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A rare beluga whale has been spotted swimming in the River Thames hundreds of miles from their normal waters.

Ecologist Dave Andrews posted footage online showing the huge creature popping in and out of the river near the Thames Barrier, reports our sister website Essex Live's James Gregory.

He spotted the Arctic and subarctic whale hunting for food off Coalhouse Fort in East Tilbury.

Mr Andrews posted on Twitter that he has been watching the whale from the spot for several hours.

The rare Beluga whale usually swims in Arctic and subarctic waters

However, as the whale is known to swim in Arctic and subarctic waters, marine experts have expressed concerns for for its welfare. Members of the public have been urged to stay away from the whale.

The RSPCA has said it will be sending an officer to look into the matter.

Mr Andrews tweeted: "Can't believe I'm writing this, no joke - BELUGA in the Thames off Coalhouse Fort.

"For anyone twitching the #BELUGA its been feeding around the barges (see last tweet for location) for the last hour and hasn't moved more than 200m in either direction. Still present."

Beluga whales are commonly found in the Arctic Ocean, where they feed on fish and crustaceans. They have been known to migrate south to warmer waters in search of food.

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'Amazing'

Bird watcher and mammal watcher John Wright said: “It is absolutely amazing.

“Belugas have turned up in Britain before but in historic times.

“They have been seen off the coast of the Shetlands before but it is a rare occupancy.

“I have seen people I have known from Cambridge, Bedfordshire and north Essex - people have come a long way to see this.”

Lots of very excited people

What do people watching have to say?

“I’ve been here for about 2 hours,” says Richard Stanley from Pitsea.

“I’ve been in this spot for three quarters of an hour.

“It’s the first time I have spotted it.

“I just do bird watching normally but as it’s here now I came down.”

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WHALE SPOTTED

James says he’s seen the whale and that it popped out only for a second.

James' current view of the Thames

James' current view of the Thames
James' current view of the Thames

Reporter James is on a mission to find the whale

He tells us he’s ventured further out down the coast to see if he can spot it

The whale as seen from above

The whale spotted from above
The whale spotted from above (Image: BBC News/PA Wire)

Ranger's perspective

When asked if there were more people here than usual, Ray Reeves, ranger at Coalhouse Fort, said: “Yeah, there’s been loads looking for a whale.

“A couple of people have said they have seen it but they had giant scopes.

“I have been standing here for half an hour and haven’t spotted it.

“We have had pilot whales here before and a dead one that washed up on the beach. We’ve never had a beluga whale- they are quite rare especially in this area.”

Throwback to 2006

Conversationalists warn the whale could be in trouble

Lots of jokes being made online about the Loch Ness Monster

Beluga whales

Sometimes referred to as white whales, they’re usually found in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters. So if this is a Beluga, it’s very far away from home.

Feeding around the barges

Helicopters circling above

RSCPA investigating

“We’re getting an officer down there to investigate whether it is a Beluga whale,” a spokeswoman for the organisation told The Independent.

The binoculars are out

This is the adult version of a dog being in the playground

Reporter headed to the scene

James Gregory will be providing updates live.