Sunday, 10 January 2010

Large, lost and on the beach

Brown Hare tracks in the snow, Harray

Having spent most of the morning doing other things and then eating lunch in the garden, its tropical here at the moment, honest, it was late afternoon before we got down to Marwick Bay and the cetacean.

The beast proved to be a Long-finned Pilot Whale as was correctly suggested on Orkbird yesterday. I now understand why they are called "long-finned" as the flippers are extraordinarily long. I came away with the impression that it was a male based on the shape of the dorsal fin shape but as the photos just about show it has female genitalia - a single long opening (males have two shorter openings) and one or maybe two mammary glands are visible - thanks to SS for putting me right on this (orkbird posting).

The teeth aid seperation from Risso's dolphin a possible confusion species, Risso's usually only has teeth in the lower jaw and only three to seven on each side at that.

I'd much rather see a live one but this has been interesting, I hadn't thought to look for the genitalia to determine sex as I didn't know there were clear external differences and I hadn't thought that Risso's might be a confusion species, apparently some Risso's can look very dark. Cetacean's are pretty tricky to ID in the field, at least this one stayed still and I could see all of it. The only time I've seen live Long-finned Pilot Whales (and managed to know what they were, with some help) was a pod off the back of The Scillonian when I'd gone to see Wilson's Petrel and I haven't seen a dead one before. Hopefully this one will have a secondary role now and bring in a nice Ivory Gull to tidy it away before the next storm carries it off the beach.

Not much else to report, no bird species were added to the year list today.

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