Video shows possible pilot whales at Welchs Point in Milford

(Video courtesy of Sandy Oku/Michael Occhineri)

Video of what appears to be a whale has garnered considerable attention on the Facebook page “You Know You Live in Milford, Ct. If … .”

Michael Occhineri, a local fisherman, shot the video while out fishing early in the morning with a friend Monday, Nov. 19, off of Welchs Point in Milford. They were aboard a 20-foot Florida flats boat when they spotted several large creatures swimming in the water in the distance, according to Occhineri’s wife, Sandy Oku. At one point, two of what may have been whales surfaced enough for Occhineri and his friend to get a look at them, then Occhineri started recording video.

What he captured was one of the whales, about seven or eight feet long, swimming slowly toward his boat, and then turning and swimming away.

Oku later posted her husband’s video on the Milford Facebook page, and she got lots of responses to her question about what the creature might be.

“A pilot whale,” Don Basher responded. “I was a commercial fisherman and lobstered the Sound, they come into the Sound every now and then.”

“That’s a pilot whale. I’d be willing to put all my money on it,” Greg Thornhill agreed. “They are in the same scientific family classification as a dolphin and an orca. They are smaller than an orca, closer in size to a dolphin, usually bigger. All black. This animal has the dorsal fin and blow hole in this video.”

“This is certainly no seal or sea lion or shark,” Drew Dunes posted. “It’s clearly a mammal with a blowhole, but definitely not a dolphin or porpoise. It’s most definitely a small or young whale, and very likely a pilot whale.”

Dave Sigworth, spokesman for the Maritime Aquarium, looked at the video, as did others at the aquarium, and speculated that it is a long-finned pilot whale.

“It’s a shaky video so no guarantee, but consensus seems to be a pilot whale, which is a very rare guest in the Sound,” said Sigworth. “Rare as in ... we can’t quickly say even when the last sighting was.

“It’s clearly a cetacean of some kind,” Sigworth added. “Pilot whale or not, whatever it is, its presence is perhaps — stressing perhaps — yet another indication that the Sound is getting healthier and full of baitfish that will attract rare larger species — like the humpback whale sightings in 2015, ‘16 and ‘17.”

Long-finned pilot whales grow to 15 to 20 feet long, “so that would make this one in the video a juvenile,” Sigworth said, “which then that would make sense that there were others.”  

In 2015, Bobby J’s Bait and Tackle in Milford posted a Youtube video on its Facebook page that a customer, Mark Tutino, sent in showing a whale breaching in Milford waters on a Sunday evening in August.
Tutino and his friend John Horvack spotted the whale between Welchs Point and Charles Island. They were out fishing for blues and were coming back from the Stratford area, heading toward the Bayview Beach area, when they saw mist from the blowhole, and then the whale breached.

Experts at the  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration identified it as a humpback whale.

Sandy Oku isn’t sure that the whales her husband saw are pilot whales. Since he’s an avid fisherman, when her husband got home he researched whales, Oku said, adding that her husband thought the one that swam up to his boat was either a short-finned pilot whale or a young sperm whale.

She sent her video to Mystic Aquarium and said she will post the findings on the Facebook page when she hears back.

Oku said her husband has seen many interesting creatures while out fishing locally — sharks, seals — but this is the first time he’s captured them on video.