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2017 Season’s Spectacles!

dolphins jumping

An Otter-view
Overall, the 2017 season can be summed up in one word; unpredictable. Whether it was June or September, we could never really tell what we were going to encounter day to day aboard our boats. We had a few surprises, a few frights, and some amazing sightings in-between, all of which will be spoken about in great detail below! If you didn’t get to enjoy the stories the first time around, or weren’t there to see it yourselves, now’s your chance to see what you missed out on!

“Inverness, We Have a Problem…”
Undoubtedly, the biggest drama and most surprising event on the 2017 sightings calendar was the two day stint where we found ourselves sharing the Beauly Firth with a pod of over 30 pilot whales.

On the morning of the 6th August, Krystyna, Sue, and Brian were taking a trip of around 20 intrepid passengers out into the firth in search of dolphins; Charlie and Kesslet had already been spotted earlier by Krystyna heading into the Beauly Firth, so excitement was certainly in the air. That bubbly feeling was soon replaced by a heaving sense of dread, when upon arriving in the firth, they found not two dolphin dorsal fins, but a group of roughly 30 large, rounded fins circling just north of North Kessock. Panic stations were taken up as all authorities were alerted in case of a stranding. These animals normally hunt in waters exceeding 500m; the mere 40m maximum of the Beauly Firth was a frightening concern. The 2pm trip at high tide was cancelled to allow the whales time to move out. They did, but returned, with their elderly matriarch stranding herself just under the Kessock Bridge early on the morning of the 7th. Thankfully, after the sad decision to euthanise the matriarch was made, the pod made tracks right out past Chanonry, and into the deep blue beyond.

It was a sensitive and stressful situation for all involved, and we are proud to have played our part in the preservation of these animals. We can only hope that something like this never happens again.

Mass Madness
28th May, 8th July, 15th July, 29th July, 19th August, 20th August… They may seem like a random assortment of dates, but they all share a very distinguishing feature; mass sightings.

This year we have seen a minor revival in the dolphin activity in the area, seemingly out of nowhere. While Kesslet, Charlie, and Scoopy have provided hours of fun and sightings between them, they have also on occasion brought friends to the party. Saturdays in July seemed to be incredibly popular with the gatecrashers! For the first time ever, we saw an unprecedented 9 dolphins breaching and socialising throughout the firth across those 2 of those dates. On the 15th in particular, we got to spend 45 minutes with them as they followed our path on their way out of the Inverness Firth; it was quite the spectacle!

We also managed to have sightings of all but two of the WDC adoption dolphins this year aboard Dolphin Spirit alone (this feat wouldn’t be surprising on Mischief as many of them sit around Chanonry and beyond in the summer!). Mischief, Sundance, Moonlight, and of course, Kesslet, all made appearances through the season. If you want to count Scoopy (or Flosse) too, he is also adoptable, but only in mainland Europe. We would love to see more of this as the seasons go on, but with seemingly no reason behind the visits, we can never be sure what the next summers will hold for us!

a bird flying over a body of water

Rescues Big and Small
The Pilot Whale operation was possibly the biggest “rescue” we found ourselves taking part in, but here at Dolphin Spirit, we care for all; big or small!

The smallest little rescue happened on the 1st of August, which, as with most days in that month, was seasonably wet. While passengers and wildlife alike are generally used to the slightly colder conditions of a damp and windy day, our insect life tends to struggle. We find the boat is a great hideaway for many insects over summer, from spiders to beetles, to butterflies to bees, and this particular day saw one of the latter seeking our help. A tired, wet, cold bee dropped onto the top deck like a stone on the afternoon of the 1st of August. Guide Krystyna put fears aside to help the poor mite, sheltering him up her sleeve while the trip carried on through the rain. On returning to the marina, she warmed him under the hand drier and fed him a mix of sugar water before sending him off into some drier weather! Save the bees!

A slightly larger but just as fuzzy friend saw us having an early morning on the 18th of October. With no response from the Coastguard, guide and driver (but today on her day off) Sue called us in a bit of a panic to see if we could help a dog struggling in the strong tide of the Beauly Firth. 5 year old Marilyn had went bouncing after otters off Carnarc Point and was immediately swept away by a strong incoming tide. Being the dog-loving bunch we are, we got suited and booted and went off to try as we may to help. By the time we arrived, Marilyn was close to shore but trying to swim over to Carnarc again, and clearly tired. The water was too shallow for us to approach to catch her, but we at least tried to herd her to the small crowd who had gathered alongside her on the shore. Soon enough, she turned and hit land, thankfully making out of her daring dive and back to her distraught owner.

Many Mischief Makers!
For Mischief’s first season on the water, we are just absolutely blown away with how well it’s done and the feedback we’ve received.

With an average review of something along the lines of 4.8 out of 5, Mischief seems to have been a real hit with passengers! It’s been interesting to get further out and encounter groups of dolphins we may not have before (including bumping into several members of the Bad Boys’ Club on a few occasions!). For those seeking a more blood-pumping experience, Mischief has certainly delivered, with 2000 passengers taking a ride this year! Our skippers have done a great job looking after each and every group, and enjoyed doing it too (George in particular was almost in tears on his last day this week!). We’ve got a few alterations planned for Mischief’s schedule next season to make sure she’s as timely as Dolphin Spirit has become, which will hopefully help with the usual teething problems of planning a longer, more complex trip like this one!

a group of people in a boat on a body of water

A Bumper Baby Year
Early summer was a fantastic time to be out on the water, with a lot of newborns about. For us this year, we didn’t get any new baby dolphins, but a bumper bunch of baby seals! 6 newborns were recorded this year out on the Longman mudflats, an increase on last years’ 4! Wonder what next year will bring?

And that about sums up the best of 2017! We hope you’ve enjoyed following along with the blog and if you’ve joined us this year that you had a great time, whatever experience you chose! Thanks for reading, as always, and we hope that we’ll see you again in 2018!