The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has highlighted the world class whale watching opportunities at several sites along the Irish south coast at the moment, with significant large whale activity reported from Co. Kerry east to Co. Waterford.
The nucleus of this activity is currently centred off the coast of West Cork, where fin, minke and humpback whales are being recorded regularly both from the shore and from vessels operating in the region.
On Saturday the 24 November Padraig Whooley, Sightings Coordinator with the IWDG, and IWDG members Richard O’ Flynn and Youen Jacob, left Baltimore on a mission to secure positive photo-ID of two humpback whales that had been reported in the area. What they saw next was a spectacle that seasoned whale researcher Mr Whooley described as “a wildlife spectacle worthy of any National Geographic special”.
The trio witnessed the humpback duo bubblenetting: a speciality humpback feeding technique where the whales worked co-operatively, using a curtain of expelled air bubbles to corral small shoaling fish (like herring and sprat) into a tight ball against the water’s surface, before lunging through them to feed.
The humpbacks were identified as HBIRL#4 and HBIRL#10 — two animals that have been recorded in Irish waters several times before. Interestingly the same two whales were recorded together off Galley Head during an IWDG research trip back in December 2008. According to the IWDG the fact that these two humpbacks are together again four years later, in the same body of water, is no coincidence. It reinforces how important Irish inshore waters are to these magnificent animals, who’s north Atlantic population is still struggling to recover after decades of exploitation, with numbers still estimated at a scant 10% of their pre-whaling level.
You’ll find more information on these whale sightings and on the whales and dolphins you can see in Irish waters on the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group website.