Beluga whales have been spotted and filmed in the North Sea off the Northumberland coast – more than 2000 miles from their normal home.
The Arctic whales were spotted in the sea off the coast of Warkworth beach on Monday by tourist Steve Powis.
He said he watched the animals from the coastline for an hour and he knew they were “quite obviously” belugas when he saw their distinctive white colouring and bulbous head.
Kathy James, sightings officer for Sea Watch Foundation, said it was a “surprise” to hear of the sightings.
Belugas are normally found at least 2,000 miles to the north, either around Greenland or in the Barents Sea.
In July, a beluga whale was sighted off the County Antrim coast near Dunseverick.
In 30 years there have only been 17 records of belugas in Britain and Ireland, the Sea Watch Foundation said.
The latest whales were reported to Sea Watch Foundation by two members of the public.
On Sunday, lucky observer, Sam Newman, spotted an unmistakable white whale from the sweeping beach at Warkworth.
The following day holiday-maker Mr Powis saw two white animals out to sea from the beach and also reported his sighting to the Sea Watch website.
Mr Powis said: “As I walked down to the beach, somebody told me that a ‘white whale had been spotted out there’.
“I was a bit sceptical and laughed it off as I rounded the corner to the beach and saw a small white boat anchored offshore, so I discounted it altogether.
“Moments later though, I saw what was clearly a white whale in the sea, and realised that this was the whale I’d been told about!”
“I’ve never seen whales before – except on TV – but this was quite obviously a Beluga! In fact, there were two!
“They were white, had a bulbous head and no dorsal fin. I saw one about 100-150 metres out and the second one showed itself a distance beyond that.
“My wife and I watched the nearest one for an hour, as it repeatedly went under and re-surfaced along this small stretch of coastline.”
Dr Peter Evans, Director of the Sea Watch Foundation, said: “These are not the first Arctic species to occur in Britain this year.
Back in February, the first European sighting of a bowhead whale was captured on a smart phone in the Isles of Scilly.
In that instance it was thought that the fragmentation of floating ice may have resulted in whales typically associated with pack ice, straying much further south.
Whether the same has occurred in the case of these belugas is not clear, but sea temperatures have been unusually low this summer.”
Dr Evans said: “Sea surface temperatures in the northeastern North Atlantic – between the British Isles and Iceland – in May have averaged more than one degree C lower than the average for the same period over the past twelve years.
He added: “Although the overall trend in average annual sea surface temperatures in UK coastal waters has been upwards since the 1980s increasing by 0.2-0.8oC per decade, the increase has been much greater in the southern North Sea than off NW Britain and Northern Ireland where there has actually been very little change.
“Some years have actually seen a temporary fall in temperature in northern Britain, possibly due to more unstable weather patterns in the Atlantic.
“This year seems to be such a case.
“This may in part explain why Arctic species like beluga and bowhead have turned up in our coastal waters during 2015.
“Belugas do occasionally come south from the Barents Sea along the west coast of Norway, but it is very rare for them to travel as far south as NE England.”