St Patrick's Day visitor has whale of a time
on 20/03/2013 00:00:00
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group - which until Monday had 21 known humpbacks in its Irish humpback catalogue - has confirmed the St Patrick's Day visitor is a new arrival to Irish waters, christening it #HBIRL22.
The whale was spotted by Micheál Cottrel, owner of Baltimore Sea Safari, while out fishing.
He contacted IWDG members Simon Duggan and Youen Yacob, who went out on Mark Murphy's boat on Monday to find it.
They got photographs of the animal as it was lunge feeding about 3km outside the harbour.
Mr Duggan - whose December photograph of a 30-tonne adult humpback breaching off Baltimore while whale watchers looked the other way went viral - said: "We found him pretty much straight away.
"In order to get a positive identification, you have to get a photograph of the fluke, or tail, and a right and left-hand shot of the dorsal fin, and we managed to get those shots."
The whale and dolphin group used the photos to examine the animal's markings before confirming yesterday that it is a first-time visitor to Irish waters.
"It's a reasonably rare thing to happen and we're glad we were able to tick the box," Mr Duggan said.
Mr Jacob said the new arrival is relatively small but was feeding well and came about 1km of the coast, below Spain Tower.
Experts are not quite sure where the animal came from - it may be an offspring of a member of the six-strong group which was feeding off Baltimore last December.
However, they have hailed its arrival as a good sign for the North Atlantic whale population.
Charter boats took whale watchers out to find it yesterday.
Locals are now hoping the whale activity which began off Baltimore last October, culminating in the spectacular breaching behaviour in November and December, coupled with this latest discovery, will help cement the area's reputation for marine tourism.
Humpbacks usually arrive in the waters off Baltimore in early April, with basking sharks usually spotted from May on, and dolphins and seals plentiful throughout the summer.