Photos by Britta Wilkens
For the last few days now we've been observing some big 'blows' off the Dingle peninsula near Sybil Head. There seemed to be two different kind of blows out there, indicating the possibility of having both humpback and fin whales feeding out there together. While it wasn't possible for the afternoon eco marine tour to get close to the spot due to a combination of a thick bank of sea fog and the animals just being that little bit too far out for us to get there, we made another attempt in the evening on Nick Massett's rib to positively identify the species present and to hopefully obtain some photo id to establish the individual animals. We got lucky with the weather as the fog had cleared by then and once we got close to the coordinates we were aiming for we were rewarded with two beautiful fin whales travelling and feeding side by side. The real aim of the outing was to find the humpback whales though and after a while we spotted some further blows in the distance. Drawing close to them we did indeed identify them as humpback whales and even got lucky enough to obtain some good tail fluke shots that confirmed two of them as being the same humpback whales that were around the Blasket islands last year! The two in question are numbers 15 and 17 on the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group's catalogue, with number 15 having been identified here last year on July13 and number 17 on July 22. About ten days ago Nick had also managed to identify a third animal, number 10, who has shown up in the waters here in 2009 and 2011 before, round about the same time of the year. While we weren't able to photo id the other animal (or possibly even two further animals) we were delighted with our achievement and more than a little awestruck by their powerful presence. We also were able to observe at least two, if not three, of the humpbacks 'bubble netting' in close proximity to our boat. By creating their own 'bubble curtain' humpback whales trap the fish inside an area before rising from beneath with their mouth wide open (lunge feeding) right in the middle of their 'net', filtering out the fish and expelling the water. At some stage it appeared as if two of the whales used the same 'bubble net' , emerging in the same spot only seconds apart.
With the weather looking settled for the next few days we are very much hoping to be able to head out to where the humpback and fin whales are feeding at present. We will be keeping a very close eye from our shore-based viewing point and once the whales are within our reach we'll try everything to get there on our next few eco marine tours. As always we can never ever guarantee any sightings, especially sightings of this magnitude, but with a bit of luck we'll find them again!
While most of the action seems to be off Clogher and Sybil Heads we had a stunning minke whale bonanza much closer to home a few days ago. Only a short distance away from our departure point of Ventry we came across anything up to nine minke feeding amongst what seemed like thousands of Manx Shearwaters and gannets. While minke whales don't tail fluke or bubble net they are still impressively graceful whales - and large ones too - at a length of about eight metres.