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Dolphin Spirit Blog

Dolphin and Marine Wildlife Boat Trips from Inverness Marina

2017 Season’s Spectacles!

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!

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Chronicles of Kesslet and Charlie

The Blog is Back!

For regular readers, my apologies for not keeping up with your daily dose of Dolphin Spirit dolphins and digest; your blogger has been away celebrating her birthday, but is back now to catch up and keep you informed! The usual gruesome twosome have been chopping and changing over the past of couple days between the Kessock Channel and Chanonry Point; it's been quite hard to predict where they would be one day from the next! Thankfully, wherever they've been, either Mischief or Spirit has managed to catch up with them, and observe their antics. On the 12th, they were up at the Point from the early morning. Unsurprisingly, Kesslet was spotted with a nice hearty salmon mushed up between her jaws, sitting in the slipstream just off the point itself. Charlie on the other hand, was making some fun of his own, bouncing around with some of the others in the area, at times including his mum. They moved further in land around high tide, once the fun and games were over. Thankfully, that was their latest almost-full day visit to the point in recent days, and yesterday, the pair and pal Scoopy returned to the Channel.

Lucky 13?

Through smatterings of rain, all three of the troublesome trio were spotted, hunting quite actively between the channel itself and the river. Charlie put on quite a show with one of his catches for Spirit's afternoon passengers, doing short tosses ahead of himself before doing quick, long dives after them. Mum Kesslet was never far away, at times hunting alongside him (and at others on top of him!). Kesslet has really gotten back to her old self in recent weeks, with a fair amount of socialization trips and the incredibly high breaches that she is known for. After her tragedy earlier in the year, Kesslet's fun-loving side is coming out again, and she's certainly livening up the channel with her games!

Rain-Rain Go Away!

It's supposed to be pretty rainy for the rest of this week, and today's passengers will likely be able to vouch for the horrid downpours that we've seen over the past 24 hours! If you're planning a trip out make sure you bring a jacket; even in the sheltered lower deck of Spirit a bit of horizontal rain might still leak in. You can always keep cozy in the cabin though! For Mischief-makers, make sure to tuck a waterproof jacket underneath your suit; if too much water collects in your lap you might still get a little wet as it will seep through! Don't let the weather put you off a trip though; rainy conditions are a great way to increase dolphin sightings, as it empties the rivers and encourages the salmon to run! So try your luck, come aboard, and get into the Dolphin Spirit!

Drama in the Inner Moray Firth

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.

Quiet Time

Well, For One Boat At Least...

It was an odd morning to say the least for Dolphin Spirit and Mischief; arguably the best weather all day, but as far as sightings went, it was a real strange time. Mischief left at 9.30am as usual, and were quick to alert the crew of Dolphin Spirit to the appearance of Kesslet and Charlie, who were sitting near the cardinal marker just outside of the river. That ramped up anticipations across the board. Mischief went zooming out to Chanonry, leaving Dolphin Spirit to track down the gruesome twosome at 10am. When the big boat rolled out of the marina, having herded passengers on early to help increase the chance of spotting them, they scanned high and low for fins. The Beauly Firth turned up empty, and under the Kessock Bridge too. Out past Meikle Mee we found nothing, by Kilmuir it was dead. We couldn't understand it... then we got a phone call. Charlie Phillips, sitting at the RNLI Station, called concerning the dolphins he had seen near Allanfearn. We had been looking for them, but could see none of the action he had talked about. We kept looking and looking as we came to and passed Alturlie for the elusive pair, and to no avail. Downhearted, we returned to the marina. When Mischief arrived back to liaise, we found out that the terrible two were all they had seen, coming upon them again on their way back near Castle Stuart. It just put more questions on the table as to why we didn't see them at first out on Spirit, but confirmed that would likely be the last we were to have of them in this part of the firth... bummer.

Mischief Finds Friends, Twice!

While the day remained a quiet one overall for Spirit, on Mischief, it couldn't be more different. The 12.30pm trip rocketed out to much fanfare, hoping to at least catch up with our wandering locals again. On arrival to Chanonry, they found Kesslet and Charlie there, and a little further out, also found they were not alone! As they came to Craig Mee, a group of youngsters put on quite the show, bouncing all over the place near the boat! After a rousing dance with the dolphins in that part of the firth, it was soon to turn around and come home, so Mischief left them behind. Big smiles on faces for the rest of the day after that one! The 3.30 trip also had high expectations, and were lucky enough to encounter Kesslet, Charlie, Scoopy, and a mother and older calf (no ID as yet on them) nice and close too. They were playing in the waves when the boat rocked up to Chanonry in the strong wind, and came to play briefly as the boat trundled through. All in all for them, it was a very successful day! We can only hope that this sudden relocation of our resident three doesn't become a regular thing!

The Rise of the Falling Tide

The Gruesome Twosome Strike Back!

A rather strange day all in all aboard Dolphin Spirit, but one which saw the return of Kesslet and Charlie to the Kessock Channel twice! We first spotted them in the early morning, just as we came down the Beauly Firth heading towards the Kessock Bridge. They seemed to be waiting for a boat to come out of the marina, before they sneaked into the river for a little bit of low-tide hunting. We lost sight of them after that, not finding them on our way back, so kept our fingers crossed they'd stick around. Thankfully for us, they did a little more than that, and we caught them again at 12pm. The rain was hammering down on the firth, which made sightings difficult, but when dolphins are flying they're a little hard to miss! A lovely breach from Charlie started off the sightings for that trip, out near the cardinal marker off Carnarc Point. The pair came for a short sniff around the boat, clearly hunting something, before vanishing. We kept looking for them on our way back down to the bridge again, and found them milling around the left main leg. We kept on moving, watching them start to hunt again just under the bridge itself; what they were after must have been worth it, because they were certainly going hammer and tongs! We saw them again on their way out as we came back in, near Alturlie Point. Kesslet already had a fish hanging out of her mouth, but Charlie was very much still on the prowl. He hunted a good distance from us for a lovely big salmon, breaching after it and tossing it in the air in a few spectacular displays. Sadly, after that, they were gone. Wonder where they went? 

Stingy Things

We've been keeping tabs on the jellyfish population again, seeing a great increase in the numbers of Lions Mane and Moon jellies recently. They've added a splash of colour to the murky Moray Firth, as well as some interest for the kids when it's a little quiet on the mammal side. They weren't the only stinging thing on the firth today though, as we had to come to the aid of a poorly little bee who landed on our boat! The bee was cared for by guide Krystyna, who protected the poor mite from the wind and rain up her sleeve for an entire trip! She and Sue went on to take the little buzzy buddy back into the marina, where they warmed him up a little and fed him sugar water to help him get his strength back (you can see a video of it over on our Facebook page!). Once he was ready to go, he was released into the potted plants next to the marina, and shortly disappeared when the rain was over. Who says it's just the big wildlife we care about here at Dolphin Spirit?

No-Fin!

Well That's Not a Good Start...!

So with the turn of a new week, we started our recording of sightings from Dolphin Spirit and Mischief for National Whale and Dolphin Watch. Pity that today had to be an anomaly as far as our recent sightings record has gone! An overall quiet day, Dolphin Spirit was unlucky enough to find absolutely zero dolphins at all today, while Mischief's pickings were rather slim up at Chanonry too! Where have all our fins gone?! We still live-tweeted sightings from our sailings as best we could for today, and will be keeping our eyes peeled and fingers crossed for the rest of the week for slightly better sightings! Although, what we've learned over the years is that when the dolphins aren't hogging the limelight, other animals come out to play in their place!

An Otter-ly Different Kind of Day

On 3 out of our 4 sailings today we were lucky enough to see our seals resting out on the mudflats, with what looks like another new youngster to add to the population! With the neap tides, there wasn't a lot of change between the low and rising tide points today, barely enough to cover the mudflats by the end of the day! This meant our seals got to enjoy a lazy Monday, with only a couple of the younger harbour seals sitting in the water. We also had some really good sightings of the otters today too, who appeared on 2 out of 4 trips, and were really quite active! Two young otters (or so it looked by size) were spotted under the Kessock Bridge early this afternoon, and later by the harbour wall on the 2pm. There was a lot of diving and splashing, indicating they must have been hunting while the waters were quiet. We also received report of the first newborn dolphin being spotted at Chanonry today, which is something new and exciting for Mischief to be looking for (and being really careful around!) in the coming weeks! 

So... You've Been to Dolphin Spirit, Now What?

Afternoon Activities

So you've been and done your Dolphin Spirit/Mischief experience; you've had fun cruising the coast and meeting some of the charismatic wildlife that the Moray Firth has to offer... now what? If you're new to Inverness (like I was once!), you may be quite daunted by that distance between places, or what there is to do. On Spirit and Mischief, we introduce you a little to some of the best spots to learn more about Highland history, our wildlife, and even some great walks if you're looking for them. So in this blog, we'll detail a few of these places and how to get to them; all from the Dolphin Spirit office!

Clootie Well

The Clootie Well is one of the first true landmarks mentioned when you're sailing with Spirit; hidden in the trees near the village of Munlochy, this Forestry Commission owned green-spot is a must-do for culture seekers and nature lovers. The well itself is one of a few in the area, each with their own little stories and supposed powers; the clootie well at Munlochy is supposedly a healing well, and can cure any illness or disease (apparently!). Well-wishers (pardon the pun) will want to take an odd sock with them if they wish to try out the well. The word "clootie" means "rag" in the old Scots, and refers to the rag used to wipe down ill bodies, before being dipped in the well and hung on the nearby trees. You will find a great many of these clooties on your walk through the site, some with more history behind them than others! Take a moment and savour the meaning behind the place, as well as the nature still in the trees. It's a wonderful way to spend an afternoon wandering. 
From the office you will want to take a right at the end of the road, and a left at the mini-roundabout, and a left at the roundabout at the end of the road. Following the road you will come back to the Longman roundabout, and want to go left again over the Kessock Bridge. From here, take the first right up to Munlochy. Follow the road through the village and then turn left at the cross-roads. A green sign for the Clootie Well should be visible a couple of miles down that road. 

Fort George

A great monument of British Army history is Fort George; home to the Black Watch and the Highland regiments, this is the second for near Inverness to bear this name. The first was on the River Ness, but taken and destroyed by the rising Scots clans, the Jacobites. After the Battle of Culloden, the new fort was completed and became home to those who would bow to the new British rule. The fort has its own audio tour around the 5-football-pitch worth of grounds, as well as museum of artifacts spanning the history of the Highland regiments across the generations. It's a fantastic place for history-lovers, and a must-do for anyone with a military interest or background. If you're looking for views, Fort George has some great ones to provide; from the tops of the ramparts, keen spotters will not just get views over the hills to Ben Wyvis on a good day, but Inverness to the left and Cromarty to the right. With a set of binoculars, you might even find some more dolphins down in the water too!
From the office, you will want to take a left out of the marina exit, past the stadium and onto the A9 southbound. Take the first left cutoff and stick to the left-hand lane. Go left at the first roundabout and straight through the second (first exit each time). Keep going straight through the roundabouts and carry on following the road. You will start to see brown signs for Fort George and local signs for Ardersier. If you miss one, don't worry, there's 3 cutoffs in total which will get you there, so just keep an eye on your left!

Chanonry Point

If you're feeling brave, you might want to try your hand at land-based dolphin spotting if the weather is good or you have a spare day. Chanonry is considered one of the best places in the UK to get a look at bottlenoses from shore. In the summertime, dolphins are fairly consistently sighted there, and vary in activity from relaxed surfacing to breaches by the dozen; it's a little bit of pot-luck, as all wildlife-watching is! It's also incredibly busy at the point, with all kinds of people tempted there by the wonderful animals we are so lucky to share a home with. Parking at Chanonry is a small nightmare, and it is regularly full at the Point itself, but you can get free parking at Rosemarkie or Fortrose nearby and walk down if you are able. Be prepared to sharpen your elbows if you're wanting more than memories though, as the waters edge is often full to the brim! Plan to arrive at the point for low tide in preparations for the rising tide, and also be aware that you may be waiting a few hours to get the shots or sights you want!
For Chanonry, follow the same directions up to Munlochy for the Clootie Well, but instead of left out of the village, turn right, and follow the road through Avoch and Fortrose. Once you have made it through the one-land street of Fortrose, take your first right (following the brown dolphin and seal sign on your left) and follow the road all the way down to the point. 

North Kessock

Looking for lunch? If you're wanting something warmer than our cafe offers, you can hop over the Beauly Firth to the North Kessock hotel and delight in the splendours they offer for patrons. A selection of home-cooking style dishes will surely satisfy your cravings. While you're in North Kessock, why not take a short walk down to Aurorabearealis - the studio of Susan and Charlie Phillips - and partake in some art! Susan works with a range of media, from felt to paint, and produces some fantastic local works that will make for some wonderful memories or gifts for folk back home! If your camera hasn't caught much in the way of dolphins, you can always fake it til you make it; Charlie is a world-renowned dolphin photographer, and his shots have featured in numerous magazines and articles... and could also feature on your walls! His photos are available in a selection of delightful, artistic canvases and prints, and have even inspired some mugs and other gifts!
North Kessock follows the same directions over the Kessock Bridge as Chanonry and the Clootie Well, but instead of following the A9 up to the Munlochy turn off, take the second cutoff on your left (first after the service stop, it's signposted nice and clearly), and follow the road down, over a roundabout and into the town itself. North Kessock Hotel and Aurorabearealis are both on the Main Street.

When In Doubt...

Go with what you know! You can always use your bounce-back tickets and return to Dolphin Spirit for 50% off list price! How's that for a deal!

Hunting Party!

Dolphin Mischief Gatecrashes the Get-Together!

It was a cold and blustery day for the best part of the morning and afternoon, but the weather didn't hold back the Mischief from heading into the wilderness, and they'll be glad they went out! On arrival to Chanonry Point on the morning trip, Mischief found a lonely Sundance milling around just off the point. He wasn't very active, just swimming in the waves and ducking in and out of the riptide. A bit further out, a few more of the dolphins were sitting past the fort, doing much along the lines of the same thing, including Zephyr and her youngster. Zephyr and toot moved off to the point as Mischief were returning via Fort George back down the coast. The afternoon trip would prove far more fruitful, with the sudden arrival of several youngsters really putting a spanner in the works! 

Hardcore Hunting

Just before Mischief returned to Chanonry Point with the 12.30pm passengers, around 10 other dolphins descended upon the point. A few stayed at a distance, but it was wall-to-wall dorsal fins from Rosemarkie Bay round the point to be in line with the lighthouse! A few groups would become apparent and seperate off now and again, including a group of calves who detached from their parents and went on a breaching spree in the shipping channel between the point and Fort George. In that group were also Honey and sister Spirtle, who had a bit of breaching fun with Honey and Zephyr's calves. Mischief would trundle into the channel just as a heap of hunting kicked off, with five different dolphins working in tandem to corral and herd a group of fish; some of which went flying in different directions! Just behind the RIB, Sundance made a show of powering out an absolute monster of a salmon above his head. The hefty fish and hefty hunter crashed back into the water to the passengers' awe. As the RIB passed on round the coast of the fort, some of the dolphins did too, with a few breaches to boot. It was a fantastic afternoon, and Mischief's dolphin escort out of the Chanonry Narrows was the perfect mid-point to the trip. With the sun shining for the 3.30pm trip, one can only hope that it went just as well as the 12.30pm!

Skipper Gus pointing out dolphins
Skipper Gus pointing out Sundance's antics behind, unaware that another fin lurks nearby!

The Perfect Day!

Sunshine and Cetaceans All Round!

It couldn't really have been a better day if we tried! The sun poked its head through the clouds during the 10am sailing and stayed for the rest of the day; something our dolphins did too! Every single sailing for both Dolphin Spirit and Mischief encountered our finned friends, who by all accounts were out in force enjoying the weather! Dolphin Spirit had the pleasure of being joined by Kesslet and Scoopy for the whole day; Charlie had previously joined them in the river early on before the day started (8am according to the lads in the harbour), hunting salmon. However, by the start of the working day, had moved on out and back up to Chanonry, where he joined a happy, active group there instead (probably sick of third-wheeling Scoopy and his mum!). When Dolphin Spirit left on their first trip, the pair came by to say hello at the yellow cardinal, a brief but close encounter before heading back into the river. We didn't see them until the 12pm, when they had moved back out to Clachnaharry and were making their way back. Kesslet, eyes obviously on a nearby salmon, came bursting out of the water in a lovely breach, salmon flying out with her! She toyed with her prize and brought Scoopy over to see us at North Kessock to show off! We left them to it, and again, didn't see them until the next trip. It was an immediate sighting for the 2pm, with the pair just in the marina mouth as we left! They guided us out before disappearing from view back upriver. We had our fingers crossed for a 4 out of 4 day at that point, but something made it seem like it wasn't going to happen...

4pm Jitters!

We left the marina, no dolphins. We searched the Beauly Firth, no dolphins. We approached Meikle Mee, no dolphins. It seemed like the gruesome twosome had managed to evade us! There was plenty of chat going around the boat that there wasn't going to be a sighting this trip. But our guides Krystyna and Sue remained ever hopeful! As we came back to Meikle Mee on our way back home, one of our passengers gave a surprise call. "Dolphin." No shout, just a statement. He pointed down the bow, and sure enough, there was Scoopy, coiled round the boat like a banana! Sue yelled the call back to us further down the boat, and the call given down the microphone to look out for where they may turn up next. Two big blows behind us later, and our passengers rejoiced that Kesslet and Scoopy had graced us with a rain-blow goodbye as we watched them surf the waves. It turned into a 4 out of 4 day after all! And what a day for it!

A Great Dolphin Day!

Dolphins All 'Round!

It was a beautiful day to be out in the Moray Firth, and a day enjoyed by passengers and dolphins alike it would seem! Both Dolphin Mischief and Dolphin Spirit got up close and personal with a few of their local "residents"! Spirit's day started nice and early with Charlie and Kesslet appearing in the Beauly Firth for the 10am sailing! At 12pm they disappeared, but brought a friend with them at 2pm in the form of big lad Scoopy, who seems to be back following his golden girl again for the time being! They took some time out to hunt in the river, providing good sightings on the way out and way back in for Spirit's sunbathing passengers! As they left the area at 4pm, they got quite social with the boat out near the Kessock Bridge; Charlie even showing off a bit with a casual breach in front! Seems like the sunshine brings out the best sides of our dolphins too! And it wasn't just Spirit who enjoyed a breaching bonanza either...

Mischief Stirs Things Up

A terrible pun of a title if ever there was one, as Mischief's main sightings were of Spirtle and her family making a ruckus out near Craig Mee this morning (for those who are unaware, a "spirtle" is a long stirrer for making porridge!). Spirtle's sunburns are looking even better once again, and the youngster was proving herself time and again in a little breach-fest with Honey and her calf. Mischief got to see a little bit of the fun, and also enjoyed a close-up with Zephyr and her little one again as well. Other dolphins in the area and near the point included the fantastic Sundance, who came through to make a bit of mayhem with some of the other youngsters in the area. Bonnie and her older calf got nice and active near the point too, with a bit of double breaching, and some physical biting and rubbing going on between some of the socialising youngsters. All in all, the sightings for Mischief were just as exciting as yesterday's, and it seems like this past week has been quite an active one across the dolphin board!

Finding Mischief

A Successful Morning!

Well, for one of the boats anyway; Dolphin Spirit had a no-sail due to lack of passengers for the first time in a long time! That meant it was up to Dolphin Mischief to provide the "scouting" info for the morning, and what a morning it was! All was quiet until the boat approached Chanonry. However, just as we turned the corner past the car park we saw a few splashes of activity; some breaching, some surface rushing. As we crept ever closer, nice and slow, we spotted a few of the well known dolphins bobbing around, and one big fin stood out above them all. Mischief, our boat's namesake, was surfacing furthest out from the point. As we approached, he came slightly closer with each surface, letting out a few bellowing blows before a long dive into the fast current just offshore. We left him and Bonnie and youngster to it, heading on towards Craig Mee and Fort George, encountering Moonlight and her youngster en route. As we made it to Craig Mee, we spotted Zephyr rooting around, and her youngster hunting for himself too. Bored of the chase for food, he came over to say hello to the boat, breaching off our bow twice before mum Zephyr came over to calm him down again. We left them to their breakfast and continued on again, discovering another small group making a fuss over by the seal colonies of Whiteness. A mother and calf came alongside for a short while, before disappearing off with another male. Our passengers were beaming with the interactions we had had so far, but that wasn't all there was to see...

Teasing from a Troublesome Two!

As the boat returned to the marina, in the river were two other dolphins waiting for us; Charlie and Kesslet! Kesslet said hello briefly, while Charlie came over and hugged the bow for a moment before vanishing too. They both disappeared upriver to hunt, and so Mischief left them to it. All in all, a successful trip! We would later find Kesslet and Scoopy further out in the Beauly Firth, who would become the subjects of Dolphin Spirit's later trips when they managed to go out. In total that makes at least 13 different dolphins spotted across both boats today! And lets not forget the curious seals, who were also more than happy to investigate us as we passed on by, both at the Whiteness and Marina colonies. Still no new newborns, just the two we spotted earlier, but we will certainly be keeping tabs on them over the next while!

Making Mischief!

Dolphins by the Dozen!

Dolphin Mischief had easily the best day of the two boats going out today; with the spectacularly calm and, at times, even sunny weather, it was the perfect day for a mischief-making experience! The 12.30pm trip was the first to go out, and boy was it a doozy! Not only were the lucky passengers joined by expert dolphin 'toggie Charlie Phillips, but they encountered a wonderfully active group of 12 dolphins hunting and playing around Rosemarkie Bay! The huge group of dolphins included a few well known individuals, including locals Kesslet and Charlie themselves. Others getting in on the fun included adoptable dolphin Rainbow and her son Indigo, Zephyr and son, and Moonlight's youngster! Plenty of breaching to be seen, quite close to the boat too, making for some great shots. You can see the pictures Charlie got from the RIB on our Facebook page!

A Mostly Grey Day

The sky clouded over for the afternoon shortly after the return of Mischief to the marina, with smiles all around brightening the dull day anyway! Despite the still calm conditions, the 3.30pm left today with only 2 passengers, though I'm sure they likely would have enjoyed having the boat to themselves, and hopefully catching up with that wild group further out past the point! Seals were also spotted through the day, including a particularly ravenous critter near the Meikle Mee buoy, who spent a good period of time near the surface, gnawing on a fish it had caught. It stuck around for quite some time, even while Mischief hovered about and looked on. As the month passes on we hope the weather will improve some more, and hopefully entice some more passengers to join the RIB for a trip; it seems such a shame to have people missing out when they could come aboard and see all this for themselves! If you've got a case of FOMO reading this, maybe it's time you treated yourself to a Mischief experience all your own!

Gotta Spot 'Em All!

Another Big 3 Day for Spirit AND Mischief!

What a day! Not only Dolphin Spirit have a fantastic Big 3 day (and then some!), so did Mischief! Despite the forecast, the day was dry for the most part and while enjoying the calm, we also enjoyed some great sightings of the lovely local wildlife. Sightings started literally first thing in the morning for Spirit, when Kesslet appeared just in the river with a nice big salmon within the first 5 minutes of the trip. After letting her approach us and disappear off again to dodge the incoming gull horde, we continued on into the Beauly Firth, where we encountered one of the seal pups out for a swim! That was for the most part how the morning went on, but as the afternoon wore on, our sightings only got better!

Strange Sightings at Chanonry Point!

While Spirit was making friends down in the Beauly Firth, Mischief was watching some weird and wonderful goings-on up near Chanonry Point. On approach to the Point, the boat spotted a lone dolphin having interactions with a seal. The seal, according to skipper George, wasn't too keen on its big new friend, but the dolphin was approaching with seemingly playful intent; I guess around 400kg of dolphin can be quite intimidating when it's in your face like that! Moving on, Mischief also encountered an otter at Chanonry! They also managed to spot a fair bit of dolphin activity throughout the day, with all 3 sailings going out! Skipper George is also keeping his eyes peeled for juvenile Sea Eagle which he is certain is in the Munlochy area! Next time you're out with our boats you might want to keep your eyes peeled for these so called "flying barn doors" to see if he's right!

Not a Sea Eagle But...

While Dolphin Spirit spent some extended time out near Munlochy and Alturlie Point today due to a fair amount of harbour traffic, we didn't see any sea eagles. That being said, we did have a very close flyover by a red kite passing over the firth from the Black Isle towards Culloden! In the same area we found ourselves a Charlie in the afternoon, who was initially resting near Meikle Mee before coming to see us and zipping off towards the shore with a few bouncy breaches to boot! The last sighting of note was on the 4pm trip at the last minute, where a cheeky otter appeared next to the mudflats on our way back in, swimming alongside towards a small lone rock near the harbour wall and climbing up onto its back feet to have a better look at us! A great end to an overall fantastic day!

Bouncing Baby Dolphins!

Chasing the Grey Away

The Moray Firth with plagued with some pretty horrible weather today; with a tremendous westerly wind all day and some scattered, heavy showers throughout, it wasn't exactly a day for going outside. However, that was not enough to deter our guide Krystyna (who took her usual sabbatical to Chanonry Point), or the Dolphin Mischief, who carried 4 excited and well-kitted passengers into the windy mess of waves that was the Chanonry narrows. While Mischief only arrived at 4pm (as it was the only trip the boat was able to make in the adverse conditions), Krystyna had been there from 9.50am - a good several hours before the action started - surveying the area. Scoopy had been present in the morning, hunting on his own just off the coast of Chanonry before peeling off to Fort George and away into the distance. But come 2.30pm, the most magical thing happened, and Mischief got right into the thick of it (as you can see above!).

Dolphin by the Dozen

The first to arrive at the point, unsurprisingly, was Zephyr, who went about hunting almost immediately, doing big dives and fast surface rushes as she chased fish. Her calf joined her momentarily, in the company of Charlie and a few of the boisterous males, including big Sundance! The boys went off to play, breaching and touching heads and tails, as Bonnie and her youngster arrived, adding another body to the dynamic. Bonnie spent her time in the tidal current with Zephyr, while her youngster got taught a lesson or two from Charlie and Sundance (who at several points were bashing each other over the head with their tail flukes!). The "Porridge" family was the last to join in, with Porridge and her calf, Honey and her little one, and even the sunburned Spirtle appearing too. As the ladies split off into little hunting parties, Zephyr babysitting for Porridge while she had a chance to hunt, the boys continued their madness. The breaching was continual for almost an hour, and the little one-year-olds would also get involved, playing chases with the bigger calves and Charlie. It was a fantastic scene, and even as the Dolphin Mischief drifted in, it didn't stop. In fact, the males took their chance to use the boat like a prop in a game of "I can jump higher than you"! This got Mischief a front row seat to the action that was almost a speck from the shore (if only the passengers had looked the right way! D'oh!)

Do you want to get right up close to the action; seeing wild and free dolphins play just metres from you? Be the envy of the landlubbers? Book your Dolphin Mischief experience today here!

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!

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!

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 - 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!

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! 



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