Last year a Humpback was seen off Suffolk before spending some time off the Norfolk coast during October/November. The occurrence in October this year of a Humpback off Minsmere gave hope that ‘Humpy’ had returned and would make his/her way back to the Norfolk coast to feed on the Herring shoals. I spend most of the day on Monday at Sea Palling searching the sea for a possible returning whale.
A large whale was seen yesterday off Winterton. One observer thought it was possibly a humpback. When I arrived at the site there was no sign of the whale. I also searched the Sea Palling and Horsey area to no avail. I did however have the best sea watch I’d had for a very long time. Pommerine Skuas, Little Auks, Little Gulls, Great Northern, Red throated Divers and a host of other species were passing in droves with a backdrop of endless Gannets. I also searched all those areas again today in kinder conditions and was treated to a couple of Short eared Owls coming in off the sea, more Little Auks as well as discovering a Yellow browed Warbler in the dunes at Sea Palling. I returned home for lunch determined to go out again this afternoon and find this damn whale and put it’s identification beyond doubt.
I received a call conveniently just as I was on my way out again. A whale, thought to be a Humpback was off Mundesley. It didn’t take me long to get to the site as it’s only a few miles away, it took longer to pinpoint where the whale was hiding. Followed by an entourage of Gannets a dark shape repeatedly broke the surface with a large bushy blow. The stubbly fin shape was indicative of a Humpback as was the white on the underside of the tail fluke which it occasionally showed. What I did see of the tail fluke pattern, which like a fingerprint is unique to each Humpback, gave me confidence to announce that it was the same individual that had visited us last year despite it being some 5kms distant.
Let’s hope (s)he continues to return and brings others to enjoy the Herring shoaling off Norfolk in the latter months of the year. I do however have great concerns given the extensive amount of shipping passing to and fro using the same area.
An article on identifying distant cetaceans is in preparation for posting in Letter from Norfolk in the next few days.