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Drama in the Inner Moray Firth

a group of people on a beach

Crisis NOT Averted…
When we waved the pilot whales goodbye out of the Kessock Channel yesterday afternoon we were cautiously optimistic that they would head out after their big adventure inland. Shortly after the writing of our last blog, messages started to ping through about the pod returning, waiting around the mouth of Munlochy Bay around 8pm. By 10pm, Sue had clocked eyes on them off Kilmuir, which immediately set alarm bells ringing for some; the water at Kilmuir is very shallow near shore, and a sure stranding spot for any unfamiliar cetacean. Sure enough, our worst fears were confirmed first thing in the morning, with one of the pod live stranded on the shingle. BDMLR and SMAS immediately hopped into action, gathering their volunteers to attempt a rescue. Charlie Phillips was immediately on the scene also, posting first notice on social media to keep anxious locals updated (on his day off no less!). He also scoured the coastline nearby for any sign of others who may have shared the same fate; thankfully there were none. Meanwhile, the rest of the pod were once again chapping on the gates of the Clachnaharry Sea Lock, sitting very close in to shore and setting hearts racing once again. While Sue alerted her local contacts to their presence at 6.30am, she also messaged guide Krystyna, who got the office informed through guide of the day Rachel, and set out to shorewatch from South Kessock.

Troubled Waters
For Dolphin Spirit, the protocols from yesterday were put straight into practice; the 2pm sailing was called once again, and the boats forbidden from entering the Beauly Firth. While our boats acted responsibly to give the animals the space they needed, it wasn’t always the case. Sue and Krystyna joined several angry South Kessock residents and shorewatchers in trying to deter curious boats from the whales, who were being herded worryingly close to the shoreline there by a rather selfish boat. After a few phone calls, and the police arriving to have a look themselves over at North Kessock (a visit unrelated to our calls), the boat turned and left. The damage had already been done, all for the sake of a few iPhone pictures of the animals, but it served as a warning to others who dared to harass them! While the whales circled, confused, right off the South Kessock pier, shorewatchers could only hope that the animals would move into the deeper water of the channel, or better yet, out under the bridge. The pod did move towards North Kessock, but seemed rather stuck there. They also weren’t alone, as Charlie and Kesslet also came by for a nosey again; their tiny dorsal fins dwarfed by the might of some of the larger individuals of the pilot pod.

Not Out of the Woods
The whales did eventually move out and were spotted past Chanonry Point later in the afternoon, which was a relief to us all. The stranded individual, an elderly female, was eventually put down after rescuers decided she was neither well enough or safe enough to move back into the water. She was recovered for necropsy, which may reveal a little about the pilot whales and their unusual visits around the firth. At the time of writing this, the pilot whales are currently in the Cromarty Firth, which is not ideal. Shorewatchers are already positioned there to keep watch, and the Ecoventures tour boat will more than likely pick them up in the morning if they’re still around, so there’s plenty of eyes in the area. We can only hope for the best with these animals, and given what they’ve been through already, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that they’re just having a passing look before heading out to see. We’ll do our best to keep you updated tomorrow as well, but for now, we’re one down, but 30 whales lighter in the Beauly Firth this evening once more.