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Dolphin Spirit Blog

Dolphin and Marine Wildlife Boat Trips from Inverness Marina

The End...

Seasonal Sayonara...

Well this is it the folks; the final update blog for the season. With a week left until the doors close (and our big round-up of the season's hightlights), it's time to report what's been going on in the Moray Firth one last time. Sadly, there hasn't really been too much to report! After the excitement of the minke whale last week, our past few days have been somewhat lacking in cetaceans; but what it's missing in fins it has made up for in spellbinding weather and brilliant sightings of some of our other, generally shier wildlife. Charlie and Kesslet have made their appearance felt only once in the last week, checking the boat out as she headed under the bridge into the Inverness Firth. The pair followed to Meikle Mee, before splitting off for a bit of a rest as the boat carried on. Since then, they've left the Beauly Firth somewhat vacant. That being said, when the cats are away, the mice shall play for sure, as we've had a great time meeting some of the other critters in the area for a bit more than usual.

An Otter One

With the good tides, we've caught up with the cheekiest of the Moray Firth lot a good deal recently; earlier in the week, the tide's rise coincided quite nicely with the very start of our day and the rising of the sun. These conditions made it ripe otter-spotting time, and we were not disappointed. Whether in curiousity or in playfulness, the otters have been caught a good few times sneaking a peek as we come by. The two youngsters have been frolicking around North Kessock recently a fair bit too, and coming into the water together to hunt. The big male of the two was clocked with a lovely eel of some sort in his paws on Monday morning, chewing away as we passed him by. The smaller female was also seen near the harbour wall, coming up behind the boat as she turned out of the marina. The otters haven't been alone in taking advantage of the quiet, as we've had seals by the dozen across most trips the past week; some very close, some acting like dolphins! It was around this time last year when we noticed the same phenomenon occurring; young harbour seals making large breaches around the Beauly Firth. Upon delving into this behaviour a bit, this seemed to be a kind of mate-impressing behaviour, where the seals showed off their skills and physiques to potential females, normally after a fight with another male. While we've only seen this behaviour with seals on their own, it could be that some of the younger males are practicing for when their time comes. We've also had some of the more mature males wave flippers and spy-hop at one another when they encounter each other further out at this time of year, so the seals sometimes are more entertaining than the dolphins can be! 

Well, that's the end of the report for this season; join us for a bit of light Hallowe'en reading (between children coming to your door!) when we release our seasonal round up of all the best sightings and moments of the 2017 season. Thank you all for reading our reports, we hope you've enjoyed reading them as much as we've enjoyed writing them for you!

Like Herding... Dolphins?

A Difficult Month

Whew, and we thought August was a toughie! September is proving quite the handful so far, with our wildlife being so much less predictable than they were even last month! While the dolphins seem to be moving around a lot, Mischief is managing to catch up with them on the regular, Spirit is having a little bit of a harder time. That being said, Kesslet has managed to surprise us, both on her own and with friends in the past week. On Tuesday, she appeared for the whole day, catching salmon in the river as they were heading back out to sea. She seemed to do very well, and left at the end of the day with a nice full belly. She appeared on Wednesday too, again on her own for a bit of a nosey in the afternoon too. Charlie has been missing for a little while, but from what we've seen from others further out, he's spending a bit of time more to the east with some of the other social groups for a change. Mischief has found Spirtle on a number of occasions, and she's looking fantastic. She and her sister Honey are still hanging around, and we've been lucky enough to see them playing around while the boat has been near Eathie (see our Facebook for a little video of them having fun!). 

Other Finned Friends

While the dolphins have proven a little elusive for Spirit recently, it's opened the gate for some other little fins to make an appearance; the harbour porpoise! For only the third time so far this season we've come across them on two sailings this week, with them being the most obvious yesterday, surfacing nice and actively nearby in the Beauly Firth. We hope we may see a little more of our unicorns of the firth as the season closes, as they're such a special sighting. It's also a special time of year for another group of animals, our birds, as our gannets are returning to the area. We've seen them on most trips over the weekend, with a picking-up wind drawing them closer to the bridge. We've had mostly fledglings in the area, but a few adults to help teach the youngsters about life. Speaking of youngsters, we haven't seen our otter mum much recently, but when we have she's been around in the morning. We suspect she may have little ones just now, but her big male friend Pierre (as he's so called!) has been keeping us company as he hunts around the bridge. He's been quite the show-off over the past week! And it's not just the otters who may have little ones, as the greys have started to disappear from the firth; it's now the pupping season for the grey seals and they're moving more east to their designated pupping beaches. They'll return in spring, but for now, it's allowing the harbour seals to get out and about more, and to hoover up all the leftover fish in the firth! So while the season may be winding down, there's still plenty to see, and every trip is different. Nothing like a little bit of extra mystery to make a trip really interesting, eh!

Hide and Seek!

Ready or Not!

Well, today started off a little like that cormorant in the picture above; a bit dull (weather wise!) and full of yawns (the sun makes our guides sleepy!). It was a very relaxing start with some spots of sunshine which would have been perfect for a nap, but we had no time for such relaxation, as we were out hunting for dolphins! Sadly, neither of the double trouble duo had appeared for breakfast around the Kessock Channel, and we were left to giggle at seal antics and scout for otters instead. However, on our busiest sailing of the day, Kesslet and Charlie pulled through for us, appearing at the yellow cardinal buoy just as we left the marina! We spent a little bit of time with them, but they weren't exactly overly active, just sitting in the tide and surfacing here and there in very unpredictable movements. There was no hunting activity, and was we later found out, this may have been because they had spent the morning snacking elsewhere, as Charlie was spotted by the Craig Mee marker buoy at Rosemarkie with an already headless salmon earlier. They come to see us on our way back down the firth very briefly, and again on our way back into the marina, but whatever the matter was with them, they weren't exactly for showing off today; but it was still nice to see them!

Afternoon Antics

As we left for the sailing of the day, we hoped the pair would have stuck about to be spotted again. We looked as we left and couldn't see hide nor fin. Nothing in the channel, but a little white vessel seemed to be circling under the bridge for some reason. We had our suspicions but had seen no fins. The Scot Navigator made her way out of the harbour with the Ardgowan pilot vessel as we were coming back towards the bridge, and we eagerly watched the front of the larger boat in anticipation of the dolphins approaching for a bow ride as they had done not a week prior with the Scot Isles. Still no fins. It wasn't until we passed under the bridge when the call went out and Sue came running up the stairs; "Dolphins! Just at the pillar of the bridge!" One of our younger passengers had seen them surface as we passed below the bridge but was a little too gobsmacked to yell out! It wasn't until Sue asked what she saw that we found out to tell everyone else! By that point they were specks in the horizon, so we hoped to see them coming back again too. Sure enough we did! They surprised us by surfacing right on our bow for a short moment, before appearing at our rear, surfing the waves in time with each other. Charlie raised his tail and slapped it down loudly, almost as if in a parting wave. And then they were gone, carried out by a falling tide off behind us. Wonder what's gotten into our local dynamic duo; hopefully they'll save a little bit more energy for their next visit!

Kesslet and Charlie
Kesslet and Charlie surface behind Dolphin Spirit, with Beauly in the background

Fish Frenzy!

Wouldn't Want to be a Salmon...

It was a very varied day sightings-wise aboard Dolphin Spirit, but one in which all the animals spotted had something in common; the migratory fish were their primary target! In the morning, we were alerted to Kesslet and Scoopy being in the Kessock Channel, hunting for fish. We rushed out on the 10am to find them, and did immediately, getting a lovely greeting from Scoopy who came by for a closer look. Kesslet by this time was further upriver, but just visible with her distinctive, curved fin. We kept our eyes peeled as we moved into the Beauly Firth, looking for any sign of Charlie, as he's been around the area with his mum quite a bit in recent days. And sure enough, he made his presence felt in quite dashing style! Bow-riding a fishing vessel which had just exited the canal, Charlie seemed to be having a whale of a time; he breached sideways, he breached backwards, he spun in the bow waves like a torpedo. It was fantastic to watch. After the boat had passed us, Charlie changed tack and came to see us, swimming alongside and then at our bow briefly before heading off behind us. As we turned, we found out why; Kesslet and Scoopy had moved out into the Beauly Firth, where a strong riptide had formed. Kesslet had also caught a huge salmon which she was happily displaying. As we came back down the channel we watched for them, and Charlie came to see us again, following us easily and making lovely, splashing surface rushes along the length of our bow. He bounced his way into the river after that, leaving mum and her suitor to it in the channel, and we left them to it as well. As we returned, we found Scoopy just under the bridge, where he was waiting for the Carnarc pilot boat to leave the marina. Upon seeing it he approached, and followed it out past us into the Inverness Firth, breaching at least some of the way. We also found Charlie back at the river, with a great big salmon of his own, before watching him head out after Scoopy. That would be the last we would see of the terrible trio today.

Feather and Fur

But it wasn't all bad, with the dolphins gone, the seals made their appearances, and we also got a couple of lovely interactions and a surprise visitor appear later in the afternoon. The 4pm trip proved the most successful after the 10am, with a couple of young seals to start, before a sudden sighting of a hovering osprey near the ICT Stadium. We watched him scan the water for prey, before heading over the Kessock Bridge and out of view. While the talons of the osprey were one less danger for the salmon, they weren't out of the woods yet! As we returned to the marina, we found our local male otter sitting just at the river mouth. He ducked and dived a couple of times, coming up a third time with a little trout juvenile in his paws and jaws. It was great to see him just chilling out on his back, munching away. He obviously wasn't too fussed about us, as he came back up to surface two more times to see us before we went back into the marina! All in all, a successful end to the day (though maybe not so much for the fish!). 

Wildlife Worth Watching For

Not All Stars Have Fins!

We've done the introduction to our crew and the dolphins, but what you might also need to know more about is the other wildlife often seen in our little corner of the Moray Firth; not all of it has fins! In this list we will cover some of the biggest and best, where to see them, and what to look out for on the water!

Red Kites

Over your head you might come across a rather imposing shadow; one with a 5-6ft wingspan and a long, v-shaped tail. This is the tell-tale sign of a red kite, like the one pictured above. The red kites here were born of a long-running reintroduction program starting back in the 1980s. The population was expected to merge with another reintroduced group well to the south, in Devon. The Devon population have since done their bit, with red kites now being spotted in the Midlands commonly as a result. The Highlands population seems to have suffered a few setbacks in their regrouping, with only around 250 or so breeding pairs in this area. It is thought that the illegal persecution (killing, particularly poisoning) of these birds on farmland and shooting grounds has proven the biggest threat and blocker to the successful bloom of red kites in Scotland. Despite this, Scottish kites have been sighted in England, Ireland, and some even as far as Iberia! We are lucky to see them year-round in the Highlands, primarily over the trees on the Black Isle, or passing over water between Munlochy and Culloden, or North and South Kessock. 

Seals

The Moray Firth homes two kinds of seals, one slightly more commonly spotted on our trips than the other (which may explain the name!). The first, and smallest, species is the harbour (or common) seal; these are indeed the ones we see most. Compact, generally less than 2m in length, with a rather cat-like face, these seals are very active in summer. The main portion of their birthing season occurs in June and July, meaning that these midsummer months are the best times to look out for pups. Harbour seal pups are actually pretty great swimmers, and are sometimes in the water mere hours after birth. That being said, small bodies don't work well over long swims, and sometimes mothers will be spotted giving piggybacks to the youngsters while on hunts. We have a small population (roughly 12 or so) of these seals living on the mudflats just outside of Inverness Marina. Our other seals are the grey seals; with just around 500 of these seals visiting the Moray Firth, they number roughly a quarter of the overall seal population of the firth itself. Their Latin Name, which translates to "hook nosed sea pig" comes from their distinctively long snout. It is therefore very easy to differentiate between a harbour and grey seal when in profile. The grey seals are most abundant before their pupping season, which is around autumn-time, as they will leave then to return to their designated birthing haul-outs, which tend to be more to the north.

Osprey

Another feathered visitor to the Moray Firth is the Osprey; these white and brown birds summer in Scotland to hunt down the migrating salmon. About the same size as a kite, they have long, finger-like wings and can most often be seen near or over water. Their talons and feet are specially designed to give them grip on slippery fish, and they can even close their nostrils to prevent them breathing in water as they dive into the water after their prey! They are generally most active over three points in their season; just before mating (so immediately on their return to the nesting grounds), after the young have hatched, and after fledging. The osprey will leave Scotland in dribs and drabs over the early autumn months, with most gone by October, so the best time to see them will shortly be coming to a close! These impressive birds will return to their winter grounds in Africa and Spain, with some flying as much as 430km a day!

Otter

The otters are perhaps some of the shyest of the wildlife to spot on the firth; small, sleek, and very quick, the otters can be there in a second and gone the next. Essentially looking like water weasels, the otters in our part of the firth tend to be of the one mating group - a mother, her cubs, and a large male. There is no distinct pattern to the activity we see from the otters, but we tend to find them within the first 20 minutes of the trip most commonly; at the harbour wall, under the bridge, or on the piers at either North or South Kessock. There is also no defined breeding season for otters in Scotland, so determining behaviour based on season is very difficult. That being said, the otter pair here certainly aren't shy about their antics, and have been spotted copulating a few times over the past few months, so the possibility of new cubs is certainly a very real one. Feeding on a variety of fish and at times, birds, too, it's quite comical what you can see them with at times; last season's otter highlight was the unfortunate demise of a non-breeding guillemot in the jaws of the big male just outside the ICT Stadium!

Harbour Porpoise

A worthy mention has to go to our unicorns of the firth, the harbour porpoise. Sightings of these elusive little cetaceans are few and far between, with only an estimated 80 individuals living in the Moray Firth! Bullied by the bottlenoses, the porpoise will actively avoid all the areas the dolphins tend to inhabit; sticking to the shore in small groups, avoiding boats, surfacing only when required and evading detection through sound or sight. We have historically had a few good sightings of tiny little triangular fins in the firth, but it must be said, you have to have some kind of luck to come across them! Mischief's first cetacean spotted was a porpoise, all things being said, so you just never know when or where they could crop up!

Not a Good Day For Fish!

A Feast to Be Had!

It was a glorious day to be out on the Moray Firth today... for the most part! As our 4pm passengers found out, the sunshine and calm waters wouldn't last all day, but we had a barrel of laughs riding the waves in the later part of the afternoon regardless, and our passengers took it all in their stride! But when the sun was out, however, a fair number of animals came out to enjoy it, including a few oddities! We came across seals throughout the day, and Charlie and Kesslet made a rather stellar appearance at 12pm, where we got to see them over the course of about 30 minutes in total! We first caught up with them just outside the river, with Charlie the first to poke his mustachioed beak out of the water. He swam some circles as we approached, with mum Kesslet appearing alongside him also. She was busy handling the lovely big salmon she had caught just before we encountered them, and took it with her as she and Charlie made waves out past the Kessock Bridge. We caught up with the pair after doing our tour of the Beauly Firth, just outside of the ICT Stadium. They came very close, passing under the bow from right to left, letting everyone get a great look at them. Also a great look at Kesslet's unfortunate salmon, who by now was nothing but a bundle of pink goo with a tail... gross! We lost them again near Meikle Mee, where the pair had disappeared in the direction of Kilmuir. It wasn't until we came back around to Alturlie Point that the call of "dolphins!" went up again, and we caught our last glimpse as they once again vanished into the depths of the firth. That would be the last we would see of them today, but not the last wildlife to give us a surprise!

Fish Supper, No Chips

The dolphins weren't the only fishermen out on the firth, as we also came across a cheeky Cormorant with a weird and wonderful little eel-like fish in its beak on the 2pm sailing, and lots of other gulls and other birds spent the best part of the calm weather fishing near the surface. Terns, gulls, and even a passing Skua were all caught today at some point with a fishy feast in their beaks! The Arctic Skua, spotted at 4pm, wasn't the only feathered surprise either, as we also saw 4 more gannets on that trip too! The gannets will be breeding around here again, and it won't be long until we see the skies full of brown fledglings, following their pale parents! Autumn must be drawing near once more; oh how time flies! We also had plenty of jellyfish sightings again this morning in the lovely emerald waters of the Inverness Firth; specks of red and blue lit up the depths, undulating on their way. You can see a great shot of one of the huge Lion's Mane jellyfish from today over on our Facebook page! With the neap tides, sightings have been very unpredictable, but the anticipation on every sailing is palpable and very exciting; who knows what we'll see for the rest of the week with this tide!

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!

Morning Madness!

A Season Record

We're beginning to think that our dolphins and buses run on the same schedule; just when you're sitting about waiting for one, six turn up at once! We had a great day overall, with dolphins spotted on 3 our of 4 sailings, but the true jewel in today's cetacean spotting crown was this morning's 10am trip. It started off like most 10am trips this week, with Kesslet hunting on her own around the river. She swam along with us as we went off into the Beauly Firth, and we continued to watch her there with her salmon for a short while before heading off again. As we came under the bridge, a group of 5 other dolphins magicked themselves into the area just ahead of us, and passed alongside to head into the channel where Kesslet was occupying herself. This group of five included Scoopy, Bonnie (and her calf), and Porridge (and also her calf!). We later found out they were not alone either, as Zephyr and her youngster also arrived in the area to make a total of 8 dolphins in the Beauly Firth area alone! So far this season, this is a record sighting, and we're certainly keeping our fingers crossed for more visits from groups like this in the rest of the season! The group did not leave empty handed either, as they spent a good while corralling fish between the North and South Kessock piers; hopefully they'll go off and let everyone else know about the feast Kesslet's been keeping to herself so far this year!

 

Breaching buddies in the Kessock Channel
Breach buddies!

Special Visitors

We were lucky enough to get a lovely visit from Charlie Phillips of the WDC today, and Mischief's 12.30pm passengers were lucky enough to even have him join them on their trip. Skipper Gus was excited just to have such a knowledgeable body on board, as for these new skippers it's a great opportunity to learn more about the dolphins and have a keen outside eye over the work they are doing and make sure they are doing it right and well. After the excitement of the morning, everything went quiet through the afternoon though, and the visiting group seemed to disappear into thin air with the turn of the hour. That being said, the fishing conditions seemed to be great all day, as we also spotted a Skua scouring around Munlochy late in the afternoon, as well as a hefty cloud of terns near Kilmuir most of the afternoon. Seems like the little fish were plenty for these birds, but the dolphins may have been after something more substantial. Maybe Kesslet was hogging all the good stuff as usual; she had three impressive salmon in the short times we spent with her, so who knows how many she had stowed away!

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!

Quiet on the Dolphin Front

The Troublesome Two Make an Appearance!

The day overall was a rather quiet one, in both weather and sightings. The quiet weather was a blessing after yesterday's hard conditions; the wind was milder than before, despite the dreary forecast, with some light rain in the afternoon. This was all fine for us, as it meant we could go out for all four sailing again, and were we glad we did. In the afternoon, our mischievous locals made themselves known to the boat, appearing together not too far from Meikle Mee on their way in to their usual hunting grounds. Unlike himself, Charlie was less focused on play and more on food, and the two were quite straightforward in their interaction with us but it was still great to see them. They must have gone their separate ways later on, as it was only Kesslet left in the river hunting alone when the boat saw her last. By the end of the day the dolphins had disappeared as quickly as they'd appeared. Sometimes it's like trying to catch mist with those two!

Adorableness to the Max

Guide Rachel started her 4-day stint today to the news that we now had two seal pups in the colony outside the marina. She was so enthused about the first, that the second will just have been double the fun! They were present pretty much all day out on those mudflats, wriggling around to get comfy and feed from the milk their mothers are providing. It won't be long now though when they get bumped off into the murky firth to feed themselves though, so they should enjoy the peace and cooing at while it lasts! No sign of the otters today to report, but plenty of bird activity, with herons along the shore enjoying a feast; including one tremendous eel caught on camera by Charlie Phillips of the WDC, who was also watching from shore this afternoon!

Watching in the Wind and Waves

Attack of the DSWs!

For those who haven't been out on a trip with us, the dreaded DSW (or Dolphin Shaped Wave) strikes most often during dolphin-watching trips on the Moray Firth on a windy day. For today, we were inundated with sightings of the DSWs, before the actual Ds (or Dolphins!) turned up in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the sighting was so fleeting of the two fins surfacing out the rear of the boat, that we could only hope to hazard a guess at who it was. But WDC Field Officer Charlie Phillips went out to investigate after getting a heads up call from us, and found the pair herding fish in an impressive display up near Bunchrew. He, too, couldn't discern an ID through the choppy waters. It was a difficult day in that regard, and a steadily increasing wind throughout the day eventually managed to cancel the 4pm Dolphin Spirit sailing and 12.30pm and 3.30pm Dolphin Mischief trips. We made the best of what we had though, with some great sightings again of our lovely seal colony and cheeky local otters.

Seal Update

Our seal colony showed well today, with 8 individuals spotted lazing around in the morning; a number which included our 2 newborns and 6 adults, including the bull of the harem. The bull has been in some competition lately, as he has a tremendous slash across his neck, but thankfully this has been healing well over the past week or so. Our pups seem to be feeding well too, with sightings of them suckling from their mothers a common thing these days. We're still keeping watch for any other youngsters, as well as keeping an eye on the main body of the colony at Redcastle, which seems to mirror numbers in our own when the shore is exposed their too. So far, as far as we've seen, our two pups are the only little ones around, so it may still be early days yet. The otter's recent spate of activity is leading us to believe there may also be the pitter-patter of tiny paws around the harbour wall soon, as cubs for her also seem to be a high probability. It's going to be a busy river mouth soon!

An Osprey A Day...

If Only!

We wish we could see an osprey a day here at Dolphin Spirit, they are just such beautiful birds! That being said though, we were very lucky to see one hunting and hovering just over the Inverness Caley Thistle Stadium as we headed out this afternoon! It stuck around for a while, allowing passengers a good look before heading off across the bridge and into the murky, rainy abyss. We got to also enjoy sightings of our two new seal pups and the rest of the "mother and toddler group" as they chilled out on the mudflats, and our otter, who was out hunting on the 2pm trip near the bridge and rocky harbour wall. That really summed up our day today, as everything seemed to go the same way - chilled out and calm. Despite the rain which spattered us all day in dribs and drabs, Dolphin Spirit and Mischief both got out on the water and enjoyed the calm sea state; that makes a change from yesterday and Wednesday that's for sure! Unfortunately, the weather does not look good tomorrow at all; forecast of gale force 8 winds from 6am tomorrow may put the halters on our trips tomorrow. If you're in doubt about your trip, be sure to call ahead when the office opens at 9am to double check before setting off. We'll keep you updated across our social media if cancellations are on the cards.

Mischief Meets A Local Superstar

Dolphin Mischief had the joy of heading out to Chanonry twice today, and enjoyed some lovely encounters with some of the younger members of the Moray Firth dolphin population. One little visitor included the now-famous Spirtle, the sunburned dolphin. Spirtle, who will be 5 now, stranded at Nigg Bay last year for over 24 hours; she was found, luckily, by some lost dolphin watchers, who called out the correct rescue services to her aid. Despite the heavy burns to her right hand side, her rescuers gave Spirtle the benefit of the doubt and refloated her back into the deeper waters of the Firth. Spirtle has since taught onlookers the power of dolphin healing and seawater magic, as her massive burn scar has nearly all but healed. Spirtle is now also swimming correctly, and not letting her injury hold her back, and was today babysitting for sister Honey, who must have been nearby. The rest of the dolphins spotted were simply enjoying the calm, and hunting around for any available fish. There didn't seem to be many though, as those caught were quite small in places. Another of the dolphins in that area today was Kesslet, who had disappeared from the Kessock Channel for the day to spend a bit of time catching up with Zephyr and her youngster, catching a small fish, before meandering back down home. Sadly for us, the 4pm Dolphin Spirit trip didn't get to go out, so we didn't get to catch her on her way down! Hopefully we'll get to hear all about her adventures from her tomorrow, if she decides to be sociable with us landlubbers again!

Showers and a Show

Getting the Timing Juuuuust... Wrong!

We had a rather lovely start to the day, with glorious sunshine for the first three sailings of the day. We weren't the only ones enjoying it either, as the seals were out sunning themselves as soon as even just an inch of mudflat became available! One of our seals has been in a bit of a predicament recently though, as it was sighted with a particularly nasty gash on its neck; perhaps in a fight with another seal, or in an accident of some kind, but it didn't seem to bother it very much all being said. We also got to watch a little bit of drama around Meikle Mee, with the terns fighting among themselves over who should sit where on the buoy; at least 8 of them were vying for top spot! With the tide dropping all through the day, at the end of the 2pm sailing, the seals were beginning to drop back into the water, almost as if they were anticipating the arrival of two finned visitors... and the storm they brought with them!

Visit from an Angel?

The heavens opened on our 4pm sailing, putting a bit of a damp mood on the end of a very quiet day all in all. That didn't deter us though, as we got out into the firth, jackets at the ready! Good thing that we did, as when we approached Kilmuir, two very active fins crossed our path. Kesslet and Charlie finally decided to grace us with their presence, Kesslet struggling with a rather small but obviously troublesome fish! As she surfed by atop the waves, mouth agape, it almost looked like she was laughing at us! Charlie on the other hand was distracting s couple of curious and hungry gulls, flapping his flukes in the air in big long dives. They moved off towards the bridge, so we left them to it, hoping to return to the area and catch them later. Luckily enough we did, encountering a cheeky Charlie, who excited us all with a fleeting dive and surface right under our noses on the left hand side of the lower deck. We watched him disappear off into the rain as we returned to the marina, hopeful for a quiet moment in the squall to dry off! A successful trip all in all!

Found Him!

Cheeky Charlie Arrives in Style!

If you've been following our blog, you will remember that yesterday Kesslet had a different visitor with her in the Kessock Channel, Scoopy. After anticipating that Charlie must have been at Chanonry Point with the others then, and finding out that he wasn't, we could only wonder where he'd got to! Well, he couldn't have been too far away, as he turned up in the river this afternoon alongside his mum! Always the playful devil on Kesslet's shoulder, Charlie nudged his somewhat unwilling mum over to come and play with the boat as we left the marina on our 12pm sailing. As they followed us out into the Beauly Firth, they dived deeply in tandem, hunting for fish together, making their way up beyond they Caledonian Canal when we saw them last. Sadly, that would be our only sightings of the terrible two today, but the day didn't end there!

Otter Visitors

It was a strange day, being quite quiet on the passenger front. The bad weather in the middle of the afternoon may have put people off, which meant our 2pm sailing didn't run. Guide Krystyna spent the extra time sitting quayside, keeping a vigil for the dolphins and any other wildlife that may pop up in the meantime. Seems like it was a great shame that the 2pm didn't go, as there was plenty to see; plenty of swallows floating around, herons fluttering between hunting spots, and a hunting otter ducking and diving near the rocky wall, all just outside the marina! When the 4pm went out, it quietened down again, although the otter was still briefly present. But around Munlochy Bay, a red kite passed overhead, and a black throated diver popped out of nowhere right in front of the boat! We have never documented seeing one of these before, so in that regards it was quite special. Maybe it was a bit lost, straying a little away from the lochs into the saltier waters of the Moray Firth!

Dolphins, and Otters, and Seals, Oh My!

A Mighty Sightings Day!

Today started off with a little sunshine and some pleasant wind, but it quickly turned back to its usual grey with a fairly oppressive heat for most of the day. The weather certainly didn't put us off going out though, and both Dolphin Spirit and Mischief got out for all of their scheduled sailings! Both's first trips turned out quiet however, with only seals to be spotted on the dropping tide. As they day wore on however, they were in a for a treat, as some of our less spotted visitors came out to play!

Afternoon Delights

After a morning spent with a great many seals, Dolphin Spirit went out at 12pm in search of more. After watching a couple desperate seals cling onto the last remaining shred of mudflat just outside the marina, the boat made its way out under the Kessock Bridge. One passenger duly noted there was "nothing to see yet", but not to be outdone by the comment, one of our dolphins popped up out of nowhere and buzzed past the boat. Without getting a good look at the forward-facing fin, we could only assume that it had been Kesslet. With fingers crossed that she may appear again, we headed off to complete the trip. Kesslet sadly didn't turn up again, and was absent again at 2. In her place however, were two cheeky otters playing in the water just shy of the rocky harbour wall. They made for some excellent viewing, being quite active at the surface, but still enough to get a few shots of them too! We also had a different kind of visitor in the form of a red kite, spotted circling around South Kessock on our 4pm trip! Mischief's trip out towards the deeper water past Chanonry found some other hunting dolphins; roughly 6 of them were present at the point, fishing for some hefty salmon!

An otter stares at the Dolphin Spirit
A curious otter gets a good look at the Dolphin Spirit

Scoopy-doo, Where Are You?

Kesslet did eventually turn up again at 4pm, this time with her big pal Scoopy in tow. At first, we thought her companion was Charlie, as the cheeky youngster hadn't been spotted among the group at Chanonry. However, on closer inspection, we noticed that the dorsal fin was not only notched on the rear, but blotchy at the front. This meant that Kesslet had brought a different friend down to the channel for a visit; one who had managed to evade both the Spirit and Mischief on his way down here! The pair seemed quite relaxed, cruising along together very closely. We watched at they disappeared out under the Kessock Bridge and away past the ICT Stadium. Scoopy even got quite close to the boat, which is rather unusual, as when we have seen him in the past he has always been quite shy; but with Kesslet at his side, Scoopy was more than happy to give us a little hello before going off again. That leaves us with the question then of "where's Charlie?". We might just have to wait and see if we get an answer to that one!

Baby Season Begins

The First Signs of New Life!

Summer is a very exciting time for us here at Dolphin Spirit, as the Moray Firth will soon be home to lots of new little bundles of joy, and today we were lucky enough to see our first signs of it! On our 2pm sailing, our local pairing of pied wagtails came by the rocky harbour wall, calling rather loudly over the ambient noises of the boat and work going on in the harbour itself. They were not alone however; they were joined by an adorable and chunky looking fledgling, who was hopping around the rocks alongside them! The little one is pictured above. The birds are usually the first to appear with babies, though in the past this has generally been either the local mallards or swans swimming around the marina entrance and river. It was refreshing today to see this cute little youngster as our first "newborn" instead!

Kesslet Pays a Visit

Despite the falling tide all day, local dolphin Kesslet was spotted in our earlier sailings today; first near the cardinal marker, chasing another boat before coming to say hello to us, and then later around the river. As with yesterday, she seemed to catch no fish, but was particularly active and playful regardless. It's nice to see her getting back to her old self. Charlie hasn't been around the past couple of days, but he may have been further out with some of the other dolphins that Mischief has encountered recently. Today, another excitable young group joined Mischief in the afternoon out towards the Point, just after a morning of particularly bad rain. We know Charlie has been spending time with Honey and her 1 year old calf as well as some of the other youngsters, so if we get pictures back from these trips we may be able to spot our cheeky Charlie among them!

Good Things Come in Threes

Our 12pm trip was especially successful, spotting seals, an otter and Kesslet throughout the trip. All of them were in the water, with the smaller critters hanging around North Kessock's slipway. With the strong possibility that the resident otter mother is pregnant and a sighting of a heavily pregnant seal on the mudflats yesterday, it might not be long until we are seeing these little ones around the Beauly Firth!

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 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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