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Long Paddock

Guess who's back? That’s right - it's whale time again, and in 2011, we're all wild about whales.

The NSW whale watch officially launches today, and we’re confident it will be one bumper season. Pods have already been seen on their northward migration up the NSW coast; experts predict we’ll see an 8% increase in Southern Rights and more than 10% increase in Humpbacks this year. This means we should welcome more than 6,500 whales along our coastline, a very exciting indication that current whale conservation measures are a success.

Along with healthy whale populations we’re seeing greater numbers of marine fauna such as Dugongs, Fur seals, dolphins and Orcas - even more reasons to be wild about our marine environment, so we're dedicating this very special edition of Naturescapes to welcome back our long distance swimmers!

Tweeting whales

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NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, in conjunction with ORRCA and communities up and down the coast, will this year be using the @wildaboutwhales twitter account, tweeting to followers all the latest whale sightings along the NSW coastline.

The sightings collated through the twitter profile are integrated onto the Wild About Whales website, where visitors can follow the migration of our whales up north and back down south again. And it's not just Humpback whales in on the action, last year we recorded Southern Rights and Orca sightings as well!

This year we're also inviting you in on the action! Send in your whale sightings to @wildaboutwhales using the hashtag #whaleon and we'll retweet and add it into our sightings map on the website. If you don't have twitter you can you can send us an email on wildaboutwhales@environment.nsw.gov.au and report your sightings that way. Additionally, like us on facebook and join in on the conversation! We'll be discussing everything whale related, from the latest whale news, competitions and whale events happening around the state!


A guide to whale watching

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Whale watching is a brilliant activity for everyone. You don't need much to start, other than a vantage point, binoculars, a camera, patience - and luck. A bit of planning and knowledge can enhance the experience.

The species you are most likely to see off the NSW coast are Humpbacks and Southern Right Whales . Humpbacks are the larger of the two, and as they dive, you'll see them display their distinctive humped back. Southern Rights have a particularly large head, that feature what is known as callosities - distinctive lumps on the head made of hard material, similar to human finger-nails. Other possible sightings include Orcas, Minkes and Sperm whales.

Watch out for whale behaviour. The "blow" is when they send up air, water vapour and mucus as they surface to take a breath. It helps us to see where the whales are - and who they are, as each whale species has its distinctive blow.

Breaching is the most impressive of behaviours, it's when most of the whale's body is pushed out of the water, to fall again in a massive splash. It's a common behaviour of Humpback whales in particular. Watch out for slapping of fins and tails, waving them about, hitting the ocean surface. If you get close enough, a whale might also poke his head out of the water and do a bit of human watching. For more whale watching tips (as well as the best whale-watching spots along the coast) visit www.wildaboutwhales.com.au .

To help you get outfitted for whale watching, we have some great Paddy Pallin gear up for grabs! To go in the draw to win a whale-watching kit including a Osprey Talon 22 daypack, Patagonia Torrentshell Rain Jacket, Manzella Ultra Max Liner Gloves, Icebreaker Pocket Hat, and Paddy Pallin logo stainless steel water bottle simply forward this email to a friend!


Whale watching along the NSW coastline

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There are some fantasitc spots along the NSW coastline for you and your family to spot whales - so pack a jacket and start planning your next trip out to catch a glimpse of our seasonal marine visitors.

Cape Byron State Conservation Area is one of the best spots in the state, where you can see the whales with no impact or interference on their migratory path. Nearby, you can also enjoy the Cape Byron nature walk, rich in natural and Indigenous culture. Stay overnight in one of the heritage lighthouse keeper's cottages at Cape Byron.

This winter take advantage of a guided tour on the Central Coast. NPWS is offering a free whale Discovery tour on Sundays in June at Crackneck Point in Wyrrabalong National Park. Info sessions are at 10:00, 12:30 and 2:30 and easy-graded walks are available any time.

Further down south, the whale season kicks into gear after August and will last until the end of the year. So if you can't get out this winter, keep an eye out for the later season on the far south coast where Southern Right whales and Orcas sometimes pop up to say hello - Ben Boyd National Park down near Eden, Montague Island near Narooma, and Eurobodalla National Park near Moruya are all great spots to consider.

While you're there, keep an eye out for our other marine critters! You never know what you might see. For more whale watching spots along the coast, keep an eye out for the whale tails on our 'find a great spot' map!


Become an official whale spotter

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Why not join our volunteer whale watchers this year and help us count one of the greatest animal migrations on the planet!

The NPWS Cape Solander Whale Migration Study, now in its fourteenth year, is supported by a dedicated team of volunteer whale watchers. The volunteers keep a keen eye out for our loveable Humpbacks from dawn to dusk jotting down all the whales they spot migrating north past Cape Solander at Kamay Botany Bay National Park.

Humpback, Minke, Southern Right and Pygmy Killer Whales have all been recorded, as well as an extremely rare Blue Whale. On the busiest days, more than 40 Humpback whales have been spotted.

Volunteers play an important role in whale research. The annual data produced from this study is incorporated into the Commonwealth Government's International Whaling Commission Report.

To find our more about the Cape Solander volunteer program call 9542 0619 or email susan.aston@environment.nsw.gov.au.


Have a whale of a time at Royal

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Now that you have all the info you'll need to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures, it's time to get out there and spot your own whale!

Head to one of the many great spots around NSW with your family and friends and make an adventure of it - or for those looking to pair whale watching with some bushwalking exploration why not consider a guided tour in Royal National Park.

Royal Coast Walks offers a full-day guided hike and whale watching experience along Royal National Park's sandstone cliffs, a picnic lunch with panoramic coastline views and plenty of stops during your walk to watch humpbacks swim past. Experienced guides will help you spot whales from some of Sydney's best whale watching vantage points.

This special winter whale watching edition, Royal Coast Walks is offering one lucky subscriber a full-day Marley Tour for two people on this iconic coastal walk. All you have to do to go in the draw for this fantastic prize is name another tour operated by Royal Coast Walks, other than the Marley?*

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