We had a chat with Carl Chapman our Regional Coordinator for Norfolk. We have asked him to tell us a bit about himself and to let us know about the many great sightings he has reported to us since this season has started. Here is his story!
When I set up my Wildlife Tour Business in Norfolk during 2008 sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises were far from the front of my mind. I’m a qualified ornithologist. Norfolk is full of birds but is hardly a hotbed for cetaceans. However, on my very first tour one of my guests pointed out to sea and said, “What’s that?” The grey back and dorsal fin of an animal surfaced and was gone as soon as it was there … I hadn’t got a clue what it was. I decided to spend some time with Sea Watch Foundation in Wales on an ID and recording course. I now know that cetacean on my very first tour was a Minke Whale.
As my association with Sea Watch grew I was asked to be Regional Coordinator. As my love of cetaceans grew it brought me into contact with other wildlife recorders within the county. Fortune came my way when I was asked to be Norfolk’s county cetacean recorder. This led to me being asked to be on council for the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists’ Society (NNNS). The NNNS is one of the oldest natural history groups within the country and is a society I now chair.
With my business based in Norfolk cetaceans don’t often play a huge role in the day to day sightings. Harbour Porpoise is without the local mainstay of sightings but occasionally something different comes along in the form of a stranding or sighting. However, each month I organise a tour away from Norfolk for my customers; a weekend, a week or maybe even longer. This is the opportunity to visit Cornwall, The Isles of Scilly, Northumberland, Scotland, Mull and the Western Isles among others. All have cetaceans offshore.
In my most recent UK Mammal Tour in May 2018 we visited the Bottlenose Dolphins in the Moray Firth, saw Risso’s Dolphins off John O’Groats and were surrounded by Common Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises off Mull.
Seven Minke Whales put in an appearance in the waters around the Cairns of Coll which together with Badgers, Pine Martens, Red Squirrels and Otters was an appealing haul. We even managed to spend some time with the widely travelled Walrus which had been seen around Scotland in the spring.
That was probably the least expected of the 23 species of mammal we encountered. We narrowly missed seeing Orca this year. Maybe on the 2019 tour we’ll connect.
For me it’s mostly about the people I take on tours. Seeing their faces light up when surrounded by bow-riding Common Dolphins is just the best feeling in the world. Everybody loves Common Dolphins.
The waters around the UK hold a wealth of wildlife. All you have to do is turn up, look … and be patient.