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First Humpback Whales (3) of the 2018 Irish Whale Watch Season Dursey Island Co. Cork

First "Irish" Humpbacks of 2018

a humpback in west kerry photo by nick massett

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First (3) Humpback Whales of the 2018 Irish Whale Watch Season off Dursey Island West Cork Ireland March 25th 2018

Year on year for the last five years it just seems that humpback whales are coming to Irish waters earlier in the season [March, April, May] and also exiting Irish waters earlier than in previous seasons [September, October] obviously in response to the availability of food resources earlier in the season [sand eels] and the increasing scarcity of forage fish resources  like sprat and juvenile herring later in the season due to the unregulated over-fishing of these resources in Irish inshore waters.

Despite  the fact that 86 individual humpback whales have been photo identified in Irish waters and we know they are coming from higher latitudes like Iceland and Norway, we still have no proof or even idea where they are going to breed, as their sojourn in Irish waters is mainly to feed and improve conditioning and build up energy reserves for the mating season when breeding and mating humpback whales may not feed for up to two months.

 Until recently the best guesstimate of where the 86 "Irish" humpback whales were going to breed was the Cape Verde islands but despite recent and ongoing research no matches have been found to date and increasingly opinion is changing, including the opinion of the author of this log who has always believed that they are travelling across the Atlantic to the warm waters of the Caribbean and possibly joining the thousands of other breeding humpback whales on the Silver Bank 70 miles north of the Dominican Republic. Time and research will tell.

Until someone photo identifies an "Irish" humpback whale in one of these  locations or the N.P.W.S. allows researchers to satellite tag one of the "Irish" humpbacks, their migratory route and final destination will remain a mystery. In this age of constant surveillance this in itself is not a bad thing and just adds to the mystique of the "Irish" humpback whales, but to ensure the protection of their food resources and habitats on their migratory paths, their life history needs to be scientifically assessed and ascertianed.

West Kerry and West Cork - major congegation areas for Humpback Whales in  Ireland

Of the 86 individual humpback whales on the Irish Humpback Whale Catalogue, roughly half and half have been photo identified off West Kerry and West Cork. The area from north of Sybil Head to west of Bray Head, Valentia island is a hotspot in West Kerry and the area from Mizen Head to Old Head of Kinsale is a hotspot in West Cork, with the sea area west of Dursey Island, midway between Cork and Kerry county bounds being the usual area where migrating humpback whales are first sighted at the start of the Irish Humpback Whale Watching Season.
The first humpback whale of the 2018 Irish whale watch season was spotted off Dursey Island this March 25th, 2018. Coincidentally the first humpback whale of the 2017 Irish whale watch season was spotted at the same place and just a few days later in the season - April 5th, 2017 and the year before the first sighting was off Bray Head, Valentia Island, Co. Kerry on April 9th, 2016.
For 2015 the first sighting of the year was off Clogher Head, Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry on May 2nd, 2015 and for 2014 the first sighting was off Galley Head, Co. Cork on May 17th, 2014
[All records courtesy of www.iwdg.ie - Irish Whale and Dolphin Group]

So if you want to see humpback whales in Irish waters for the 2018 Irish Whale Watch Season hop on a whale watching tour boat in West Kerry www.marinetours.ie  [Ventry] or West Cork www.corkwhalewatch.com  [Union Hall] to avail of some of the best whale watching in Europe - weather and sea conditions permitting

Seals. Puffins and Basking Shark around the Blaskets, Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

The only reason that we put these three different species of mammal, bird and fish together is that April and May are a good time of the year to see all three and in the case of the Basking Shark possibly the only time of the year as they come to the surface to feed on their favourite type of plankton when the surface sea water temperature is about 12 degrees Celcius, which is usually for a 5 / 6 week period at the start of the season. Their favourite food is the copepod planktonic shrimp Calanus helgolandicus.
Thousands of Grey Seals have over wintered on the Blasket Islands, some having come all the way from the British Isles including Scotland. They have recently [March] being "hauled out" on the beautiful Trá Bán [White Strand] on the Great Blasket Island to moult and change from their winter coats. Peak moulting period on the Great Blasket Island appears to be from mid-February to mid-March (Kiely et al. 2000). Numbers on the island beach have exceeded 1,500 this year (2018) and at the start of the season they are still present in their hundreds along the beach area if undisturbed and otherwise hanging about their favourite haunts on the rocks nearby.
Puffins have been present since mid-March having flown all the way from the east coast of Canada to spend their summer and hopefully raise one chick on the  beautiful Blasket Islands. They are only present on the outer Blasket Islands as there is too much "traffic" for them on the Great Blasket Island and also regrettably it is infested with Americam mink which destroy the eggs and chicks of ground nesting birds including Manx shearwaters, storm petrels and choughs in this E.U. designated S.P.A. [ Special Protected Area]
You can view the puffins on the outer islands on either our Afternoon Eco Marine Tour or the All Day Tour if you want to spend`a few hours on the Great Blasket.

If you want to see some of the wonderful marine wildlife of the Blasket Islands archipelago and Dingle Bay mentioned above please book one of our tours online on our website  www.marinetours.ie        See you then.................................

Log of Whale Watching Tour Boat M.V. "Blasket Princess" Captain Whales Galore 28.03.2018

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