Posts Tagged ‘Long finned Pilot Whales


Pilot Whale Update

The Pilot Whales after heading off east from Norfolk last Monday tried the continent for approval. Seen off the coast of Belgium on Friday they then zigzagged their way back west and were seen yesterday off the Isles of Grain in the Medway (per RBA). The British Divers Marine Mammal Rescue were again put on alert but as yet, fortunately, there’s no sign of them stranding.

It’s always difficult with these deep water species to know what they are doing here but the late autumn spawning Herring may be a factor. Pilot Whales will eat Herring as a substitute for their preferred diet of squid.

It seems ‘lost’ whales travelling down from the Arctic have an instinct to move west into where they think the open water of the Atlantic should be. Of course if they are on our East coast this can have dire consequences. The lure of the Wash and The Thames are often their downfall. I always feel with potential ‘strandable’ whales on the east coast that if they make it around ‘the toe’ of Kent they’ll maybe be ok. I hope so.



A Good Fin’ish

Norfolk is rapidly turning into ‘the place’ to see cetaceans at the moment.

I received a call from Steve Gantlett at Cley on Monday morning. He had seen what he thought were 10 Pilot Whales off Cley at East Bank. I believe his wife Sue originally found them. After a short discussion about ID it became obvious his identification was correct. The sighting was confirmed to me by Paul Lee. Thanks Guys.

Good friend Bob and I didn’t arrive until around 2pm and opted to visit Weybourne as Steve had said the animals were moving very slowly East. Thankfully the animals were still offshore to the west of Weybourne and I could confirm they were predictably Long finned rather than the Short finned species of more tropical climes. My elation turned to disappointment when I saw that the animals were in a state of confusion. They had obviously come down from the north and hit the east west coast of Norfolk and didn’t know which way to turn. There were more than 10, indeed the calming sea revealed the pod numbered roughly 25 and many were spy hopping and breathing rapidly obviously trying to work out which way to turn. This species has a history of stranding. I telephoned British Divers Marine Life Rescue to put them on alert just in case. They were already aware of the situation having followed events on social media. I then telephoned Sharon, my other half, to warn her we could be in for a long night if the pod beached and asked her to bring our marine mammal medic grab bags and manuals.

It was around 4 o’clock when the sun made a last effort below a strip of cloud on the horizon and it was as if this was a cue for enlightenment; as if the wales finally understood where they were. They moved off strongly east and passed us 800m offshore. They were no longer bunched up and this gave me the opportunity to do an accurate count of 23 animals as they passed. It was a moment of relief and I could now enjoy the first sighting of live Long finned Pilot Whales in Norfolk.

There have been several records previously in Norfolk but all of dead animals: see the following record at

Long finned Pilot Whale       Globicephala melas


1982 25th November Eccles measuring 9 feet long

1982 22nd December Stiffkey measuring 12 feet long

1983 13th February Holkham

1983 13th February Scolt Head measuring 16 feet long

1992 13th December a 5.75m long male found dead on Scolt Head Island


2008 5th September a reported sighting on Birdline East Anglia was never qualified.

2014 11 10 Long finned Pilot Whale Weybourne Norfolk_Z5A1898

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Jan 2023


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