Time to head south
September 2006: My! how youngster (grey, top) has grown in the past two and half months.
The last pair of this year's Right Whales at Basham's Beach. Very soon now, perhaps within a few days, Mum will decide that youngster is strong enough to begin the long trip down to the Antarctic for the summer. (Distance about 200m; 60% crop).
Middleton and Basham's Beach
Looking from Middleton towards Basham's Beach and the waters where whales come each southern winter (June - August) for birthing of calves.
Nearly close enough to touch
A mother whale with a calf (see next) very close to spectators, who come in numbers and are always fascinated by the spectacle.
A mother whale, and her calf born very recently. Calves are 4-5m long at birth and weigh about 1 tonne. They stay very close to their mothers at first, suckling frequently. Daily they consume about 120 litres of rich milk each day containing about 40% fat, and add about 90 kg weight. They need to grow to about 8m length and about 10 tonnes weight before they start on the long journey back to Antarctica.
don't get too close to the edge!
The proximity of the whales was just too tempting for these youngsters who wanted to get as close as possible, but were called back by anxious parents - just in time!
Two mothers, discussing the kids?
These two females came together for a time, no doubt for some adult company and respite from the attention of the youngsters - who at this time were preoccupied with two dolphins that came leaping through the surf and took an interest in the young whales.
Young of another species enjoy the surf nearby
Not far from where we were watching the whales, the young of another species also were frolicking in the surf.
The eyes of Southern Rights are set low down for viewing around and below in the water. When they want to look about above the surface they can raise their heads in the manner seen here. The white blazes on the skin, called "callosities", are present from birth and their pattern uniquely identifies each individual.
Whales exhale from blowholes on the top of the head, often with such force that the booming sound can be heard right across the bay. Southern Rights have two blowholes which gives rise to the distinctive "V" shape of the steamy spume blown directly from the lungs.
Mother and young
Southern Right whales are usually black. Calves, such as the one seen here closely following its mother are born with lighter colour, occasionally white, and darken through grey and brown until finally black.
Wallowing in the swell
It was noticeable that the adult females mostly aligned themselves broadside to the swell, which was obviously a more relaxing position for riding the incoming waves.
A wave farewell?
Southern Rights are the only whales that do not have a dorsal fin (on the back). A tail fluke raised here is seen during a very languid roll, possibly to allow the calf to suckle - or was it a farewell wave to us?
I hope you enjoyed this series. My hope is that by next year I will have a longer lens!