A couple of infrequent visitors to New Zealand waters were spotted off Auckland's Milford Beach this week. Steve Barham photographed this southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) and her calf on their way to Whangaparaoa.

Massey University marine ecology lecturer Karen Stockin told the Weekend Herald the whales - considered an endangered species in New Zealand waters - were probably spending time in warmer, safer, coastal waters before the youngster made his first journey to sub-Antarctic feeding grounds.

When fully grown, it could measure up to 18m and tip the scales at 117 tonnes. The calf could live up to 70 years.

The southern right whale is common in the lower latitudes around South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

The Department of Conservation wants anyone who sees a southern right whale to report the sighting.

Southern rights can de identified by their lack of a dorsal fin.

The American Cetacean Society estimates the number of southern right whales to be between 3000 and 4000.