Published: 12 March 2017
Early on Sunday morning two visitors to the reserve were surprised to see a large dark shape in the water between the South Fort and the main headland. After close inspection it turned out to be a whale. It was later identified as the humpback whale that had been seen at Slapton Sands over the last three weeks. The humpback whale was showing nicely with fluke, blows and even a breach.
After an hour and a half the whale moved on into the bay and was seen at various points between Elbury through to Corbyn Head. It was last seen tail slapping off Oyster Cove as night fell.
The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) will probably have journeyed from the breeding grounds off the west coast of Africa and would normally head up towards Norway via the west coast of Ireland and then Scotland. Thought to be an adololescent male due to size and that it is the males that are expected to be this far north at this time of year. Females, especially those with calves will wait for the water to warm further.
Whilst this is a fantastic opportunity to see such a stunning creature that would otherwise be a mystery to most of us it is recommended to view this beautiful animal from the shore. This will help prevent any risk of disturbing or potentially injuring the animal from the use of marine craft. It should be noted that under uk law, it is an offence to intentionally kill or injure cetaceans. It is also an offence to disturb cetaceans. To do so intentionally or recklessly may result in a prison sentence. Sea Watch Foundation have produced a marine code of conduct for cetacen watching http://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/marine-code-of-conduct/
More information on this and other cetacean species http://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/species-identification/
Berry Head National Nature Reserve is one of the best places in the country to carry out land based observations of cetaceans and each year we take part in the National Whale and Dolphin Watch Week in conjunction with Sea Watch Foundation. You can come, volunteer and help us to scan the seas for these elusive creatures. We will provide all the training and equipment necessary all you need is a couple of spare hours. NWDWW '17 takes places from 29th July to the 4th Aug. If you are interested in becoming a Watch Volunteer please contact the reserve office on 01803 882619 or e-mail [email protected]
All images used courtesy of S. Murphy