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Dolphin comes up for air near Westminster Bridge

03 March, 2017

The dolphin spotted in the Thames this week. Picture: @thamesribexp

CLEOPATRA, in the Shakespeare tragedy, described the “delights” of her fallen general Antony as “dolphin-like”.

“They showed his back above the element they lived in,” she said.

There is certainly something majestic in watching these curious and charismatic creatures arc up above the water.

So Diary was delighted to see a dolphin frolicking about in the Thames near Westminster Bridge on Monday morning.

A rare sight, according to the Zoological Society of London, which logs reports of sightings in its Thames Marine Mammal Survey. It makes interesting reading with an array of harbour seals, grey seals, harbour porpoises, dolphins and whales making appearances since 2004.

This year 18 harbour seals have been spotted, 28 grey seals – the most common mammal swimming in the Thames – and two harbour porpoises. Monday was the year’s first dolphin.

Just last week spotter Tony Furnell reported a porpoise 20 metres from the Bateaux boarding pier by Embankment railway bridge.

He reported: “Fin and back of porpoise popped out of water for a brief second, then again around 15 seconds later. This may have been a second creature, but I’m not skilled enough to spot distinguishing features… Second breach also seen by my wife, so I can confirm it wasn’t a mistaken sighting.”

Maria Purzer spotted a grey seal swimming past Westminster Pier, reporting how it “dove when a boat approached”.

A dark-coloured seal was spotted near Albert Bridge by James Loxley “bobbing its head up and appeared to be eating something”.

Another seal was spotted by Mark Duffy a week earlier, only to disappear again. “I went to change the lens on my camera to zoom in but he had gone,” he reported.

But sightings on the Thames are not always so jolly, it seems. The other porpoise – spotted this year was near Canvey Island – was not such a pretty sight.

The description, from spotter Tristan Simpson, said: “Eyes eaten out, tongue very swollen, no tail, no fin, pretty much all the flippers gone, fairly bloated, eaten on part of the face but otherwise generally intact. It didn’t obviously smell.”

He continued: “Tow­ards the rear was what I speculated at first was remnants of an umbilical cord, dismissed it as I thought it was too much to the side, but didn’t really get down and check, I think maybe that’s what it had to be now.”

ZSL said it had been “collecting public sight­ings of these marine mammals since 2004 and they are frequently sighted all the way up to Richmond”.

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