Whales, Wildlife & Wilderness                                                                                                                                                 Pam & Wayne Osborn

Humpback Whales - The Calves


Newborn Whale Calf at Ningaloo


It is July at Ningaloo Reef on the Western Australian coast. This calf has been born early in its mother's northern journey.  The warmer waters of the Kimberley are still another 1200 kilometres away.  Its light colour and lack of barnacles mean this calf is only a few days old.


The calf travels close to mum and pulled along in her bow wave. Apart from this free ride, there is good reason to stay close. Orcas (killer whales) patrol this coast. Two calves were taken by orcas during the week we were at sea off Ningaloo.




Showing Off in Exmouth Gulf


This female calf is probably 6-8 weeks old and is building strength and agility by breaching.  The shallow north facing waters of Exmouth Gulf provide a resting ground, a vital stopover that allows the mothers and calves time to rest and recover before the calves continue their first journey from their birth in the tropical Kimberley to the feeding grounds in Antarctica.


Every August, September and October, Exmouth Gulf is alive with whales.




Time Out For Baby


When it all gets too much, newborn calves will lie on their mother's head to rest. Mothers will also place calves on their backs as protection when under attack from orcas (killer whales).




Baleen - An Inside Moustache To Eat With


Humpbacks are baleen whales and use these brush like bristles to keep food in their mouth as the water drains out.  As the whales are not feeding in Western Australian waters it is rare to see a humpback with its mouth open.  This was a new season whale calf in Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia.


The calf was with its mother and an escort whale.  It continued to gape, or open and close its mouth over a period of 15 minutes.  This was the first time in photographing around 2500 humpback whales that we had seen this behaviour.




Enthusiasm Outshines Ability


New-season humpbacks have the enthusiasm and energy to breach but do lack the athletic grace that comes with experience. These female calves experience some hard landings in Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia.




Curiosity Abounds


New-season humpbacks can be very curious and often make eye contact.




Tailslapping or Lobtailing


Tailslapping builds strength, endurance and defensive skills for newseason calves.




Whale Lice


Parasites such as barnacles and lice are quick to attach themselves to the calves. These tiny crustaceans are cyamids.  Humpbacks are host to a unique species of whale lice, Cyamus boopis.