Beachgoers close to the Rodanthe Pier got a bit of a surprise on Wednesday when a barely offshore whale popped out of the water and put on quite a show.
The display was caught on video by Haley Shirk, who was visiting Hatteras Island for the first time, and the footage has been making waves on social media since Wednesday afternoon.
A whale sighting on the islands 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.
However, the timing of the visit on May 2 is a little unusual, as the whales are generally out of the Outer Banks region by the time spring rolls around.
“[In the winter], 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,” said Cape Hatteras National Seashore Biotech Paul Doshkov in an earlier interview.
“We see them in January and February,” said Doshkov, “[but] when we start getting into the spring months, they’re pretty much gone by then.”
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,” said Doshkov.
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.
A number of whale sightings were reported over the past winter, from November until February, close to fishing piers throughout the Outer Banks. But the somewhat rare appearance of this spring visitor was certainly a surprise for anyone lucky enough to catch the show.