A whale was spotted hanging around the Avon
Fishing Pier on a sunny Monday afternoon, surprising anglers who were
already enjoying great weather and plenty of catches.
“It was hanging around the pier for a while – it
moved a little ways down, and then it came back again,” said a staff
member at the pier.
The sighting is not as unusual as it initially
seems, as whales – and particularly juvenile humpback whales – tend to
make appearances along the Outer Banks in the winter months.
“It’s a tad early, but it is common for this time
of year,” says Cape Hatteras National Seashore Bitotech Paul Doshkov.
“The whales are basically on their way to the breeding grounds to the
south. They are coming down from the northeast and Canada, and are
feeding their way down the coast.”
“Every fishing pier reports them once in a whale
[in the winter], and some of our technicians saw them a couple weeks
ago, as early as the start of November.”
Folks who want to increase their chances of
spotting a whale over the winter months will want to look for feeding
activity in the ocean waters.
Humpback whales tend to follow the food, and may
be spotted roughly 100-200 yards out into the ocean alongside
bottlenose dolphins and shorebirds. “It’s not unusual to see a lot of
lifeforms feeding in the same spot,” says Doshkov.
“The whales you see are most likely humpback
whales,” he adds. “The rest of the whales are pelagic species, so they
hang out farther offshore.”
The whales spotted along the Ocracoke and
Hatteras island beaches are typically juvenile humpbacks, and measure
about 30 feet long. Adults clock in at around 50 feet long or less.
These passing whales may be frequent visitors
over the next several months, but they likely won’t stick around for
too long. “We still see them in January and February,” says Doshkov.
“When we start getting into the spring months, they’re pretty much gone