Whales now heading south past Hunter coast

WHALES have begun passing the Hunter coast again on their way south. The southern migration has begun in earnest after several weeks with fewer sightings as the northbound whales petered out.

Imagine Cruises skipper Frank Future said the dwindling northern migration had led to about three weeks of ‘‘hit-and-miss’’ whale-watching after the whales reached their destinations.

But these spectacular images of humpbacks lunge-feeding on bait fish off Port Stephens appear to indicate the whales are on their way home.

‘‘The southern migration is under way,’’ Mr Future said.

Lunge feeding, also known as ram feeding, involves whales scooping prey in their enormous mouth, and is spectacular to watch, as shown by the photographs at right.

Whales are expected to trickle back past the east coast for several months.

Charlestown resident Magnus Larsson spotted a whale in Newcastle Harbour on Wednesday while he was walking around the breakwall. 

The massive creature remained in the world’s biggest coal port for about 15 minutes.

‘‘He was sitting right in the mouth of the harbour,’’ Mr Larsson said.

‘‘There was a boat that came in before and he might have followed that in.’’

Newcastle Port Corporation spokesman Keith Powell said the whale was spotted by the crew of dredger David Allan about 4.30pm.

The vessel kept a safe distance from the whale, Mr Powell said, ushering it out of the harbour.

Senior lifeguard Warren Smith said few whales had been spotted off Newcastle heading south after good numbers in the northern migration earlier in the year.

Mr Smith said it was not uncommon for whales to stick close to the rocks at the northern end of Nobbys in fine weather.

‘‘If it’s calm and nice they seem to tend to come in but if it’s rough they’ll stay out further,’’ Mr Smith said.

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