Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Unusual whale activity off Sussex and Southern UK

We have received some unusual sightings for the south coast of the UK recently. Firstly, a pilot whale, a species of toothed whale, was stranded on Rustington beach, west Sussex on the 7th September.

In late August a possible Minke whale was reported off Rottingdean. We have not been able to confirm this identification, but it may have been the bottlenose whale currently off Bournemouth. This is a deep water species and not usually found in the English Channel however it is of course the species that became trapped in the River Thames a few years ago in 2006. There was also a bottlenosed whale stranded on the mud flats near Chichester Harbour at the end of July Last Year. Sadly the whale did not survive. The bottlenose whale currently off Bournemouth is being monitored and it is hoped it will head off west and out of the English Channel. This is a deep water species more at home in the open waters of the Atlantic where it feeds on deep water fish and squid.

A humpback whale stranded in the Thames and was found dead near Dartford Bridge Kent on Saturday 10th September. It was first seen alive on Thursday and was originally mistaken for a minke whale. This is also a possible candidate for the cetacean seen at Rottingdean. A few years ago, I am guessing about 2001 (I do not have the data to hand) a juvenile humpback whale stranded and later died on a beach in Kent. This occurred around the time that we had a report of 3 large cetaceans off Hastings (which is to the west of Kent). These were reported as Humpback whales, but unfortunately we could never verify it. However it was a week or so later that the juvenile humpback whale stranded in Kent. We do not have a huge quantity of cetacean sightings in the south compared to some parts of the UK but we do get some unusual/strange sightings from time to time.

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