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Thursday, 20 October 2016

Gun Hill, Burnham Overy Dunes, The Fin Whale & An Evening Of Media Frenzie!!!

F I N  W H A L E
Sadly washed up dead at Holkham Beach, Norfolk

I spent hours searching Gun Hill and Burnham Overy Dunes for a Siberian Accentor or something rare and got excited when I found a single Wheatear just south of Gun Hill – I tried very hard to turn it into a Isabelline, but sadly it was just a Northern Wheatear. I also found a Lesser Whitethroat which looked interesting, but only managed to get a poor record shot of this bird before it disappeared – this was just east of Gun Hill. There were several Wrens, Hedgesparrows and a few Goldcrests, but little else. An annoying couple followed me all around Gun Hill with their three dogs (off leads) and threw balls in my direction for the dogs to retrieve, I was not happy – they left in the end! A huge flock of Starlings landed in the bushes at the end of the boardwalk and also big numbers of Pink-footed Geese flew over east.
Northern Wheatear at Gun Hill, Burnham Overy Dunes
Should have been an Isabelline Wheatear!

An elusive Lesser White-throat at Gun Hill, Burnham Overy Dunes
and this should have been a Western Orphean Warbler!

As I started to walk back from Gun Hill, I bumped into another birder who told me about a dead Fin Whale that had been washed up on the beach, just east of the end of the boardwalk. I have never seen a Fin Whale, so naturally went off to find it. Walking along the boardwalk to the beach from the end of the sea wall, the whale was on the beach next to the incoming tide, slightly east of here. It was a sad sight indeed. The light was incredible with dark rolling clouds and sunshine – the beach looked almost white. I watched Sanderlings and Turnstones running around the pools, as I made my way across the sands. The Fin Whale was a magnificent sight, but equally very sad to see this beautiful creature lifeless on our shores. Its eye was half closed and I felt like it was aware of my presence – sounds weird, but that's how it felt! It couldn't have been washed up long, as there was very little odour at all and it looked in fairly good condition, aside from a few notches in the skin – that is until I noticed a deep laceration on its back indicating a possible ship strike, as Carl Chapman suggested.

Holkham Beach, Norfolk

Pictures above taken with Canon 7D and 300 f4 lens

Detail of throat grooves

An almost closed eye

laceration to back

 F I N  W H A L E
Holkham Beach, Norfolk
Pictures above taken with Apple iphone 6

Looking towards Scolt Head Island from Holkham

The sun was setting as I took several pictures of this rare cetacean and I headed back across the wet sands, looking back every now and again at the image of this beautiful whale. It was dark when I got back to my car. I had 4G on my phone, so tweeted a picture out of the Fin Whale. Rather than going straight home, I headed to Tesco's to get some much needed shopping. When I returned home and turned on the Mac, I could not believe how many emails I had! I loaded up a video of the Fin Whale on youtube and it all kicked off!
F I N  W H A L E
Holkham Beach, Norfolk


The evening went crazy with the media attention! BBC Look East, Sky News and The Daily Mail all contacted me for pictures and video! I wouldn't have wasted time going to the supermarket had I known all this was going to occur! I also phoned Carl Chapman, who is the Cetaceans Recorder for Norfolk to discuss my pictures with him.

"A fin whale measuring 42ft (13m) that washed up on a Norfolk beach died of starvation linked to a spinal abnormality, experts have said."

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