|Humpback whale HBIRL20 off the Stag Rocks, Co Cork|
I couldn't believe that the weather was so perfect on the Saturday morning. Calm seas with an off-shore breeze and sunshine. Just perfect for me, the poor sailor, although I was taking no chances and popped two of the little 'sailors helpers' regardless. I was not going to have a repeat of a previous trip I had had with Colin where I spent the whole trip in the wheelhouse feeling rather green having been assured by my better half I would be fine without the pills. (That's the last time I take his sea-faring advice!) Apart from which, we saw nothing, and sadly, it also happened on the second family trip out with Colin, which is practically unheard of but probably down to the early time in the season. If anyone can seek out the whales and dolphins, Colin can. He is legendary in these parts. Who knows what went wrong on those two trips but on Saturday I wasn't bothered about the past. I was just looking forward to finally encountering these splendid creatures close-up.
We had scarcely been at sea for 15 minutes from Castlehaven when there was the first call of "Blow!"
I was so engrossed, I had no time to think about my sea-faring well-being. This was wildlife observing at its best. Close to home, on a perfect day and at a time of year it wasn't expected. To top it all, we also observed a new humpback, HBIRL20 which became the latest addition to the West Cork records, swimming alongside HBIRL18 who had already been consistently observed off the South coast of Ireland over the previous few months.
|HBIRL18 & HBIRL20 under Toe Head, West Cork|
We were all aiming for fluke shots of the new addition, an important part of documenting the individual whales, Each whale has unique colouring, shaping and markings and by taking images of the flukes from the top and underside...
|HBIRL20 fluke from top (Galley Head in the background)|
|HBIRL20 fluke from underside|
After easily securing the ID images, we were all able to watch and enjoy this amazing behaviour, their flukes repeatedly pounding the surface of water creating the inevitable spectacular splash.
|HBIRL20 off the Stag Rocks|
|HBIRL20 off the Stag Rocks|
|Humpback whales lobtailing off the Stag Rocks|
The following morning we found ourselves in the company of Colin up on the headland, both of us with binoculars poised. Colin had thought he had glimpsed a whale but as we sat and observed for around an hour, it appeared that the humpbacks might have retreated back East along the coast. Wherever they might be, it is only through sensitive and controlled study of their movements that we might learn to understand their life patterns and why they might be in the waters of Southern Ireland during this time of the year.
My grateful thanks to Eugene Mc Keown on behalf of the SEAI. Padraig Whooley from the IWDG and Colin Barnes from Cork Whale Watch
IWDG report from the day
View Part 2 of this post here