A banner plane pilot, flying over the Jersey Shore, captured a spectacular photo of a humpback whale swimming with a pod of dolphins just off the beach in Cape May County.
It was around noon Tuesday, July 21, the humpback was photographed swimming alongside the dolphins about 50 yards off Stone Harbor’s 96th Street beach. Jeromie Hunter, a pilot with Paramount Air Services, was towing a banner for a local candy shop when he came across the sight, Barbara Tomalino, owner of the aerial advertising firm, told NJ.com.
“He’s from Seattle and he said ‘Wow, I’ve never seen this before. It’s fabulous,'” said Tomalino. “When he gets in today, he’ll be excited telling everyone about it.”
The whale was also spotted navigating along the 101st Street beach before making its way to the southern point of the island.
Wildlife experts said humpbacks often swim near the shore in search of food, primarily comprising Atlantic menhaden. Atlantic menhaden, alternatively called Bunker, is a type of fish belonging to the herring family that have been swarming New Jersey’s waters in huge numbers over the past few years, causing more whale sightings.
A humpback can weigh up to 33 tons with a maximum length of 52 feet. Since early June, a total of three humpbacks have been spotted near the shore, including an adult one which was captured swimming unusually close to shore in Manasquan by a drone image. Just three days earlier, a humpback was spotted in the Shrewsbury River in Monmouth County.
Two groups of fishermen, who reported about a whale sighting off the Jersey Shore early June, had said the mammal emerged all of a sudden from the water and appeared like it would land on them. The whale hit their boat with a loud bang but they managed to make it to the shore unhurt.