Norfolk Biodiversity

Norfolk’s having a ‘whale’ of a time!

This month has been an amazing one for whales off the Norfolk coast, with sightings of various species, but of great significance, the long-finned pilot whales and humpback whales both within the last week!

Long-Finned Pilot Whales

Long-finned Pilot Whales (Credited to The Telegraph)

Long-finned Pilot Whales (Credited to The Telegraph)

On Monday (10th), reports came in that a pod of approx. 20 long-finned pilot whales had been spotted near Cley next the Sea, confirmed by the cetaceans (e.g. whales, dolphins) recorder for Norfolk, Carl Chapman. This was the first confirmed live sighting ever near the coasts of Norfolk. However, these are deep-seawater creatures, so excitement soon turned to fears over a stranding happening before their very eyes.

“They were horribly close to the beach – only about 800m out from Weybourne at one point” (Carl Chapman, speaking to EDP).

They were doing a lot of spy hopping to get a better view of the area, the seas aren’t as blue here as the one in the photograph above. But, by dusk, after reaching Sheringham, the whales began to head east to the relief of many onlookers and by morning they had vanished, just like that, without a single stranding in sight. However Carl,  nor anyone else, is any the wiser to what had drawn them to Norfolk. I guess its just a good holiday destination, land or sea. Although, I think I will leave the sea to the whales, until it is as blue as above.

Pilot Whale Size

Pilot Whale = Approx. 5 people

Pilot Whale Distribution (Credited to Wikipedia)

Pilot Whale Distribution (blue) (Credited to Wikipedia)






The Humpback returns

A Humpback dive-bomb (Credited to Wikipedia).

A Humpback dive-bomb (Credited to Wikipedia).

Last year was the first written record of a Humpback whale off our coast and this year became the second! One was spotted off the coast at Mundesly a week ago and on Sunday it was spotted approx. 2km out from Sea Palling. This one measured between 10 and 15 metres long (the size of a school bus!) and resembled the features of last years majestic visitor, probably the same. Mr Chapman was confident that this could become an annual event. Let’s hope he’s right!

Humpback Whale Size

Humpback Whale = Too many to count

Humpback Whale Distribution (Credited to Wikipedia)

Humpback Whale Distribution (blue) (Credited to Wikipedia)







These beautiful creatures set off on long seasonal migrations, travelling up to 5000km, barely resting a moment. They migrate down to warmer waters for the winter, although this wasn’t a usual feeding ground until now. They are well-known for their magical songs and their absolutely splashing leaps. Funnily enough, scientists are still trying to decipher what these mean, so for now just sit back, relax and listen to the latest version of the Whale-Factor.

“It breached earlier – came out of the water. It was spectacular” (Mr Chapman, speaking to the BBC).

Keeping our eyes peeled for whales

We expect and hope that they will be back again and when they are, how do we keep in the loop?

Well, a good place to start is Norfolk Cetaceans blog which is run by Carl Chapman and reports the most recent sightings, or the Sea Watch Foundation website which aims to conserve cetaceans on a national scale. On there, they have sighting information and ways to become an observer, which you’ll notice for East Anglia, Mr Chapman is the person to speak to.

Alternatively, on the off chance that you happen to notice unusual splashing in the distance or a interesting amount of bird activity out to sea, the Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership have a handy identification booklet here which also includes a simple survey card to help us understand their movements.

And if you ever find yourself in charge of a boat, at sea, surrounded by whales, as we all do (or dream about), please keep the whales welfare as a priority and follow the rules. Until next time …

"So long and thanks for all the fish" (Credited to Wildlife Tours and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy).

“So long and thanks for all the fish” (Credited to Wildlife Tours and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy).


About Matt Thorne

Works in Environment, Transport and Development at Norfolk County Council

2 comments on “Norfolk’s having a ‘whale’ of a time!

  1. Derek Hermiston
    November 15, 2014

    Most interesting, thank you, and keep the information coming. All sounds very hopeful for the environment. Veronica and Grandad x


  2. Dionysus Amber
    November 16, 2014

    Reblogged this on Orca Freedom Fighters.


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This entry was posted on November 12, 2014 by in Cetaceans, NBIS, NBP and tagged , , , .

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