Posts Tagged ‘Norfolk Sightings


Dolphins off Titchwell

There were two dolphins reported off Titchwell last week. When I received the phone calls from various people several species were muted including Striped, Risso’s, Common and Bottlenose. Strangely enough White beaked, which is the commonest dolphin sighted off Norfolk was not mentioned. In addition Common Dolphins appear to have been sighted up the East North Sea coast in the last few months indicating a small influx.

Various discussion and emails were exchanged and it became obvious that some people weren’t sure what they had seen; and there’s no shame in that. The identification of dolphins, unless you are literally on top of them, is just not easy. It takes some careful observation of habits, swimming style and body markings. If you are hoping to identify them from fin shape alone you’re in for a hard slog. I can rarely do it. The fin shape of many species of dolphin is just so variable.  

Striped and Risso’s are not on the Norfolk list but that doesn’t mean they will not occur at some point and that ‘some point’ could have been last week.

Because Risso’s Dolphin was widely quoted as the identification of the Titchwell animals. I just thought I’d show some photographs of Risso’s taken both in the Atlantic and Pacific to clarify a few points of fin height, beak length and the pale scaring. The first four photos below are Risso’s. They are often quoted as being tall finned; they are, but not overly so. Scaring on the body is frequently obvious, to such an extent that as an animal gets into late adulthood it can attain a skin colour that is almost completely white. The species has a very short stubby beak.

The two individuals off Titchwell were quoted by some as two different species due to their colour and size difference. Different species of dolphin are occasionally seen together but rarely in a duo. Such a sighting would ‘normally’ be within larger groups.

As it happens going by the descriptions offered the species were Bottlenose Dolphins, an adult and calf. This in itself is a species rarely sighted off Norfolk.

The British race of Bottlenose Dolphin is larger than some other inshore races; so they can look chunky and large finned compared to illustrations in books. The paleness of a young animal compared to an older adult would account for the size and colour difference of the smaller Titchwell individual. Very young animals may also show vertical lines down the body. These foetal folds are remnants of the way the calf was folded up in the womb of the mother. The last two photos are of Bottlenose adults with calves for comparison of colour and a photo of a young Bottlenose showing beak length.

I am indebted to the individuals who reported the animals to me especially Marcus Nash who made some very valid observations. If you saw the dolphins or photographed them please get in touch to complete a records form. It’s important just like it is for bird records that the sighting is documented. Many thanks.

Risso's 1 Risso's 2 Risso's 3 Risso's 4

Bottlenose 1 Bottlenose Dolphin 2


Breaking the surface

We watched from the cliff tops more in hope than anticipation on Wednesday. Overstrand is not sat on the best seawatching promontory but it has some reasonable cliffs where you can perch to look north out to sea. A steady south westerly had been gently blowing all day; no conducive to anything rare but we were just after a few bits and pieces … and it was nice just to sit and watch the sea in a gentle warm breeze and chat occasionally with passers-by.

A Shag was first to appear on the sea. Scarce in these parts it was joined by Red throated Divers most showing the summer plumage feature that gave them their name. A steady passage of Gannets was punctuated with Dark Phase Arctic Skuas chasing Arctic and Common Terns. The odd Guillemot on the sea diving under the surface as the Skuas passed overhead. In the distance a formation could be seen coming in over the horizon – were they Cormorants or Geese – head on they were difficult to discern. It wasn’t long before their short dark necks and heads gave the game away. Pink footed Geese are a sure sign winter is around the corner. As we were about to go home a dark arc broke the surface of the greyness in front of us. It was one of those occasions when you think did I see it or didn’t I?  A little concentration on the same patch of water saw another fin break the surface and then another. All together we counted five Harbour Porpoise one of which was a smaller young animal; always nice to see.

You may already be aware I have started a Norfolk Cetacean Website at  ; what you may not be aware is that you can register to receive e-mails to update you on recent sightings and if you’re into social networking you can receive Tweets for sightings too! All this however depends on people submitting their sightings … so if you see anything interesting break the surface of the sea around Norfolk let me know!


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Jun 2023


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