Humpback Whale body language is important to observe and today we had a wonderful opportunity to witness a variety of different Humpback Whale body language from both adults and a beautiful calf. A magic day with clear skies, calm ocean and a warm breeze as we cruised out to the sighting grounds and breaching lit up the horizon. Arriving we watched as a large ship moved past and it appeared that the ship had caused the surface activity with two large adults surfacing a few hundred meters to its stern. The whales were relaxed and focused, moving efficiently through the sighting grounds and towards further pods just up ahead. It was a special opportunity to observe the body language of migrating whales with the steady rhythm and symmetry of individuals having already travelled thousands of kilometres this season. A young calf must have just completed his feed of milk as shortly after arriving in a suitable resting area with the adults, a Humpback calf launched skywards excitedly as the energy and body language changed once again.
Approaching we could sight two important things, this calf was healthy and extremely excited to be practicing the Language of the Whales! Secondly, mother Humpback still had a large amount of algae diatoms on the underside of her fluke. This yellowish tinge is typical of whales freshly migrating up from Antarctica as they begin to shed layers of skin as they move north into warmer waters and increase blood flow to the skins surface speeds up this process. The female Humpback today was still carrying a large amount of these diatoms which can indicate she may not have ventured all that far north this season to raise her calf. The tactic seemed to have proved successful as both mother and calf were in good health with a nice amount of weight on both individuals. The calf was gorgeous and with eyes wide open, looked directly back towards us after every breach and head lunge on a beautiful day for play and practice.
Our adults were now changing their body language as we moved past the male Humpback in this escort pod he began to defend and show off to his female with powerful peduncle slapping and fluke slapping repeatedly. It became very interesting when the female began to flirt with us during this time, directing some lovely big pec slaps our way and this only encouraged the male to continue on with his tail slapping. He seemed rather happy with himself as we departed, happy to know that although his female took some interest in us she still swam away with him.
Our last wonderful encounter for the morning was with our local Bottlenose Dolphins and we sighted the news addition to this lovely family, a brand new calf with foetal folds! Another very interesting observation was one of the adults also travelling close to this new calf had a fresh shark bite wound to their flank and thankfully this dolphin had survived the attack. It appears that the wound of this bite is of a similar age to the calf, perhaps a situation of protection with this individual protecting mother and calf from a shark that may have been attracted to the newborn either around or after the birthing event. Sharks will predate on young calves and this bite looks like that of a Bronze Whaler who are known to frequent the same areas our dolphins live and hunt in.