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Humpback Whale Feeding Frenzy Heralds A Winter Whale-Watching Bounty

22nd September 2013
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Video captured a year ago of a humpback lunge feeding off the Blasket Islands
Humpback Whale Feeding Frenzy Heralds A Winter Whale-Watching Bounty

#MarineWildlife - Humpback whales caught in a feeding frenzy off the Blasket Islands last week points to a potential bounty of big whale sightings over the winter months, as Nick Massett writes on the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group website.

A large aggregation of six humpback whales - a quarter of all those previously catalogued in the area - was witnessed feeding west of the Foze Rocks on Saturday 14 September.

Seven in total have been identified this year off the Blaskets, and with no sightings elsewhere around the Irish coast it's believed the humpbacks are content to feed exclusively within the Dingle Bay area for now.

Of course this is just the start of the big whale season, and the IWDG's Pádraig Whooley indicates that larger species such as the humpback and the commonly sighted fin whale - the longest ocean animal behind the elusive blue whale - are beginning to move inshore in greater numbers.

Even at that, inshore records "are likely to be the tip of a much larger iceberg", as imagery captured by the Irish Air Corps shows an incredible nine-strong group of fin whales feeding offshore along the Porcupine Blight where the water depth reaches more than 1km.

"But if this year pans out like previous years, the best has still yet to come," writes Whooley, "as historically the months November to January are the peak period for the "herring hog" inshore along the Irish south coast."

All this good news comes tinged with a some sadness, however, considering the rising trend of strandings of whales and dolphins on the Irish coastline - itself potential evidence of ill health among the whale and dolphin populations that visit our shores.

Published in Marine Wildlife
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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