A humpback whale seen breaching off Port Macquarie has drawn excitement from whale enthusiasts who predict it will be the earliest start to the migration season since 2012.
This year's early bird began breaching about 8km out off the coast and travelled past watchers at Tacking Point Lighthouse at 12.05pm on Thursday, March 21.
From May to November each year thousands of whales migrate along the coast as they swim north to breeding grounds then return south in mid to late August to feed in the Antarctic.
The animals make quite a splash with local whale watchers who sometimes sight 300 to 400 each day in Port Macquarie during June.
Whale watcher Leigh Mansfield said late April usually produced two to five whale sightings per day but earlier whale sightings weren't out of the question.
"It's very very early and the last time I had whales this early was March in 2012," he said.
"It doesn't mean you'll see whales everyday because mid to late April is generally a better time to see them.
"This is just a freaky one you might see as it's heading north."
Mr Mansfield said although the first whale of the season had been seen, residents and visitors were not guaranteed a sighting.
"Within the next month it can be hit or miss," he said.
"I'm surprised to see one that early, it's just pot luck because I could come up 24 hours a day and seven days a week but not see one."
Watchers have also used their binoculars to spot pods of dolphins and fish off the coast.
"There have been pods of dolphins two kilometres out, it's amazing what you do see," said Mr Mansfield.
"Going to any headland area people must have 30 minutes to look because whales can hold their breath for 20 minutes.
"People sometimes leave too early and that can be a common mistake."
Tacking Point Lighthouse, Rocky Beach lookout, Town Beach lookout, Port Macquarie's coastal walk, Grants Head and Perpendicular Point are common whale watching vantage points.
Port Macquarie is known for particularly good whale watching with Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (ORRCA) hosting an annual census on the last Sunday of June.
The ORRCA census recorded 332 sightings last year.
Residents and visitors can call ORRCA's 24 hour rescue line on 9415 3333 if they see a whale, dolphin or seal in distress.
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