Humpback whale makes a splash in the Forth!

A huge humpback whale has become a BIG attraction for nature lovers in the Forth.

Tuesday, 9th January 2018, 1:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th January 2018, 1:04 pm
The humpback whale in the Forth. Pic by Walk Highlands And Islands Ltd.

The massive mammal was first spotted by a bird watcher with binoculars off Inchkeith Island on January 4 who reported the sighting on social media.

From there the whale, believed to be a male, has become a bit of a celebrity, attracting photographers and other wildlife enthusiasts the length of the coast from Kinghorn to Inchcolm.

So much so that they caused traffic chaos at the layby on the back road to Aberdour outside Burntisland at the weekend, with cars parked along a large section of the road.

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Last year's visitor was much more active. Pic by Bruce Meldrum

Burntisland resident Bruce Meldrum (58), a keen amateur photographer, has been keeping track of the whale for the past week.

“This is the second year we have had a humpback in the Forth at this time of year, but, as yet, we are not sure if it is the same one as last year or not.

“You can tell a humpback by its tail which is like its fingerprint, so we are looking for photographs from last year to compare them, but we think it could be the same one. We also think this is a male whale because the females tend to be more intelligent and head for warmer climes.

“We get minky whales fairly regularly in the Forth, but it is rarer to see humpbacked whales. I’ve lived in Burntisland all my life, and I’ve only seen a few.”

The whale off Inchkeith Island. Pic by Bruce Meldrum

Bruce said it is thought that a more abundant supply of herring, which is not being fished as much as before, could have led to the whale coming into the Forth.

“Last year when the oil rig was there the herring were causing problems around it and the theory is that it could be chasing the herring,” he said.

And the unusual visitor has caused quite a stir locally.

“I’m a member of a wildlife photography group and in the past two days the whale has led to the membership of the group going up by over 80, to over 400,” he explained.

Last year's visitor was much more active. Pic by Bruce Meldrum

“There were around 60-70 people out at Pettycur on Sunday, and the amount of cars stopped on the Aberdour Road was quite dangerous. They were also whale spotting from the Edinburgh side.

“It seems to be quite lazy and isn’t breaching like it did last year. It also doesn’t seem to be diving very deep, so there may be a lot of food to keep it going.”

Stephen Marsh, operations manager with the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, said: “Five or six years ago there were probably about five sightings of humpbacks around the UK, but last year we had 40, so we are not surprised to see them back.

“This is mainly due to a recovering population of humpbacks. In the past they were heavily hunted but thankfully nobody is hunting them now. There is also more of their favourite food herring around closer to our shores and that is attracting them in.

The whale off Inchkeith Island. Pic by Bruce Meldrum

“We would advise that nobody gets too close to these whales as they can often breach which is very dangerous to anyone near them.

“We are keeping an eye on this one, but it seems to be doing away quite happily and we wouldn’t get involved unless it was in any danger such as getting caught up in lines.”