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Video: Hopes that pod of pilot whales will leave north Norfolk coast safely

PUBLISHED: 09:52 12 November 2014 | UPDATED: 09:52 12 November 2014

The pod of long-finned pilot whales, seen off Salthouse. Photo: Steve & Sue Gantlett/www.birdingworld.co.uk

The pod of long-finned pilot whales, seen off Salthouse. Photo: Steve & Sue Gantlett/www.birdingworld.co.uk

Steve Gantlett

Wildlife lovers are crossing their fingers that a pod of up to 28 long-finned pilot whales seen off north Norfolk will not become stranded.

The pod of long-finned pilot whales. Photo: Steve & Sue Gantlett/www.birdingworld.co.ukThe pod of long-finned pilot whales. Photo: Steve & Sue Gantlett/www.birdingworld.co.uk

The sighting is the first live record of the species in Norfolk, according to Carl Chapman, the county’s cetacean recorder.

But, though delighted to see them, Mr Chapman said he had breathed a “huge sigh of relief” when the pod headed east on Monday evening.

Pilot whales are deep-water creatures and the rare sighting, between Cley and Sheringham, sparked fears that they could get into difficulties.

“They have a history of strandings and my heart was in my mouth. They were horribly close to the beach – only about 800m out from Weybourne at one point,” he added.

The pod, including three calves, was first spotted shortly before noon on Monday by Sue Gantlett, from Cley, who was watching the coast with her husband, Steve.

He alerted Mr Chapman who saw them off Weybourne at about 1pm.

“They were doing a lot of spy hopping [sticking their heads out of the water to look around]. It was heart-stopping. I really wanted them to go back out to sea.”

At dusk the slow-moving pod had reached Sheringham and were heading east as darkness fell. There were no sightings of them yesterday.

“It was lovely to see them and it was lovely to see them go,” said Mr Chapman who added that he had no idea what had brought the pilot whales to Norfolk.

National Trust rangers checked the trust coastline yesterday 
morning and were relieved not to find any strandings, said Victoria Egan, the trust’s north Norfolk coast countryside manager.

They had alerted relevant expert bodies, including the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme and RSPCA, in case there were any problems.

The latest sightings followed those of a humpback and a minke whale seen off Norfolk this month.

“This maybe is a positive reflection on the health of the seas off Norfolk at the moment,” Mrs Egan added.

Have you seen whales off the Norfolk coast this month? If so, please contact alex.hurrell@archant.co.uk

• Have you seen whales off the Norfolk coast this month? Please contact alex.hurrell@archant.co.uk

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