Humpback Whales of West Kerry Ireland
Humpback Whale HBIRL38 off the Dingle Peninsula in 2016
The story of the West Kerry humpback whales so far this year
Humpback whales off the Dingle Peninsula make an early appearance in 2016
Humpback Whale HBIRL24 (fluke in 2014)
Humpback Whale HBIRL24 (fluke in 2015)
This year's humpback whale sightings around the Blasket Islands got off to an earlier start than in previous years with the first sighting coming in at the beginning of April (as opposed to the beginning of May in 2015). While April proved challenging for getting out to where the whales were feeding on account of lots of unsettled weather, sailing conditions much improved during May and the beginning of June, and by the first week in June about 15 individual humpbacks had been identified in West Kerry waters, both by our local humpback whale researcher Nick Massett from his RIB 'Miol Mór' and by our whale watch tour boat MV "Blasket Princess" skippered by Mick Sheeran
It is interesting to note that the majority of humpback whale IDs proved to be relatively new arrivals to our coast - so new indeed that a lot of them haven't yet been included in the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group's data base due to their website still undergoing a major revamp.
Humpback Whales revisit waters of Dingle Bay, West Kerry, Ireland S.W.
So far two regular visitors since 2013 (HBIRL23 and HBIRL24) have been re-sighted this year. While it is possible to identify humpback whales by their dorsal fins, getting good photos of the underside of their tail flukes is the easiest way to identify any individual animal. The colouration pattern on the fluke - intermingling patterns in black and white - is a bit like a fingerprint but even so they still have to carefully examined to be certain - some look quite alike while others can change a bit over time. Note in the two photographs above how HBIRL24 has acquired some additional black spots due to scarring over the course of a year
Yet another humpback (HBIRL38) - which we locally nicknamed "Zorro" on account of some scarring on its dorsal fin in the shape of a "Z" - was seen on May 10 and June 5 and has since turned up feeding off West Cork. By being able to identify individuals we can therefore find out a little bit more each time about their movements around the Irish coast and hopefully further afield too.
The hope is that someday one of the humpback whales we get a photo identification of around the Blasket Islands and Dingle Bay will be identified in the humpback whale breeding grounds off Cape Verde in the South Atlantic or the humpback whale breeding grounds around the Silver Banks off the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Sea to solve the mystery of where do the Irish humpback whales that frequent the waters of West Kerry during the summer months of April to mid October [ Irish Whale Watch Season] come from and where do they go [for the breeding season and those animals of breeding age] apart from foraging as far north as Norway and Iceland and around the west coast of Ireland.
These are very interesting times for whale watching in Ireland!