With the southerly humpback whale migration down the East Coast hitting its peak, there have been some cool whale sightings off Narooma in the past week.
A mother and calf humpback were spotted just inside the Narooma breakwalls on Saturday afternoon. Nathan Mackie sent us some video that his friend shot of the whales before they swam back out.
The last time this happened was in October 2014 when a trio of whales, consisting of a large adult with a very small calf by her side and another larger young whale, swam into the inlet before turning around. Click here that story
Then last week, Narooma Charters on a regular whale watching trip had a whale blow bubbles under the boat. The crew attributed it to “bubble netting” but our experts say it was just bubble blowing.
David Donnelly is a marine researcher, specialising in cetaceans, and manager at Killer Whales Australia, formerly Australian Orca Database.
“Bubble netting is typically associated with feeding behaviour. This method of feeding is mostly known from the northern hemisphere and to the best of my knowledge, has never been documented along the Australian east coast,” he said.
Why whales blew bubbles remained a mystery, according to Mr Donnelly.
“In humpbacks it seems widely accepted that bubble blowing is commonly associated with aggression often in competitive pods, however we've observed a number of singletons bubble blowing for no apparent reason off Eden,” he said. “There have also been examples of seemingly quiet social groups bubble blowing in Tonga, again without any obvious signs of aggression.”
Pete Garbett, administrator of the Cetal Fauna Facebook page, agreed.
“Some cetaceans, certainly some of the dolphin species, are known to emit bubble rings in a similar fashion and it has been suggested that in some instances it could be associated with an expression of displeasure/anxiety or even a threat,” Mr Garbett said.
Mr Garbett was up at Harvey Bay last week and in good news for whale watchers on the Far South Coast, he said there were still plenty of whales up that way that had yet to head south.
“Still good numbers in the bay at the moment. Enough to keep researchers Wally and Trish Franklin here until next week.”