It’s time to think BIG!

Dan Brown

An encounter with any large whale is one not to be forgotten. It might seem unlikely around our coasts, but now’s as good a time as any to find your own Humpback Whale, and the good news is they’re on the increase! 

The prospect of seawatching at this time of year may not be appealing, yet it could well be worthwhile. Winter has long been known as a time for insanely rare seabirds to turn up, but what about our more blubbery visitors?

Whilst detecting cetaceans in winter can be incredible difficult in generally rough conditions, Roquals, the largest cetaceans produce a very obvious blow when surfacing, and now is a great time to pick up Humpback Whales in particular as they pass back north heading for Arctic waters in which to breed.

Over the last decade we’ve seen a notable increase in sightings around the UK and Ireland with a regular wintering population off southern Ireland. These animals are well documented by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group ( Even the British coast has been getting in on the action with last autumns East Anglian individual and more recently a trio off Arbroath ten days ago.

Humpbacks are particularly at home in shallow water and easily ID’d by their dense bushy blow, arching back with more of a stub than a dorsal fin, and often the spectacular sight of the tail flukes as it dives.

So keep your eyes peeled for any blows and with luck you could find yourself watching a Humpback Whale!

The classic Humpback dive with tail flukes arched high

The classic Humpback dive with tail flukes arched high


Typical view of the roll just before the tail flukes appear. The dorsal ‘fin’ is more of a stub! (Bonus points if you can ID the foreground fly-by)

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