Northern Ireland

Humpback whale sighting in County Down

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Media captionThe yachtsmen had a whale of a time as the mammal swam under their boat

A group of Northern Ireland yachtsmen were treated to a rare sighting of a humpback whale as they travelled from Dumfries and Galloway to County Down this week.

"It was absolutely incredible to see something so spectacular. I was totally surprised," said Rory Flannigan from Ballyholme Yacht Club.

"We had heard about a possibly sighting the day before, so we knew to look out for it. It swam under us, it was fantastic.

"I was the first to spot it. We knew it was a whale but we didn't know what type it was until it came closer to the boat.

"We're going back out on the boat today and next week and we hope to see it again."

The whales are commonly spotted off the south and south west coast of Ireland, particularly counties Cork and Kerry.

"This is actually the 305th humpback whale sighting validated by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group in the past decade" said the IWDG's Pádraig Whooley.

"Counties Cork and Kerry are particular hotpots but there has been a small, but consistent, trend in annual sightings off the County Down coast in the past four years" he added.

"This is really exciting and we would ask anyone fortunate enough to observe humpback whales to report them to us."

The whales can be seen throughout much of the year but with a peak in sightings between July and January.

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