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CETA The Newsletter for the Cetacean Watcher in Norfolk

Issue No 1 – February 2014 Photo by Alan Blaine


The 2013 Seawatch Foundation Whale and Dolphin Watch On the 27th July last year we held the Seawatch Foundation Whale and Dolphin Watch at Overstrand; just one of a number of watches around the UK coastline during the week. Unfortunately for the second year running cetaceans failed to put in an appearance. Added to that a sea fret rolled in and restricted viewing. Consolation sightings came in the form of a couple of Grey and Common Seal and a Mediterranean Gull! Nationally the watch discovered much more – see the details at http://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/nwdw-reports/

Please report any cetacean sightings to Carl Chapman Your sightings will be recorded and published on the Seawatch Foundation Website http://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/ The Norfolk Cetacean Website: http://norfolkcetaceans.wordpress.com/ and will also be noted within the county records. Contact Details Office 01263 576 995 Mobile Email carl@wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk


The 2013 Round-up

Any species of Dolphin off Norfolk is a rarity. 2013 was a good year with White beaked, Atlantic White Sided and Bottlenose Dolphins all reported. It was however the larger whales that hit the headlines ‌ literally. Dubbed Scroby Dick by the press a Humpback Whale (or maybe two) spent much of November off the north east coast. First seen by Ryan Irvine and Tabitha Pearman at 7am off their Hemsby home on the 29th October the Humpback was some 600m offshore. It continued north to Winterton and Horsey where it spent most

days until at least the 17th November up to three miles from the coast. Reports of large whales off the north Norfolk coast by fishermen were perhaps vindicated when on the high tide of 22nd November a dead Minke Whale was washed ashore 800m east of the pier at Cromer. This 6.4m subadult female had suffered injuries consistent with several strikes of a propeller one of which had severed the tip of the rostrum. The animal had been dead for a little short of a week.


Three days later on the morning of the 25th November another dead Minke Whale was washed ashore 800m north west of the ramp at Sea Palling. This was a young female 5.8m in length which had been dead for a couple of days. It appeared well fed and had no obvious visible

cause of death. A necropsy done the following day however revealed damage to the spine consistent with a ship strike. Large shoals of Herring reminiscent of the 1940’s were probably instrumental in attracting large these whales to Norfolk waters.

Top: Minke Whale Cromer. Bottom: Minke Whale Sea Palling . Previous Humpback Whale Horsey


Monthly Porpoise sightings distribution 2013 Harbour Porpoise is by far the commonest cetacean sighted off Norfolk. The allocation of sightings within each month depends to a large degree on observer coverage and the weather. In rougher seas animals are much more difficult to see and observer

coverage increases in warmer weather. The following distribution therefore does not perhaps give a true reflection of porpoises offshore in winter but it’s a useful indicator of the best times to see this small cetacean.

60 50 40 30 20 10 0

More Cetacean Photographs at Wildcatch Photography. Cetacean and Pelagic tours available from Wildlife Tours and Education a Seawatch Foundation recommended Boat Operator.


Identification Forum – The Fin Whale It is not impossible that a Fin Whale may put in an appearance off Norfolk. Like Humpbacks they are not adverse to reasonably shallow waters. Indeed there is an old record off Cley next the Sea for which I am currently awaiting a detailed description. Below :Fin Whales all taken in the NE Atlantic


Key Identification Features • • •

• • • •

The overall body colour can vary from a brownish black through to silver grey. The dorsal fin is quite small and sited far back on the body. It usually has a pointed tip and slopes backwards but as per the photos on the previous page can be highly variable. This is a big whale; the world’s second largest and has a blow to match. The tall column of spray is between 4 and 6m high and can be seen from a considerable distance. Blows occur 2 to 5 times at intervals of 10 to 20 seconds. The dive sequence shows the rostrum first followed by the blow well before the dorsal fin shows. When the dorsal fin submerges the tail stock is visible but Fin Whales rarely show their flukes. If they do they have a white underside. Dives usually last 5 to 15 minutes. The lower jaw, lip and baleen plates on the right side are white sometimes visible when the animal first surfaces. See photo below. If the whale breaches it usually twists in the air and does not leave the water far enough to show the dorsal fin. If it does roll or breach it may show the pectoral fins which are slender and short. Very fast Swimmer.


Photo showing the pectoral fin of a Fin Whale All photos other than those accredited are by C Chapman and are copyrighted to Wildlife Tours and Education.


Ceta 2014