We have been getting some good Minke sightings recently, there are a lot more bait balls in the water which is attracting these amazing mammals closer to our shores. Minke whales are named after a Norwegian whaler Mr Minke, sometimes they are known as stinky minke’s because there is a really strong fishy smell when they breath out.
The diet of minke whales in this area includes a variety of fish species, including sandeel, herring and whiting, along with some plankton. There are 230 to 360 baleen plates in each side of the upper jaw; these are coarse, hair-like structures formed of keratin that hang down into the mouth, a bit like the teeth on a comb. They feed by engulfing large volumes of prey and water, and they then sieve the water back out through the baleen plates and swallow their prey whole. Sometimes we see these whales lunge feeding which involves the whale lunging at its prey at high speed from below and erupting at the surface with the throat grooves extended. Minke whales around here are commonly seen feeding in association with seabirds, in particular kittiwakes, Manx shearwaters and young gulls, we always look out for seabirds feeding when we are at sea as these can be a real help in finding whales and other cetaceans.
Minke whales are mostly solitary animals often travelling alone or in small pods of 2-3 whales. This is what we find here, a mother will bring its young into the area and then we see these same animals in subsequent years. Whales can be identified by their dorsal fins and other markings and colouring on their bodies so that when we study photos of the whales we can tell if we have seen that whale before or whether it is completely new to the area.