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Cetacean watch at Dungeness

Sunday, 09 September 2012 10:48

Last Saturday saw me down at Dungeness reasonably early taking a couple of hours out to look for marine mammals as I'd missed out on the National Whale and Dolphin Watch weekend over the 27th – 29th July. So I'd decided to complete my watch as a Kent Mammal Group activity. It was a shame that no one else managed to make it as I spent the two hours alone, enjoying an exciting cetacean and seabird spectacle.

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The watch started off well with 3 harbour porpoise being seen within 5 minutes of arriving, 2 of the animals were within 800 metres offshore and one could be seen with the naked eye. There was an obvious trickle of terns, common, arctic and sandwich moving west in the strong south westerly wind which was whipping the sea into a state 4/5. With lots of white water visible and troughs of up to 2 metres, this was hardly good conditions for trying to see the smallest cetacean in European waters being between 4.5-5.5 feet in length but at least it wasn't raining.

Other notable birds included 2 black terns an arctic skua and an adult little gull still with a black head. Around 2km's offshore a building, wheeling group of gannets had started to form and plunge dive, always an impressive sight and an indication of food below the waves which may also be attractive to cetaceans. Sure enough 3 harbour porpoises were there surging through the waves obviously feeding and chasing prey. At times the porpoise would be on the front side of a wave trough and you could see the whole animal just under the surface. In total I managed to see 10 harbour porpoise and a very close grey seal in an enjoyable two hours.



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