A COMMON dolphin causing a splash among nature lovers after being spotted making its way up the River Wear.

When first seen there were concerns for its welfare, but staff at the Durham Wildlife Trust (DWT) say it appears to be in good health and has not displayed any signs of distress.

The marine mammal was first spotted at Whitburn on Sunday, followed by at the Stadium of Light on Monday and near the Glass Centre on Tuesday.

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It was brought to the attention of the Trust via social media by local birder Mark Newsome @whitburnbirds.

DWT marine biologist Emily Cunningham said; "It is rare to see a common dolphin so far upstream, they are normally found further offshore, though we've had reports of bottlenose dolphins heading up the Wear in the past - probably in search of migrating salmon or sea trout.”

“Whilst we don't currently believe that this animal is in distress, we are keeping an ear out, so please do let us know of any further sightings.

"It's important not to approach, feed or get in the water with the dolphin - to do so is a prosecutable offence and would cause significant stress to this wild animal.

"If you see any signs of distress (swimming in circles, listing to one side, floating listlessly or stranded on the riverbank), please notify the British Divers Marine Life Rescue immediately on 01825 765546.”

She added: "Common dolphins are one of many marine mammal species that can be spotted off our coastline, though it's extremely rare to see one so far upstream.

"It's been a great month for dolphin sightings off our coastline - with bottlenose dolphins spotted feeding off Hendon and again at Seaham harbour in December.

"The best way to spot dolphins is to get yourself up to a good viewpoint, such as a clifftop or harbour wall, on a calm day, scan the waves with your naked eye and keep binoculars to hand in case you spot a splash that needs further investigating."

Anyone who spots the dolphin in the River Wear is urged to contact the DWT on 0191-584 3112.