SCIENTISTS using drones have captured close-up images of a blue-fin whale breast-feeding her baby off the coast of Catalunya.
The 'flying camera' launched from a boat by the marine science association Edmaktub, based in Barcelona, caught this unique photo opportunity in the sea near Garraf, in the same province.
“This is positive news, as it shows this endangered species is recovering its numbers and reproducing,” says Edmaktub.
The Balaenoptera Physalus, whose common names are the 'rorqual' or 'blue-fin' whale, have a gestation period of around 11 to 12 months and normally only give birth to one calf at a time.
Their birth weight is around two tonnes and they are about 6.5 metres (21'3”) when they are born.
Calves never leave their mothers' sides as they depend upon her milk to survive until they are weaned at around six to seven months of age.
By then, they are typically about 11 metres (35'9”) long.
Blue-fin whales have a new baby roughly every two to three years.
The second-largest mammal in the world – beaten only by the blue whale – the blue-fin or rorqual can reach up to 24 metres (78 feet) in length, and it is the only species of whale which regularly crosses the Mediterranean.
In fact, during migration season in around September, they are almost a regular site off the bay of Jávea (Alicante province), mainland Spain's easternmost point.
Edmaktub has been going out daily on whale-spotting trips and gathering data every spring between March and May inclusive, and this is their fourth season on the water.
And 2017 has seen a much higher number of the creatures off Spain's east coast, showing that the species is gradually repopulating.
The first sighting of the year was on February 27, when a fisherman from Tarragona saw a rorqual out to sea, although the first scientifically-registered sighting was on March 11.
Since then Edmaktub has spotted over 15 – although fishermen's claims put the number at over 80.
Edmaktub has supplied the above photo from its drone camera.