it was, we heard it too,the sound was very deep! we saw this at dusk and high tide.We heard from you and other people that there were humpbacks in the area, but are not sure whether it was a humpback or not, I would like to know! If it wasn’t a whale ,what do you think it was? It was about level with the Knoxes house where we were sitting We saw white water breaking but no tail, and Mum thought she saw an air fountain. No seal heads, just this strange deep noise. The whole event went on for about 10 minutes.
    Thanks and what an odd coincidence

  2. Hi Anna, thanks for stopping by and sharing the info about your cetacean sighting. There were indeed humpbacks in the area earlier in April, with the last confirmed sighting on the 12/04 (see this sighting report on the IWDG website

    It’s hard to tell from your description whether what you saw was a humpback whale — the deep sound you heard, and the “fountain” of spray certainly sounds like a whale blow, but it’s hard to be sure without a bit more detail. Things like an idea of size, did you see a dorsal fin, and if so what size and shape was it, what was the animal doing, how fast was it moving… all helps build a picture that can lead to a positive ID.

    I’m not sure what depth of water there is at the entrance to Carrigillihy, and whether it would be deep enough to accommodate a humpback even at high tide. They’re pretty big animals, but they can and do venture in close to shore on occasions.

    Take a look at some of the photographs I got of the humpbacks in the area on the 07 April There are a few shots there of the head, back and dorsal fin breaking the surface. Also check out the species profile on the IWDG site and the humpback profile and photos on the ARKive site here

    Did what you saw look like that?


  1. […] whale was one of two humpbacks seen from Galley Head, near Clonakilty earlier in the week, but with no further sightings and unfavourable sea conditions […]

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