Adding mammals to the British list is pretty difficult unless it swims or flies, and with a limited pool of candidates in either department the occurrence of a juvenile Bowhead Whale last Friday off St Martin’s, Scilly, must surely go down as one of the most unexpected additions possible!
This Arctic, cold water-loving cetacean is not generally on the radar of the cetacean watcher south of Spitsbergen, but a lucky couple of folk managed to get a few shots of what appears to be a juvenile swimming close inshore at Par Beach. The full story and photos can be read here:
Bowheads are distinctive in lacking a dorsal fin, one of only a few rorquals to do so. North Atlantic Right Whales are superficially very similar, and poor views of Grey Whale (which has now turned up as a vagrant in Israel and Spain-same individual), and even juvenile Humpbacks, can occasionally lead to mis-IDs. Luckily in this case the observers clinched the characteristic pale lower jaw, as well as the distinctive jaw line and apparent ‘neck’ in the photos.
What this animal does next is anyones guess but i’d thoroughly recommend keeping a sharp eye open if you’re anywhere on the west coast. There’s every chance it could turn up in the shallow waters of the Bristol Channel, Cardigan Bay or even amongst the rorquals off south-west Ireland. Look out a V-shaped blow (which can appear as a single column in wind). The whale is reportedly approximately 25ft long. Please report any sightings of it immediately, as it has the potential to be the biggest mammal twitch in British history!