Archive for the 'Cetaceans' Category



A family break in Wales over the bank holiday weekend; but you take your camera and bins’ with you, don’t you?

White Bluebells

Bottlenose Dolphin

Bottlenose Dolphin


Early Purple Orchid


Red Kite

Red Kite



A juxtaposition of events

We went to watch ‘Kong – Skull Island’ the other night at the cinema. Give it a miss; thin non-captivating plot, mediocre acting and CGI worthy of no more than a computer game. It was a late showing so we drove back home quite late at night. I like driving in the dark. We went by the scenic route. Country lanes, field edges, roadside copses and overhanging trees. It was mild too. I expected badgers, deer, rabbits, hares and the odd owl. What did we get? … a single, lonely moth. Just the one!

And yet … earlier in the week we had been for a walk along the dunes to see the Grey Seals hauled out on the beach. We didn’t count them all but it was plain to see there were a lot. We estimated there to be 3000 over a mile or so of beach. It wouldn’t have been far from the true number. This is more than I’ve ever seen before… anywhere. The tide was high and it was a weekday with few people and dogs around. Seals will have been pushed here from the sandbanks off Yarmouth and there was little disturbance to push them back into the sea here so numbers would be at a peak. 3000 equates to 1% of the world population. Even this weekend when things were much busier with people I did a more accurate count on a lower tide and there was 1426. Less than half the number than a few days earlier but that’s still a lot of seal flesh perched on the sand. Nothing less than a wildlife spectacular. A scene from an Attenborough episode.

What a juxtaposition of events.

When we have such spectacles and numbers it’s easy to think everything is ok. To think things are on track; that nature is in balance and our wildlife is safe.




Sailing off the coast of Punta del Este in Chile we were scanning the sea to see if we could pull out another new bird for the trip. The wind was up and so was the swell. However, the little transporter ferry we were on was coping well.

We’ve all watched the U boat movies on telly. The German commander folds up the periscope and gives the order to ‘Fire Torpedos’. The scene cuts to the surface where a trail of white tracks towards the British battleship. Well imagine us on that ferry seeing those torpedos coming straight at us… then another … and another. The missiles broke the surface to reveal their true form. Commerson’s Dolphins are instantly recognisable; piebald streamlined animals moving at warp-neck speed. I so wanted to see this species … and see it well. As they shot under our hull the views were just amazing.





Port bow

We weren’t far off entering the South Pacific. Sailing north west in the Chilean Fjords offering fantastic midday views of the Isla Campana. We would pop out into the open ocean quite soon. An ideal place to see Orca. As if by magic a few splashes distantly off the port bow morphed into a matriarch led pod of around 12 animals as we caught up with them. Always good to see this was our second encounter in as many days with this enigmatic cetacean.



That time of year again

The end of another year is almost upon us. Goodbye 2016 and hello 2017. Thinking back through the last twelve months there’s been so many good sightings; so many good times. It really has been a good year.

The Geese and Goosanders on the Solway Tour performed for us as did all the specialities on the April Scotland Tour. The Mull tour was spectacular; eagles, whales and more. Canada leaves Humpbacks breaching through my memories for many years to come. Scilly was a classic. Orchids, butterflies and Nightjars all played a part during the year. So many sightings, so many places.

If I was to choose one moment; one sighting above all others, it would have to be seeing Cuvier’s Beaked Whales in the bay of Biscay. Beautiful, enigmatic, specialised life forms that we can only peek at through tiny keyholes in time before they descend once more to the depths.

Happy New Year… have a good one.




Why do we never learn?

Thomas Southwell (1831-1909) was an employee at Barclays bank. Following in the footsteps of his father he worked at Fakenham branch and then in Norwich. This seemingly ordinary background masked one of our best naturalists of the modern era. He spent much of his leisure time travelling around Norfolk taking notes about what he saw within the natural world. Southwell was an accomplished author publishing several natural history books as well as many papers within the transactions of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists Society (NNNS). He was also voted in as a fellow of the Royal Zoological Society and became president of the NNNS twice!

I was recently given some of Southwell’s papers, correspondence and notes to examine. It has to be said his handwriting is an acquired learning. Amid lots of letters and scribblings regarding whales and dolphins I came across this passage which touched me somewhat. He was referring to the ‘back story’ of a young White Beaked Dolphin he was examining in Great Yarmouth that had been caught offshore.

“…1881 Sep – Locally known to the Yarmouth fishermen as Scoulter A very young one taken by a Yarmouth boat about 40 miles off the coast on 10th Sept 1881. It was accompanied by its mother and appeared not to have been born many hours. The mother followed the boat two hours after its young one was taken, showing obvious signs of distress …”

Given what I have read about what is happening in Taji in Japan and on the Faroe Islands recently it’s a crying shame that in the last 135 years since this event took place we have learn’t comparatively little regarding cetaceans and have progressed in the guardianship of our planet even less. Here is a photograph I took several years ago of a White beaked Dolphin mother with her young enjoying the wildness of the sea.






Not yet….

I’ve spent quite a while on the coast this week. You could easily find me looking wistfully out to sea. Why? Well, it’s big fauna time. The beginning of November has for the past few years been the period when large whales have occurred off Norfolk; particularly ‘Humpy’ our returning Humpback. Unfortunately, not this year. Or at least, not so far.  Unfortunately there are no large flocks of feeding gannets or divers offshore either which gives a clue as to why the whales have not arrived. There are no fish! The Herring don’t appear to have arrived here as yet. So if there’s no food on the table why come to the party! This is endorsed by the fishermen locally who tell me ‘there’s just nothing doing’.

Given the year has been a bit ‘topsy-turvy’ weather wise and autumn has not really bitten us as yet there may still be time for something to happen. I’ll keep on looking. In the meantime here’s a photo I took this summer in Canada of four humpbacks together.

Humpbacks in the mist.




Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

May 2017
« Apr    


%d bloggers like this: