How Humpback Whales compete was on display today as a competition pod formed off Rottnest Island as a mother and calf kept well clear of the commotion. It was another great day for whale watching in Perth as we arrived in the sighting grounds and watched carefully for our first surfacing. The first pod we interacted with was a mother and her new calf as they enjoyed their time in the sheltered waters off Perth as they meandered through the area. The mother whale is always on the lookout for any dangers such as Orca or sharks but also boisterous male Humpbacks. She must have heard the commotion unfolding further ahead of them as she ensured her calf kept a low profile. Minimising the chance of being heard by the males both mother and calf managed to avoid being detected by the melee just ahead of them.
It was a competition pod starting to form as a female had attracted the attention of a few males who were starting to gather towards her. Once the males have located the female they will chase after her and attempt to get ahead of all the others which leads to some very physical interactions. Pushing, shoving and outmanoeuvring each other is the aim of the game as the boys try to move up the line and be the male closest to the female, this position is known as primary escort. To watch a competition pod as a whale watcher is a very exciting experience as the high energy of the males is contagious and we find ourselves with increased heart rates and adrenaline pumping too.
One of the males could be seen stretching out in a behaviour known as the bullfrog as they fill their throat with water to expand and make themselves look as big and intimidating as possible. It is later in the season to be watching how Humpback Whales compete as many of the females are already pregnant, however many of the girls are still looking for a bodyguard. The males would much prefer to be travelling back to Antarctica with a female companion rather than amongst a bachelor pod so competition amongst the boys is still very high.