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Dolphin Spirit Blog

Dolphin and Marine Wildlife Boat Trips from Inverness Marina

What's The Scoop(y)?

Dolphin Spirit "Regulars" Join Dolphin Mischief!

In another warm and wonderful day out on the Moray Firth, all 7 sailings scheduled for today went out to enjoy the gorgeous weather and were treated to some lovely sightings to boot! Mischief had a blast zip-zooming around Chanonry with skipper Stuart at the helm for his usual Friday shift. Several groups of dolphins were encountered throughout the day, including a spirited hunting party of a couple of regular visitors to the Inner Firth; Scoopy, Bonnie, and her calf. Bonnie even made a special visit up close, diving just under the bow of the boat and disappearing off behind to join up with the other two who were bouncing around Fort George. On the same trip, Kesslet also had a bit of a crowd going, saying hello to both Spirit and Mischief near the Meikle Mee buoy as both boats crossed paths!

Spirit Sees Double

It was double trouble today for Dolphin Spirit who encountered both Kesslet and Charlie again today - that being said, it was Charlie this time who was in the river on his own, rather than his mother! Kesslet was further out, near the calmer waters at Meikle Mee, making a bit of a splash most of the afternoon. Charlie was hunting into mid-afternoon, and possibly around to play with the huge flotilla around North Kessock today. A fair number of boats were out in the Kessock Channel for the boat race event, having poured out of the canal in the morning. This may have put Kesslet off hunting there for the day, which is why she was further out. While she is very much used to boats in the channel, Kesslet can be a little awkward with new ones at times, which was something which became apparent a couple of years back when the RNLI open day put her off the channel for a couple of days. We'll be keeping an eye on her and seeing where she ends up tomorrow, just in case!

Seriously Snoopy Seals

A Dull Day Can't Dampen Our (Dolphin) Spirit!

It might not have been as nice weather wise today as it was yesterday, but a little bit of grey never hurt anyone (especially not if that grey is dolphin shaped!). We had a fair few grey things floating around the firth today, including Kesslet, who finally managed to see past her expanding waistline to come and see us today (seems like the dolphins' idea of a beach body is somewhat different to ours). On the 10am Dolphin Spirit sailing, Kesslet was found under the bridge for a first time in a while, traipsing about until the boat came along and gave her something to do. She gave quite the hello, getting in nice and close, before playing tease again and dashing off. There's no doubt that Charlie doesn't get his mischievous attitude from her! After a somewhat exciting day yesterday for young Charlie, however, he was a bit of a no-show today. Probably sleeping at all kinds of silly hours like the teenager he's becoming!

Sociable Seals

It wasn't just Kesslet getting up close and personal with the Dolphin Spirit today either; our sightings of seals were pretty terrific too. At 12pm and 2pm the local mum's group was out sunbathing on the mudflats, quite possibly getting ready for the pupping season with a bit of moulting. Seals will often sit out of the water for extended periods to allow their old fur to drop off, keeping them not only looking fresh, but hydrodynamic too. A few other seals were also out on the water looking for lunch, including a very curious little individual who approached the boat and stayed at surface long enough for our passengers to get a good look and a few pictures too. Grey seals tend to be the boldest when out swimming, and will follow alongside quite the thing, but our harbour seals can be just as inquisitive when they surface and will sometimes stare at the boat for long periods before diving again. Some of the younger seals have even done this with fish in their mouths, almost as if they're showing off! And speaking of showing off, we will need to keep our eyes peeled for some of the males breaching the water like dolphins! We saw it a couple of times last season, very late out of breeding season from some of the youngsters, but if there's any time for some showboating it will be now! 

Sunshine Splashing Spectacle!

The Sun Sets the Stage for an Amazing Show!

After the horrible, stormy day that was the second last day of May, it seems the month has decided to go out with a stunning, sunny bang! With little wind and plenty of sunshine, both Dolphin Spirit and Mischief were able to get out on the water and enjoy some mid-week therapy with our dolphins! It wasn't just the passengers sunning themselves either, as Mischief found at Chanonry Point, where a group of 8 dolphins were enjoying the weather and good food just off the point.

Charlie Gets Animated!

Our local boy Charlie is very well known for being a cheeky rascal, regardless of who he's with and he's always keen to put on a performance. Today was no different! While hanging around with Honey and her calf from last year, Charlie gave a fantastic set of breaches in the Chanonry Narrows (one of which is pictured above)! You can only imagine that Honey was underwater rolling her eyes at him, much like mum Kesslet must do. He's certainly a show-off and a bad influence on the little ones! Zephyr and her little one were also around, a little further away, as well as big Scoopy, who was chilling out with Bonnie and her youngster. In total contrast to Charlie, Bonnie was rolling around all relaxed-like in the currents as Scoopy and her youngster swam alongside. It was nice to see that it wasn't just a good time for all those watching!

Sneaky Seals!

And if that wasn't enough, the local seals were also getting a little up close and personal! Our sightings of them have been increasing steadily over the past couple months, and as we come into the pupping season over summer, it's only set to get better on that front too! That being said, we had a few couple curious seafarers pop up to say hello to the boats too. One even seemed to join the Mischief in a spot of dolphin watching! With the better weather too, hopefully our resident harbour seals will be appearing on the mudflats as well. It's all looking good here at Dolphin Spirit sightings-wise! Why not join us? You can book your experience here!

Mischief with a sealNot all dolphin-waters with Mischief had waterproofs!

Meet the Team - Jenni

The Office Veteran!

We've met the boss, we've met the guides, now we need to move back onto dry land! Today's Meet the Team showcase features the first of our office staff, Jenni! Jenni has been working on the Dolphin Spirit desk since 2016, and is our resident expert on Excel and booking system. Her ability to sort through bookings and all the data from them is unparalleled, mostly because she's the longest returning office member! She's super casual and will make you feel relaxed with a friendly smile as soon as you walk in the door. Jenni, like many of our team, is also a student, so you will tend to only see her through the summer, but she'll make sure your trip gets off to a great start!

She IS the Law

Jenni is currently studying Law when she's not on the dolphin desk, and she puts her skills to good use with us every shift; answering emails in a professional manner, and dealing with people's needs and requests without hesitation. She can dole out the commands too when required! She's perfectly suited for the courthouse! When she first started with us, Jenni came out on a few trips, hoping to be introduced to our lovely dolphins, but 3 trips later she had had no luck! Jenni has rarely stepped a foot on board since then, since she thinks she's a dolphin bad luck charm! That being said, she came aboard at the start of this season as a break from her exams, along with her golden retriever puppy Baxter!

Look out for Jenni on the desk this summer, she's service with a smile! Any questions or queries she'll be more than happy to help and get your Dolphin Spirit experience off to a splashing start!

Feathered Friends?

More Than One Mouth to Feed!

Kesslet was the only dolphin we spotted out on the Dolphin Spirit today, at 12pm and 4pm. She seemed far more interested in hunting for salmon though, as she kept her distance throughout the day and only came to see us briefly as she ducked and dived into the river. She wasn't alone as she normally is however, as a horde of hungry gulls descended upon her in the hopes of picking up even the tiniest morsel of her fishy dish. While dolphin spotting, the traditional tell-tales are the blow, tail, and dorsal fin, but in times like these, a flock of famished feathered friends can normally indicate a hunting dolphin; especially if the gulls move in unison, they can normally track a dolphin that's underwater better than we can!

Bad Behaviour

When you're out on the water, you have to understand that you're technically traipsing through another animal's home. It is only right to be respectful of the wildlife of the Moray Firth when you're out sailing, regardless of the boat you're on. Around the marina there are signs indicating you should look out for dolphins, and be careful around them; they even come with guidelines on the best code of conduct. However, not everyone follows these rules, and a single selfish person can end up ruining the situation for everyone. We were witness today to a boat chasing after Kesslet, an action which seemed to make her jumpy and flighty for the rest of the day. This wasn't only just bad for our sightings, but horrible for Kesslet; she's used to boats treating her normally with respect, and she was rushed to finish or lose her fish when this boat decided to herd her upriver. If you're ever out on a boat, tour boat or otherwise, remember to be cautious of the wildlife around you; dolphins are more likely to treat you to spectacular sightings and encounters if you let them, rather than force yourself upon them. This is part of the core reasoning behind our Dolphin Space Program, and it's so simple to follow, and great for everyone. We aim to make our trips as eco- and animal-friendly as possible, so you will never see us stray from our route to chase the dolphins. You can read more about the DSP and responsible dolphin watching here.

A Bumper Dolphin Day

A New Sighting for the Dolphin Spirit!

Every day, every sailing, is different at Dolphin Spirit, as you just never know who or what may appear on each trip, and that certainly was the case today. Our 10am sailing got a real treat, with a fleeting visit from Kesslet as she darted past us at Meikle Mee (heading upriver of course, as usual), and then encountering another group of dolphins around Munlochy Bay! In this group were another two of the WDC Adopt-A-Dolphin stars, Moonlight and Mischief. Mischief (who our RIB is named after, pictured diving above) was pretty serene today, happy to just cruise alongside with Moonlight and her calf. We've had Mischief with us before, as part of another big group (made up of several members of the infamous "Bad Boys' Club") where he was active and showing off, so it was nice to see this calmer side to him too today. We've never had Moonlight with us before, so this sighting was a real surprise, made doubly special by getting to see her calf with her too! Kesslet was kind enough to make another appearance at the end of the trip too, to make up for her rude behaviour earlier!

Another Successful Trip for Dolphin Mischief!

Dolphin Mischief (the boat, not the dolphin!), also managed to get out today, and had a great time cruising up to Chanonry Point at 12.30pm. It was a very dull day weather wise, and skipper George exclaimed that the dolphins looked very menacing, as the low light made them seem jet-black in the water. They encountered another curious group up near the point, though we haven't had a chance to sit down and do any ID work yet so it could be the same group Dolphin Spirit encountered that morning. That would be very interesting though, as we're just dying to get a shot of Mischief (the dolphin!) with our Mischief (the RIB!).

If you haven't yet, you should check out our video and pictures from today's awesome 10am sailing! While you're there, Like and Follow our Facebook page to see more and keep up to date with all our exciting sightings and various other cool galleries and contests!

Double Trouble

The Gruesome Twosome Play Hide and Seek with Dolphin Spirit

Charlie and Kesslet came out to play today for 3 out of our 4 sailings. The weather was beautiful but hazy, making distance shooting very difficult. The dolphins seemed to use this to their advantage, moving to places where they were like shadows in the mist, or passing us by entirely. It started at 10am, when we spotted Kesslet hunting on her own in the Kessock Channel, just off of the North Kessock slipway. As we left the area, we received a message from Charlie Phillips, who had returned unsuccessful from a packed-out Chanonry Point to observe at North Kessock instead, to say that his young namesake was floating around too. At 12pm, cheeky Charlie led his mum away on a merry trout-chase, disappearing up towards Redcastle, possibly to hunt sea trout there. We didn't see either of them until the 2pm, where they came dashing past the cardinal buoy, Kesslet with a fish, and a hungry Charlie mooching along beside her as they made way towards the bridge. It must have been a busy day hunting all in all, as Kesslet was seen at 4pm rolling around on her side looking rather lazy and full. Both she and Charlie spent a good while in the calm waters near the Meikle Mee buoy, probably just letting all that big lunch go down!

Mischief Meets A Merry Bunch

Mischief had 3 sailings to do today, and they all seemed to be a success. The first morning trip was nearly full, but it sounds like the empty seats were nearly taken up by some pretty active dolphins who came to visit the boat of Chanonry Point! As the summer months start up now, it seems like Mischief is coming across these active groups more and more often, which is brilliant. Hopefully soon we will have a rough idea what and who we can come to expect up there! Why not join us to see these sprightly critters in action? With the good weather fading off into rain and cloud again soon, now is the best time to enjoy the best of the activity and the weather!

Meet the Team - Raymond

The Man with the (Dolphin) Plan!

Raymond is our only male guide, and the last to feature in the Meet the Team showcase! He's also probably one of the last people some of our younger visitors may expect to see on the boat, as he used to be a head teacher! Working with us here at Dolphin Spirit is Raymond's idea of "retirement" if that gives you a sense of how fun the job is! Raymond is only with us at the start and end of the season; it seems he has grown too accustomed to those long summers off! He's easily one of our more experienced guides in a number of ways, and his teaching experience is always put to good use when he's on board!

A Good Head (Teacher) on Him

Raymond's particular field of interest was in geography back in his teaching days; knowledge which he brings to work with him every day when he's working on Dolphin Spirit too! Raymond has all kinds of stories about the lay of the land, including the Black Isle and the Great Glen Fault, two major talking points on our trips. If you have any questions about geology, geography, or pretty much anything geo-related, you can bet Raymond will have the answer. It's always great listening to him talk, and you can see how he made it as a teacher too; his gentle talking pace and softly spoken words feels like you're listening to a story, not a script. Raymond has gotten to know our dolphins quite well too, and enjoys getting to see them play around the boat. While the dolphins always put an extra-wide grin on his face, Raymond rocks the "service-with-a-smile" attitude, and is just happy to be out there engaging people in a little outdoor education once again!

If you've encountered anything on your travels that's made you go "hmm", Raymond is the man to ask about it! Make sure you have a chat with him on the boat, you'll always come back learning something new! As they say, every day's a school day, and it's certainly true in Raymond's case!

A Lesson from Kesslet

Kesslet Shares Her Skills!

Kesslet is a fantastic hunter, with more than a few skills tucked away under her pectoral fin when it comes to landing a hearty meal! She's been fishing around the harbour and Kessock Channel almost every day since the flooding rains, which must mean there's some good eating going on down by us at the moment. She has been very social with the Mischief recently too, even taking a little time out of her busy fishing schedule to teach our intrepid passengers a thing or two about salmon fishing in the Ness! As you can see in the picture above, Kesslet might be a great hunter, but she has some appalling table manners; let's just say our visitors were lucky enough to see her just after she had caught her lunch, instead of some time after, like we did a few days prior! Gross!

Things are heating up!

The sun is back and shining on the Moray Firth once more; with the great weather comes the need for more suncream! For any passengers on the Spirit or Mischief over the next while, make sure you put some on before coming out; being out on the water can make you susceptible to burning due to the reflected rays off the water's surface. Trust us, we've been there! All eyes are peeled for the possible appearance of Orca once again in the Moray Firth too, as last year they were seen this far south for the first time. Keep your eyes on the water, as you just never know who may come for a visit. Most recent rumour has put them currently at Peterhead, which would be even further south! The start of summer is always an interesting time, as you can almost never predict what will happen. All you can really do is keep your eyes peeled and your fingers crossed!

Stranger Sightings!

Something Stingy Has Arrived...

That's right, it's that time of year again; the jellyfish have been sighted in the Moray Firth. Like bees and butterflies are the first signs of spring, jellyfish are the Moray Firth's sign of summer! Perhaps drawn in by the two weeks of fantastic, warm climate, the jellies are appearing in decent numbers now from the reaches of Kilmuir in towards the Kessock Channel too. Keep an eye out for these strange, almost alien-like critters just below the surface; they're bright, yellowy-white in colour with a red-pink star like pattern on the top of the bell (or body) of the jellyfish. Last year we had a great many of these animals in the firth, and they provided some vital nourishment for our wayward sunfish visitor. Perhaps this year may see something similar happening.

A Pilot without a Navigator

In our first year, we had some pretty tremendous sightings, though not all of them were bottlenose dolphins. In fact, around August 2015, we were accompanied by an altogether different kind of dolphin; a pilot whale. Pilot whales are not whales like the name suggests, but some of the largest oceanic dolphins, exceeded in size only by the Killer Whale (or Orca), who is also a dolphin. These "whales" are also referred to as "blackfish". Pilot whales are not totally unknown to the Moray Firth, and small groups have been spotted in the past near Cromarty, however, much like other dolphins, lone pilot whales are a strange sight indeed. So when we came across this huge fin following a pod of roughly 7 bottlenoses, we were obviously surprised. The sad fact of the matter is that this was certainly a bad sign; unusual sightings like these are normally not without reason, and many of the whales (true or otherwise) do not make it back out of the Inner Firth. This poor soul was no different. After disappearing into the Beauly Firth with its new friends, the pilot whale reappeared two days later; unfortunately this time it was floating belly-up near Kilmuir. It seems like this individual had gotten lost, and anticipated that following the dolphins may also have meant food. Sadly, it didn't get what it was looking for. Sightings like this just go to show that every day in the Moray Firth is different, and you never know what you'll see next!

White Tails and Wild Hearts

We always talk about the Red Kites and Osprey that hang around the Firth, but did you know there have also been sightings of an even bigger bird? White tailed sea eagles have occasionally been spotted over the Caledonian Canal area and around the Beauly Firth. These large birds are generally confined to the west coast, where they feed on fish and other birds. The sightings we get are typically of juveniles, obvious due to their impressive, white fan-tail. These could be west coast individuals on the move, or possibly even other individuals from a recent east coast reintroduction program. Regardless, they are very impressive to witness, so keep an eye on the sky next time you're out with us!

Meet The Team - Krystyna

Qualified and Crazy!

Krystyna is our longest returning guide; this is her third year at Dolphin Spirit. She started out with us as a Zoology undergraduate at Glasgow University, simply looking for a summer job... now she's graduated and still here! You can normally tell she'll be guiding you, as she will be glued to her huge Nikon camera set up; there's nothing better to her than a day of photographing our dolphins! Even when she's not working, she can often be found up at Chanonry Point (at least once every two weeks!), photographing dolphins and chatting about them with anyone who will listen. Not bad a bad life for a former city girl, wouldn't you say?

Jack of All Trades

Krystyna also works in the office over winter, putting her degree skills to use analyzing our sightings log for patterns and doing various odd-jobs to help improve the services Dolphin Spirit can give into the new season. Last winter she produced our new education packs, language sheets, and activity sheets and stickers. While photography and dolphins are her main passions, Krystyna really enjoys getting people excited about and engaged with the dolphins and other wildlife in the Moray Firth. She uses her photos to produce cards for people to buy as mementos of their trips, and also to show people the fascinating behaviours the dolphins display. 

Kesslet swimming in a sea of colours
A recent photo of Kesslet taken by Krystyna; many of the photos on our social media have been taken by her (look out for her Flipper & Fluke watermark)

Pride and Passion

It's not just the dolphins that Krystyna knows about; she photographs all our interesting sightings and helps charities like WDC and the Seawatch Foundation by reporting them. Last year, when we encountered a sunfish, we found out that this was the first sunfish sighting in possibly 15 years in the Inner Firth and perhaps the first live one so far in! Seawatch Foundation also requested Krystyna's photos to use in any future announcements. Krystyna is always eager to help, and loves getting involved in the science and study of the Moray Firth's spectacular wildlife. She is also an avid supporter of the WDC, having adopted our local girl Kesslet through them and raising funds by selling handmade dolphin toys with a donation for the WDC included in the price. She is even doing a 24 hour live-streaming gaming marathon on the 9th of June to raise money for the Gamers for Orcas program run by the WDC. You can read more about that here!

We can guarantee that you'll be buzzing with excitement after a trip with Krystyna, regardless of your sightings; her passion is very infectious! Be sure to ask her lots of questions on your trips with her, especially about Kesslet and Charlie!

Cheeky Charlie Visits Dolphin Spirit!

Chase Me Charlie!

What a fabulous fun-filled morning we had with resident bad boy Charlie today! It seems we may have caught him on his way out this morning as he lazed around under the Kessock Bridge, but once he spotted the Dolphin Spirit (and all its excited passengers too!), he was more than game for a little bit of fun. It started off with a roll onto his side to wave his pectoral fin at us, then a fancy headstand, sideways breach, and then a game of chases on the way back into the marina! Phew! It's tiring even just thinking about it! Some of our passengers got very close to Charlie downstairs during his antics, as he surfaced a few times just under where they were looking out for him! He left us to go back to his earlier plans as we returned into the marina, satisfied with his fun and games.

Kesslet Keeps Her Distance

Whether she was worn out already by an excitable Charlie, or just eager to get as many salmon as she could, Kesslet wasn't exactly up for playing much today. She kept her distance a little further upriver, at one point really struggling with a fish she had caught; her back arching as she attempted to regurgitate the troublesome meal. She played tease with the Dolphin Spirit, but came over to greet the Mischief as it returned from their 2 hour adventure. It was really nice to see the pair of them in the same area again, and hunting quite well by the looks.

Mischief Makes Friends at Chanonry

Mischief's travels to Chanonry today made them some new buddies! A group of youthful, playful dolphins came for a play around the boat out towards Fort George, much to the delight of the full group on board! Mischief also encountered Dolphin Spirit as she headed back in, and engaged in a little bit of showboating, zooming around the larger boat in huge circles for a photo op. Mischief really does live up to its name!

Date With a Dolphin

Kesslet gets up close and personal with our passengers!

Even if the weather has been a little bit miserable of late, there's nothing that gets us (and our passengers!) smiling more than a wonderful encounter with the Moray Firth dolphins. Today, Kesslet was in brilliant form, hunting from the falling tide into the afternoon. We saw her on 3 of our sailings today, and she was certainly showing off! It's wonderful to see Kesslet getting back to her old self, especially when she feels confident enough to engage with the boat; it really makes a trip that little bit more special when a wild dolphin comes over to see you, instead of the other way around!

Sightings of all of our "Big 3"!

The "Big 3" here at Dolphin Spirit is our dolphins, otters, and seals. Today, we saw all of them, which is fantastic! The otters were mucking around a little bit further out than usual, around the stadium of (the now relegated) Inverness Caledonian Thistle. It seemed to be two smaller, so probably female, otters who were ducking and diving their way back towards their holt (or den) around the marina. We saw more seals in the morning and early afternoon, chilling out in the waters of the Inverness Firth near Meikle Mee. One cheeky little harbour seal was spotted just off the North Kessock pier, poking his head up just as our guide was talking about keeping an eye out for them! Speak of the devil and it's sure to appear, so they say! We had plenty of sightings of terns too, some of which getting very close to the boat.

Common tern near Kilmuir
One of the Common Terns out near Kilmuir

You Should Join Us!

With the weather set to brighten up into next week, now is the perfect time to get out and enjoy a trip around the Moray Firth! There's barely a breath of wind, so if you've been waiting for the perfect time to get aboard our new Mischief RIB, you should get aboard ASAP! Dolphin Spirit has had some picture-perfect sailings over this weekend too, enjoying a little bit of sun and some very calm waters; perfect for wildlife spotting! If you're still undecided on whether you should come along, check out what you're missing over on our Facebook here!

Finally... Rain!

Not a Phrase You Hear Often in Scotland...

Scotland is known for being a dreich (or very wet and grey), albeit beautiful, place; on average Scotland gets between 150 and 250 days of rain a year, so it's not often that you hear Scots complain when the weather is good for extended periods. However, the very dry and warm weather over the past couple of weeks has really taken its toll on the local landscape, wildlife, and people! Wildfires have been sprouting up around the Highlands due to the dry weather, some as close to home as Kilmuir and just outside of Inverness' south side. The rivers have been nearly barren of salmon as they can't get up such low water runs. Our guides have been getting sunburned! So when the heavens finally opened today and the contents of the Moray Firth (or at least, that's what it felt like) fell on top of us, it was a welcome change.

It's Raining... Fish!

With the really heavy rain, the river was running at full flow again, which became apparent at 12pm and 4pm this afternoon, when Kesslet appeared in style once again. As we approached her under the Kessock Bridge, Kesslet made an astounding, big breach out the port side of the boat, continuing to bounce up the Kessock Channel as she went off hunting for lunch. Though we didn't actually spot Kesslet with a fish herself, they were flying in all directions; our seals managed to get in on the action too! Both the harbour seals and grey seals were out to hunt, splashing around and throwing some small salmon out of the water. It's a wonder that Charlie didn't show up to enjoy the bounty, as there certainly seemed to be plenty to go around.

Dolphin Mischief Meets Mischief-Makers!

Despite the adverse weather, there was barely a breath of wind, allowing Mischief to get out on the water too this afternoon. As she trundled carefully through Chanonry, they encountered a playful group of youngsters who came to investigate; one individual even followed alongside for a while, giving our passengers the eye, before giving a quick breach out the front of the boat and dashing off into the rain. Mischief's sightings are generally quite consistent, and it sounds like the young groups, such as the Bad Boy's Club, have started to make their presence known in the firth again. Maybe we'll see more of them in the coming months; here's certainly hoping so!

That Friday Feeling!

Dolphins Dancing in the Firth

Friday doesn't always mean the same to us at Dolphin Spirit as it means for everyone else! Normally, Friday is the start of our busy weekend period, so no resting up here! That said, it was a very quiet day in the Moray Firth in pretty much every possible way; there was nothing really going on with the weather, not many boats around, and the wildlife wasn't particularly active either. A late arrival from Kesslet changed that however, when she eventually rocked up to the party at 2pm this afternoon. The neap tides have been playing havoc with the fish, making it harder for the salmon to get through when there's only about 2 hours of fast flow from the sea. It doesn't help that the recent "good" sunny weather has made the already colossal journey even harder by lowering the water level in some of the rivers to mere trickles. For the salmon, all this hassle isn't really worth their time! Kesslet certainly had food in mind when she came to visit however, charging her way upriver to see if there was anything worth having! 

Kesslet Makes a Splash 

Always at the very last second of our trips, Kesslet likes to pull a little trick or two as a goodbye to our passengers. After spending a good little while with her out in the channel earlier on, Kesslet felt the need to give us a great big send off as she disappeared back upriver. The surprise today was a huge surface-rushing dive, sending spray everywhere, and a fantastic, huge breach just out the rear of the boat! She's been a little elusive at late, but this amazing display was enough to put a great big smile on everyone's face (even on our skipper and guide!). It was lovely to see her so active, especially with the weather being so grim and grey besides. 

Why not come aboard with us this weekend to see if you can catch up with a bouncy Kesslet? Will Charlie come and join his mum in the channel again? The only way to find out is to hop aboard and experience the Dolphin Spirit for yourself! 

Meet the Team - Rachel

Smiles All Round!

Carrying on our theme of guide introductions in the Meet the Team segment, we'll introduce you today to Rachel! Despite being our youngest guide, Rachel's smile is one of the biggest on our team. She's a happy, cheerful lady and this just shines through her commentary and chat with passengers. Rachel is currently studying to become a dentist at Dundee University, which probably explains her own glittering grin; and she's guaranteed to give you one too!

Short and Sweet Start

Rachel's introduction to Dolphin Spirit was a rushed one to say the least! Back before we were even Dolphin Spirit (in ye olde Dolphin Discovery days), Rachel was roped in to do competent crew training with Freya (one of our current guides at the time) and Frankie, who was planned to be a cover guide over the summer in 2016. Rachel got on very well with the training with then-skipper Gwyn, and would later return in 2016 to do shift cover and the occasional weekend shift. When Freya left at the end of 2016 to pursue her own venture (Inverness Historical Tours), Rachel stepped up to take her place as a permanent summer guide, and will be working from the end of May all the way through to September, when she will return to her studies. Rachel has really proven herself as a core member of the Dolphin Spirit team, despite her brief time in the position overall. She works hard and always with a smile; something our customers really appreciate, from all the positive reviews of her we've had!

Dolphin Dentistry?

While Rachel's main passion is in human dental services, that didn't stop her going out to learn about the dentition of our dolphins! On our training day back in March, Rachel was proudly spouting various facts about the teeth of our cetacean friends. Her favourite was that dolphins have, on average, between 80 and 100 teeth! That's a lot! But did you know, these teeth aren't used for chewing, but instead, for holding prey? As you may have seen, our dolphins are very adept at swallowing even big fish whole! Maybe with her knowledge of teeth and the treatment of them we can get Rachel to help keep our dolphins' breath minty fresh! We know Zephyr certainly needs it, as the old girl has some serious plaque! 

Make sure you say hello to Rachel when she comes aboard with us at the end of this month! She'll guarantee you have a great time and come off with a smile on your face!

Something Seal-y

Seals Return to the Marina Mudflats

Our local seals have been appearing around the Firth in greater numbers recently, but when we looked over the mudflats just outside of the marina they were nowhere to be seen! Our harbour seals (also called common seals) are known to use that spot for a little bit of mid-day sunbathing, particularly on the low tide when the mudflats are the most exposed. Their growing presence there has resulted in some lucky sightings over the past couple of years; mainly the births of a small number of pups! With summer on its way, it is soon going to be time for some of those cute little faces to reappear in the Inner Firth. Thankfully today, our local seals picked up their favoured basking spot, returning to the mudflats once more to enjoy the great weather. Keep an eye out for them on your next adventure with us!

Kesslet Keeping Quiet

Local girl Kesslet has been hanging around the harbour as usual, taking advantage of the neap tides to sneak in for a snack whenever she likes! With son Charlie off gallivanting up at Chanonry again, Kesslet has reverted to her introverted self; keeping her distance a little and focusing on food. Hopefully with the season getting into its peak soon, Kesslet will have some company to help fight off the baby blues. With sightings of many of her known social group in the area again, it is likely they will pass through to see her soon if she doesn't make the journey herself. We love to see her around of course, but can't help but think she could probably do with a little bit of company; Charlie certainly isn't being as obliging as he was last time around!  

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

The forecast for the next few days predicts some much-needed rain for Inverness and much of the country. Make sure you pack a jacket! That being said, a good dose of rain might just be what the salmon run needs just now; with the neap tides there are very few fish coming in at the moment, and those that do are struggling in the low water. Maybe with a bit of a fishy frenzy on the cards, our fish-eating friends may put in a bit more of an appearance! 

Discover The Dolphins

Meet Some of the Moray Firth's Superstar Dolphins!

Upon writing the "Meet the Team" segments, it becomes apparent that we actually haven't given you a proper introduction to the other stars of the show - the dolphins! In today's blog we will cover a few of our most spotted individuals, how we identify them, and where we find them! How many on the list have you spotted?

Kesslet

Easily our favourite local lass here at Dolphin Spirit, Kesslet has been present on our trips since day one. Arguably the easiest to identify, due to her incredibly curved dorsal fin, Kesslet is a common sight around the River Ness and Kessock Channel. At the young age of 22, Kesslet is considered to be in the prime of her life. She has had 3 calves so far, though only one of which has survived - her son Charlie. Kesslet stands out, not just in appearance but in personality, choosing to spend a lot of time hunting on her own. She is occasionally joined in her hunts and travels by Charlie or her old pal Scoopy. That being said, Kesslet is also sometimes spotted among larger groups further out towards Chanonry; groups which will normally include Charlie, Scoopy, Bonnie, and Bonnie's calf. She seems to be particularly fond of sea trout, a food which keeps her around the Inner Firth even in winter. 

Charlie

Charlie is a cheeky chappy, and we love seeing him around. Ever since Kesslet had and lost her last calf, Charlie has remained a little distant from the Kessock Channel, but often returns to check in on his mum (what a good son!). Charlie will be 10 this year, making him a sub-adult; he's not quite the age to start breeding yet, but that doesn't stop him showing off in the hopes it will get him some attention! Charlie is a member of a young male pod affectionately named "The Bad Boys' Club" who are known for their boisterous antics and acrobatic displays. Even on his own, Charlie displays these youthful behaviours, often breaching and showing off to any boat who'll let him. Charlie's social groups are particularly wide, though he is known to flirt with various mother-calf groups, including Zephyr, Bonnie, Honey and all their youngsters. Bonnie's calf and Charlie seem to have an almost brotherly-spat going on, as when they're together they are often bouncing around each other and socializing, despite a 6-or-so year gap. Charlie is quite easy to identify in a number of ways (he is pictured above). His fin is tall and slightly bent near the top, with a few newly-accentuated nicks near the top and middle. His face is very recognizable, with a band of white over his rostrum (nose) with what almost looks like little black freckles. 

Zephyr

Zephyr will most likely be seen by the Dolphin Mischief, as she is a very regular visitor to Chanonry Point. Zephyr is a mother to a couple of calves, namely Breeze and her newest youngster who is 1.5 years old and doesn't have a name yet. This youngster will often be spotted at Zephyr's side, though is becoming more independent now - often adventuring his environment and hunting tiddlers just within sight of his mum. Having been around for a while, Zephyr is very used to boats and often curious of them, though if there's salmon going you can bet that will be on her mind more than chasing boats! Zephyr is perfectly happy to hunt on her own, usually the first dolphin to arrive at the point. That being said, she will mingle with other mothers when they do arrive. She's an excellent hunter, and can easily catch 3 or 4 big salmon in a single session. Zephyr is quite easy to identify, with a slightly curved fin like Kesslet, though not as pronounced. The rear side of her fin is slightly nicked when you see it up close, and her back just under her fin has some mottled patches.

Zephyr peeking through the waves
Zephyr peeking through the waves

Scoopy

Scoopy is a bit of a social butterfly, flitting in and out the Inner Firth, possibly spotted anywhere. He has been hanging around with Kesslet for a number of years, and is thought to be just a little bit older than her, perhaps around 25 years old. Up until recently, when he was around 18 or so, Scoopy was relatively unmarked and was generally on the outside of social gatherings. These days, however, Scoopy is relatively well marked and easy to spot, with two large nicks near the middle of his fin and a number of rakes and marks around his head. He mingles in generally the same circles as Charlie would, and sometimes travels on his own. His shyness extends to how he treats boats; he's a little elusive. In the right circles he can be encouraged to get excited, but is generally quite relaxed when we've spotted him.

Bonnie

Bonnie's Aberdeen University ID is "Squat Fin", and it is easy to see why. Very easily recognizable by her short dorsal fin and generally quite petite stature, Bonnie is another of our commonly spotted individuals. She is often accompanied by her older male calf, who is around 4 years old now. In comparison to Bonnie, her calf has a very tall fin that is as of yet relatively unmarked. When they were last spotted aboard Dolphin Spirit, Bonnie's calf had a few shallow rakes on the left hand side of the dorsal fin, though those will have faded by now. Bonnie is a very sweet little dolphin, always part of a group and generally with either other mothers or the youngsters; it seems she has a bit of a nurturing side! She has been spotted right down into the Kessock Channel and out at Chanonry, so there is opportunity to spot her on any sailing, like Scoopy.

Meet The Team - Sue

A Lady With An Ocean Devotion!

Today's Meet the Team segment features Sue, our dolphin-crazy, happy-go-lucky part-time driver and guide! Sue has worked in tourism before and for many years, and this gig on our boat certainly isn't her first sea-faring rodeo! Lucky for us, Sue is also rather knowledgeable about our lovely locals, as she often watches them from the warmth and comfort of her own home! An avid Shorewatcher too, Sue was all too keen to start working with us at Dolphin Spirit, but sadly this week is her last lot as a guide (for now!). If you've met Sue, you'll know she is the bubbly embodiment of what we call the "dolphin spirit"!

A Teacher of Many Subjects

Previously a member of a group and teacher of dance, Sue has brought her energy and skills into a new sphere with us. However, instead of the eyes being on her acrobatics, she is teaching others about the dolphins'! More recently, Sue was also part of running a particularly busy and well known coach service, and this too has proved useful in helping us with the Dolphin Spirit Shuttle! A lady of many talents you may say. She's always smiling whenever you see her, and this cheer radiates into her commentary too - willing to engage and appeal to all with her humour and undeniable exuberance for the wildlife. Before she was part of the team, Sue was a regular visitor to us at Dolphin Spirit, and even then she was active and chatty all the while! One of her dogs, Spider, even joined us for his birthday! 

Dolphin Dedication

Sue has been Shorewatching for a long time, helping the WDC collect valuable data about the dolphins from the spotting location at Chanonry Point. This experience made her the perfect candidate for us, and her knowledge and passion for the local dolphins is palpable. In her spare time, Sue also helps engage with the public through the Friends of Merkinch Local Nature Reserve Facebook page; educating people and passersby about the wildlife on the doorsteps of South Kessock, including a cheeky little otter named Pierre, and our resident dolphins too! Sue has been lucky enough to encounter humpbacks in the Moray Firth, and is even looking to go Orca chasing this month when the Iceland/Shetland population make their annual pass through the Pentland Firth near John O'Groats. With all her experience, Sue has been a fantastic addition to our crew this year, and perhaps she may come back to join us next year too! 

If you're on the boat this week, make sure you say hello to Sue! This is her last guiding week. You will also see her throughout the year working the shuttle service to and from the city centre. She's always up for a chat and a laugh, so we can guarantee no matter where you find her, you're in for a good time!

A Nice "Tern" of Events!

The Local "Air Force" Come to Town!

We're not talking the RAF here, we're talking terns! It's been a long while since we saw our delightful little feathered friends over the firth, but today was got quite the showing. Around 20 or so terns, mixed in with some gulls, were hunting around Kilmuir most of the day. Photographing them is hard going since they are so small and so quick, but even just watching them dive at almost 90 degree angles into the water is an absolute joy. We will be keeping an eye on the population of terns hanging out around Kilmuir and the Meikle Mee buoy, as over the summer we are more than likely to find some Arctic Terns in there too!

Kesslet Capers

Local girl Kesslet was present for every sailing today as well, though this time without any sign of Charlie. When she's alone, Kesslet is quite withdrawn and tends to keep her distance from the boat. That being said, at 10am this morning we had barely left our berth before she made an appearance, diving right under the bow of the boat before heading upriver. She spent most of the day in the Ness, at times wandering out into the Kessock Channel or around the Kessock Bridge itself. She seemed to catch a few salmon on her travels today too, though wasn't exactly forthcoming in sharing it with everyone else. I spent a good while between sailings watching her from the quayside, buteven then, she was teasing me at the surface more than anything else!

Kesslet sneaking around the river

Kesslet sneaking around the river just outside Inverness Marina

Weather Watch

The weather has been quite good recently, but over the next week or so is set to get a little rainy and perhaps a little windy. Make sure you bring a jacket if you're planning to join us on the boat! Don't worry if you forget though, as the Dolphin Spirit's cozy cabin is sure to keep you warm and dry in even the worst weather!



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