A pod of about 50 pilot whales that started heading to shore and a possible stranding on Whangarei's coast were escorted by whale rescuers out to sea yesterday.

Marine mammal expert Ingrid Visser was checking to see whether the pod were the same whales that stranded in Doubtless Bay in August.

Dr Visser said a call came from a fishing charter boat about 8.30am yesterday that a large pod of pilot whales was heading towards the shore between Tutukaka and the Poor Knights Islands.