Adult southern right whale soaks in the sun meters offshore at Ellen Cove

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The southern right whale off Middleton Beach on Tuesday.
Camera IconThe southern right whale off Middleton Beach on Tuesday. Credit: Kirsty Alexander/Kirsty Alexander

Bobbing just 30m from the beach, an adult southern right whale enjoyed Albany’s warmest day in months lazing in the shallows at Ellen Cove.

“It was an adult southern right, those guys are up to 80 tonnes so it’s a fairly big individual,” South Coast Cetaceans marine biologist Kirsty Alexander said on Tuesday.

Whale-watching season runs from May-October in Albany, with humpbacks more common in the early months and the heavier southern rights arriving in late winter and spring.

In one of the wettest winters in Albany in recent years, whale watching was hampered by rough conditions and run-off this year.

However, Tuesday’s sunny skies and 27C maximum temperature provided idyllic conditions for a visit to Middleton Beach

Ms Alexander said there had been several sightings of southern rights in recent days.

“They do tend to move from bay to bay ... sitting in really close to shore ... when there’s low swell, and less wind does play a part as well because they’re much easier to see.”

For those looking to tell the difference between a humpback whale and a southern right, there are some markers. “Southern right whales literally look like they’ve got a pile of stones on their head,” Ms Alexander said.

The whale was seen outside the barrier at Middleton.
Camera IconThe whale was seen outside the barrier at Middleton. Credit: Kirsty Alexander/Kirsty Alexander

“Those are sort of roughened patches of keratinised skin called callosities and ... that’s actually how we recognise individual southern right whales as well ... like your fingerprint.

“They have a dorsal fin, whereas humpbacks have that humpy dorsal fin which gives them their name.

“In general, southern rights tend to be a lot quieter. They tend to just log at the surface quietly in shallow waters just behind the surf breaks.”

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