Humpback whale 'returns' to Norfolk coast

Humpback whale off Norfolk coast Image copyright Carl Chapman
Image caption Norfolk cetacean recorder Carl Chapman said he could not get close enough to confirm whether it was the same whale

A humpback whale, thought to be a returning visitor for the third year, has appeared off Norfolk's coast.

Several whale watchers have reported spotting the mammal in waters about 2.5 miles (4km) off Winterton.

It was accompanied by gannets that were feeding on herrings, the same food source as the whale.

Norfolk cetacean recorder Carl Chapman was unable to get close enough to confirm whether it was the same whale that was seen over the past two years.

Mr Chapman said he was "ecstatic" to see the whale off the Norfolk coast.

"I watched if for about one-and-a-half hours," he said.

Image copyright Michael J Tetley
Image caption Humpback sightings in the North Sea are rare, according to charity ORCA

"I was trying to identify it from the undertail pattern, which is unique to each whale, but it never came close enough to do that.

"However, because it's turned up at the same time as it has done in the two previous consecutive years, it's probably the same returning individual making use of the same food source."

Lucy Babey, from charity ORCA, said the whale had been seen over five to six hours and was fluking - lifting its tail out of the water - regularly.

Humpback whales are seen more often on the European side of the North Sea, rather than on the UK side, she said.

The Sea Watch Foundation said there had been additional sightings off Sheringham, Hemsby and Horsey Gap, and also reports of minke whales seen from Trimingham, Mundesley and Happisburgh.

Image copyright Theo Merkus
Image caption This sequence of a breaching humpback whale in the North Sea was taken on a ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam in 2013

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