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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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The Penultimate Update Blog

They Think It's All Over... (Well it will be soon!)

That’s right – there’s only two weeks left in our season! So this blog will be one of the last update blogs for this year; we’ll be doing a full recap piece on the last day of the season to highlight the best sightings and experiences of 2017!

Chilled Dolphins

But back to the matter at hand, the past week. It’s been a pretty standard one as far as October is concerned, with sightings of Kesslet and Charlie coming and going a bit like the tide. Kesslet has also been spending some time with Scoopy, as she was spotted in the evening of Sunday chilling out with him at Chanonry by one of our curious guides. They seemed to be having a great time enjoying the sunset together! When with her son Charlie though, Kesslet has been showing a bit more activity; she had some breaching fun with him on Tuesday just under the Kessock Bridge. They’ve been hunting like crazy too, and seem to be getting very picky on their choice of food; the sea trout and return salmon from the river don’t seem to be doing it for them just now.

Pups and Pals

The otters have been out and about a bit, playing near their holt on the rocky wall and around their usual haunt at the bridge over the weekend. Our mother otter has been spotted on her own again, so we’re still not sure what her current situation is. Speaking of pups, we’ve had some return visits from this year’s harbour pups, as well as a few big grey seal males making their way into the Beauly Firth to feed on herring. They’ve been a certainly welcome visitor in these somewhat quiet waters.

 

Although, the waters aren’t always so quiet. Near the start of last week, we went on a wild goose chase on the word of Charlie Phillips for a young minke snooping about Munlochy Bay. Sadly for us, he had disappeared before we could find him, but the prospect of spotting it certainly got our eyes open and the hairs on the back of our necks standing on end! Wouldn’t that be a sighting and a half to cap off the year?

Spooks and Scoop(y)s!

It's Been a While!

For the first time in a while, last week saw us getting a visit from not just two, but three, dolphins! While Kesslet and Charlie were present most days (and sometimes for the whole day too), they had a random visit from Scoopy on Thursday, who returned to this part of the Inner Firth for a brief while. As usual though, he had a little muck around with Charlie before setting his sights on Kesslet again. Poor Charlie was left to fend for himself (a repeat of this summer's shenanigans), but in the time he spent alone he seemed to have a whale (or should that be dolphin?) of a time; he caught himself some lunch, and he came to play with us. After guiding the boat into the marina and saying his goodbyes, Charlie met up with his mum again and the pair disappeared for a while not too much later after Scoopy himself had vacated the area. Scoopy was actually spotted by a group of passengers later on that afternoon at Chanonry Point with Zephyr and son Zuzu, before those passengers came down to see us in Inverness, so he certainly got around a bit that day. On Thursday, Charlie and Kesslet actually spent the whole day nosing around the Beauly Firth; hunting actively in the morning, playing about in the early afternoon, then returning to snooze at the Kessock Bridge for the later stages of the day. We think they are targeting return salmon, as Kesslet's mum Kess used to do at this time of year. Kesslet's been catching a few hearty sea trout to keep her strength up too, so they've certainly been keeping a varied diet. 

Seals to See

It's been a good time for the seals without too much dolphin activity for them to compete with. The seals have hardly ever been on the mudflats when they've been present just outside the marina, and we've been seeing them in decent sized groups clustering around the Inverness Firth recently. The harbour seals spent today hunting very well, so much so they were being harassed constantly by gulls overhead. We were keeping our fingers crossed for hunting dolphins all the while, but they didn't turn up until this evening it seems (though Charlie made a sudden and brief appearance this afternoon at 2pm out near Meikle Mee). We've been catching up with both seals and dolphins further afield with the Mischief too; though the weather has been keeping us in the marina more often than we would like. It's not looking very good for the rest of the week either, considering the wind is meant to pick up into Thursday, but Spirit should be steady enough to go out on at least most sailings. It's recommended you call ahead this week and just keep an eye on the weather when booking your trip! It's gonna be fun regardless, and you just never know what we might see out there!

 

Onward and October-ward!

The Final Curtain Call...

It's finally October, and that now means that there is only a month left until the end of the season; come Hallowe'en, our 2017 will have come to a close. It's been a weird and wonderful season, with some fantastic sightings, some drama, and a spattering of mystery here and there too. But we'll save our recap for the final blog of the season! The only recap worth doing now is our look back at the previous week, and what's been keeping us entertained there.

A Late Holiday for the Gruesome Twosome?

Kesslet and Charlie have been very mobile since our last big sighting of them just over a week ago now, when Charlie's marvelous antics kept everyone on board (staff and passengers alike) entertained and gobsmacked all at once. They've been seen together and on their own too, with Kesslet spending a day footering around after herring early in the week by herself, and Charlie travelling east on his tod a day later. When they've not been spotted by the Spirit, Mischief has found them further afield usually, spending a bit of time with the hang-arounds, Zephyr, Honey and their little ones. That being said, we've had a couple days where they've went totally AWOL, and I've heard they may have been sighted even further eastward than usual when neither of our boats have found them. At this time of year it's not unusual, as herring and mackerel shoal more often in deeper waters past Cromarty than in with us; this is normally evidenced by the good sightings of gannets you get around there at this time of year too. Speaking of our fishing feathered friends, we've had a bit of excitement recently, not just over our own incoming juvenile gannet groups, but also of some apparent sightings of Sea Eagles again! RIB skipper George wasn't just whistling Dixie when he gave us a shout on Sunday about some kites bombarding a bigger bird over fish near Munlochy. We tried to check it out on the Spirit, but could only see one of the kites circling and nothing more. George claims (with witnesses too) that this distinctly larger bird was being harassed by several kites. Do you think George has found himself a white tail. or a tall tale?

Sleeping Soundly

We've been seeing a lot of laziness around the firth when the animals have been out and about. The seals are very nonchalant at this time of year, and thankfully this aids our sightings tremendously as they start to spend more time lazing near the surface when hunting. On Monday we didn't have a single trip that saw less than 5 seals, and all seen for a long time too. The otters have even been caught preening themselves while sat on the buffers of the bridge; whether hunting or lazing around, we've seen them quite a bit in that area recently. Kesslet and Charlie have also been caught snoozing near Meikle Mee, possibly after wearing themselves out chasing smaller prey and travelling more to find them. It's going to be a hard winter so it seems if this keeps up! We'll just have to wait and see; with only 4 weeks left to go, who knows what might happen!

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!

Fantastic 4!

A Full Day with Dolphins!

After the quiet of yesterday, Dolphin Spirit was subject to a real treat today with every trip lucky enough to see our locals! It started off in the morning, with Kesslet and Charlie being the early risers, arriving first thing to take advantage of the tides and the influx of salmon. It wouldn’t be long until the first was caught either, with Kesslet scoffing her first of the day in her usual, rather grotesque, style.  Dolphin Spirit caught up with them at 10am, and was subject to a bit of play after breakfast too! At 12pm, they found them again, but this time, not alone! Scoopy had come down for the afternoon too (almost as if predicted if you read yesterday’s blog!), and as usual, was stuck to Kesslet’s side like glue. That being said, Kesslet doesn’t seem to mind; Scoopy is a fantastic hunter, much like herself, and when it comes to catching the biggies out near the river, two bottlenoses are better than one, and Kesslet always seems to be the one coming out of it all with the fish!

Afternoon Shenanigans

The two little lovebirds were not the only successful hunters in the firth this afternoon, as Charlie was also proudly showing around his catch of the day, and not just to Dolphin Spirit either! As passengers aboard Mischief soon found out, Charlie’s body isn’t the only big thing about him; he has a bit of an ego to match! He came right alongside the RIB, head-on to the side, and coughed up his catch for all to see! As quick as a flash, he was off again with it, almost certainly to swallow it before any quick thinking passengers thought to reach down and take it off him! Charlie wasn't the only showboating dolphin to make an appearance for Mischief either, as an older individual of the Moray Firth population was also spotted for the first time; the grand old lady of the sea, Jigsaw! Possibly one of the oldest dolphins still in the firth, Jigsaw's distinctive white-bordered fin makes her stand out, and her acrobatics tend to belie her age. It was lovely to come across her, and see her still looking well! Back in the Beauly Firth, the gruesome threesome sat around doing pretty much just hunting for the whole afternoon, until 4pm, when Kesslet made her presence felt right at the end of the trip. She came right up to the side of the boat, guiding the boat into the marina, before leaving to head off upriver for her evening snack. As you can imagine, guide Sue’s face was a picture after such a fantastic day, and it was quite the birthday gift for second man Andy, who turns 53 today! Happy birthday Andy, we hope our surprise dolphin party made your day!

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!). 

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!

Another Active Afternoon!

Where Are They Coming From?

For the third time in about as many weeks, we have been absolutely spoiled by a travelling group of excitable dolphins in the Kessock Channel. After a quiet day yesterday, with sightings only briefly in the afternoon of Kesslet and Charlie, today's afternoon spectacle was the treat we were waiting for! Around 2pm, a large group of 7 dolphins arrived into the Channel; Kesslet and Scoopy were already present from earlier in the day. In the group this time were a number of mothers (and a cheeky Charlie to boot!). We had Bonnie, Zephyr, Honey and all of their calves appear out of the blue for a bit of high-spirited fun and games! They were there only briefly, just around an hour or two, before disappearing back under the bridge and into the outer reaches of the Inner Firth. The youngsters gave a couple of decent breaches in the centre of the Beauly Firth before taking their leave. It was fantastic to see once again, and we can only hope for more of it in the future!

A Game of Pairs

The social antics of the dolphins have been interesting to watch recently, and there has been a fair bit of movement all through the firth this summer. The usual Chanonry crew, inclusive of Zephyr, Honey and Bonnie, has been shouldered out it seems by a group of gregarious youngsters from further out. This "tiered movement" of the dolphins hasn't been seen in this part of the firth in such regularity for a number of years, and really we can only wonder at why it is happening again. The groups that tend to move down this way are unusual to say the least; Zephyr isn't known to leave Chanonry, Honey is rarely separate from Spirtle or her mother, although Bonnie has made moves down here over the past couple seasons. The one thing they do seem to share is Charlie, and he seems to be the catalyst for some of the movement we are seeing; always part of the herd as it travels down from the Point. Perhaps it's just coincidence that he is there, or maybe he is actually the driving force of the movement alongside the stratified movements from the north. Whatever the cause, it's making our days that little bit more interesting, and just proves you never know what you might see out with Dolphin Spirit or Mischief!

Tea For Two

Never the Same Trip Twice!

While this is generally the fact of it here at Dolphin Spirit, it was even more true today! With the weather being the main change throughout the day, we honestly couldn't say one trip to the next what it was going to be like! The morning started off horribly weather-wise, with a good deal of rain pouring its way into the firth and over Inverness in general. Thankfully though, it wasn't bad dolphin-wise! Kesslet and Scoopy were in their old haunts again, with no sign of Charlie today. No reports of him elsewhere today to confirm where he wandered off to, but he certainly wasn't down here with us! The newest Beauly Firth pair made some really nice, close passes to the boat, much to the delight of our somewhat sodden passengers! We also got to see a bit of our otters again near the bridge, which is excellent, as they haven't been all that active recently! It wasn't just the faces that brightened up through the trip either, as the sun started to shine a little as the afternoon wore on. With too much of a tan already it seems, Kesslet and Scoopy went into hiding. This allowed the seals to come out to play though, including one curious little blighter who has really been chancing his flippers with the dolphins by hunting on his own in the river the past few days! He's only young, but super keen to check everything and anyone at the surface; even having a bit of a run-in with Charlie when he was last in the area. It's good for him then, that our locals don't seem to mind visitors to their hunting spots!

Afternoon Encore

Kesslet and Scoopy returned to the boat at 2pm, again getting in close once more. Scoopy seems to be getting quite a bit bolder, and leading the charge now and again to come and see us. He doesn't tend to stick around as much as Charlie does, but it's certainly a far-cry from the start of the season, when he wouldn't even go near us, even in company. It's nice for us to see that trust developing in him little by little (with the occasional egging on!). As 4pm came around, the pair had disappeared for the day, but the seals came out for the sunny setting of our final trip of the day, ending it on a bright and cheery note. Wonder what tomorrow will bring? It's hard to guess what the Firth has in store for us these days!

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!

Anti-Social Dolphins!

Sun's Out, Fins... In?

After a downright miserable day weather-wise yesterday, it was great to get out onto the water again in glorious sunshine! With bright blue skies and emerald waters for the most part of today, you could have sworn someone had moved our office into the Mediterranean! The Moray Firth was looking her best, and with big grins spread across our faces at the sight, we were in high spirits hoping for some great sightings to round off the atmosphere... but the dolphins were MIA! Or, at least they were until the afternoon! The first trips from Spirit and Mischief both went out to little fanfare animal-wise, which had us wondering where all the party had gone! It wasn't until Mischief returned early from a distinctly empty Chanonry to scout the Beauly Firth that we found our first fins of the day! Kesslet and Scoopy were parked up past Clachnaharry, in the words of skipper John, "being very lazy". They seemed to head further up the firth too after Mischief left them to return back to the marina, because when Spirit went out again at 12, they were nowhere to be found! That had us quaking in our boots; it wasn't just the cold wind that had started to come in making us shiver!

Found You!

Luckily, the 12.30pm Mischief trip found a few more friends out past Chanonry, and Spirit's luck turned with the 2pm trip. The Beauly Firth's hottest little couple arrived back in style, heading towards the river just as the boat was leaving the river mouth past Carnarc Point. They swam at quite the speed, straight into the river and round past the harbour in a flash; but we were happy just to have them within eye's sighting distance! We caught them briefly again coming back out of the river as we were concluding the trip, where they came right under our bow and across the right hand side of the boat and off behind us. With the glare pressing on the water at that point it was difficult to spot them at a distance, and it wasn't until they were upon us that we saw them! We hoped they'd stick about for the 4pm, and thankfully they did, but in the worst place in the firth! Of all the places to find them, we found them out at Meikle Mee, where the wind was whipping up quite the tide around the buoy. We glimpsed their surfacing fins as they surfed the waves on our way out and back in too, but they certainly weren't much in the mood for saying hello today! Hopefully we'll see a little bit more of them tomorrow; maybe an early night for our dolphins will sort out their bad attitude!

New Friend?

The river was home to a strange little visitor for the best part of today! A lone harbour seal, a youngster, greeted almost every sailing that went out today straight out of the marina! Hanging about in the water just off the rocky wall, the little seal had a good old look at the boat every time it passed, and seemed to show no fear of any others in the area. At one point, he even made friends with the local otters, who scarpered when the boat arrived, but for a moment you could see the pair of them in the water quite happily next to one another! I wonder what he was doing there; maybe with the dolphins' absence, he was capitalizing on all the big tasty fish!

Good Things Come in Threes!

Another Triple Dolphin Day!

Maybe we were a little quick to discount the good weather we were having! We certainly didn't enjoy the wind and rain that buffeted the boat this morning and early afternoon! What we did enjoy though, was a day almost completely full of dolphins! We spotted Kesslet, Charlie, and Scoopy first thing in the Kessock Channel on the 10am trip. Kesslet and Scoopy were sitting on their own near South Kessock, whereas Charlie was milling around the centre of the channel, so came over to say hello! He swam right alongside, surfacing next to us twice, before disappearing back off into the riptide behind us; Kesslet and Scoopy soon joined him there as well. They seemed to stay up there until the end of the 10am trip, but came down later, as on the 12pm, we found Charlie hunting in the river on his own. He seemed quite happy and active, but that left us wondering where the little "lovebirds" were off to! We later discovered exactly where, when guide Krystyna walked up the quayside to have a look, and all three dolphins were motoring their way out of the river! Once again, young Charlie had been left in the lurch while Kesslet and Scoopy had time to themselves. Poor Charlie!

Playtime at Dolphin Nursery!

With the trio joined back up again, it seemed to spark a little bit of life into their activities. With full bellies, all three were eager to play, and the chance to do so presented itself rather quickly when Kesslet came across a particularly large and enticing bit of seaweed. Needless to say, this toy became the centre of attention, and an eruption of breaching, tail lobbing, and surface rushes sent spray all over the Kessock Channel! The activity was over almost as quickly as it started, with Kesslet coming out as the winner of the toy battle. Thankfully, she was willing to share, as son Charlie came over to join her in wearing the new accessory (a rather jealous looking Scoopy sulked in the background)! As we came out at 2pm, the festivities had concluded and the seaweed discarded. All three were sitting off the cardinal marker still, resting in the waves pushing against them. They surfaced in time and occasionally one after the other in a delightful little pattern that we did our best not to disturb. We encountered the three sleepyheads another two times, drifting off under the Kessock Bridge and then just shy of Meikle Mee, where we left them to follow the tide back out past Alturlie Point! A rather relaxed end to a busy day!

Wet, Wild, and Windy!

Spray Everywhere!

Between the wind and the waves, I think we ate more of the Moray Firth than we saw of it today! It wasn't exactly the most comfortable of days out on the water, but one that we made the most of nonetheless. We started our day off the right way, with sightings of Kesslet and Scoopy right up by the harbour in the river this morning; Kesslet had the remains of breakfast just hanging out of her mouth. Upon spotting them, Charlie Phillips came by for another visit, this time setting himself up on the quayside to watch. Almost as if they knew he was coming, Kesslet and Scoopy toddled away into hiding, returning around 11.35 for a bit more hunting in that part of the river. Actively shooting after the salmon just above the surface, Kesslet and Scoopy hunted in tandem for a short while before making their way out again. They were just in time to greet the Dolphin Spirit as she left the marina, and they followed alongside for a while as the boat veered into the Beauly Firth, before turning tail and heading towards the Kessock Bridge. After that, the disappeared into the descending fog for the afternoon, leaving us a little high and dolphin-less for the 2pm; but that's ok, the seals were there to pick up the slack last minute!

Adverse Weather

With the wind picking up, we tentatively went out on the 2pm and braved the waves. There wasn't a fin to be found, but with our boat's passengers 50% under the age of 15, they still had fun looking out and getting splashed by the waves streaming across the bow! At the last moment, the seals appeared too, taking advantage of the mudflats beginning to appear with the fall of the tide. They provided some aww-worthy moments, including the little female wriggling as fast as she could from the encroaching waves! The increasing wind through that trip made skipper Brian reluctant to do the 4pm trip, and with Dolphin Mischief already putting a stop to their 3.30pm, it only solidified his belief that the 4pm would not be comfortable or safe out on that water. So sadly, we only got through 3 of 4 for Dolphin Spirit and 2 out of 3 for Dolphin Mischief, but those that went out were certainly successful, so not a bad day all in all! 

Watching in All Weathers

Sightings in Sunshine!

The difference in weather in just a mere 24 hours can sometimes be astounding in Inverness; the past couple of days have proven this much. Yesterday, by all accounts, was a fabulous one, with sunshine all day (despite the forecast at the beginning of the week citing cloud and rain) and, even better, dolphins all day too! First thing in the morning, Charlie turned up on his own to mill around the river and hunt for some of the delicious (and large!) salmon that have been populating the Ness recently. He was there until the afternoon, where he moved out towards the ICT Stadium to join up with Kesslet and Scoopy. It is undeniable that the amount of time that those two are spending together is suspicious, and Charlie himself doesn't seem all too pleased to be phased out in the interactions. Scoopy has even shown somewhat dominant behaviours towards Charlie, with Charlie responding in kind with clingy behaviours towards Kesslet; the poor girl must be torn between them! Regardless, when in their trio they seem to be tolerant of each other at least, and they moved back in to the Beauly Firth for some feeding before moving once again at 4pm. This time, the movement was a little more excitable, with breaching around the Kessock Bridge area! It's certainly pleasing to see them all being so active, and one can only wonder at what it all might mean...

Spotting in Showers...

Today, on the other hand, proved far wetter than anyone had thought, with decent sprinklings of rain throughout the day into some scattered heavy spells too. But a little bit of rain doesn't put off the Dolphin Spirit, and the dolphins certainly don't seem to mind! In fact, with the recent sunshine the salmon have had a fairer chance to run the dolphin gauntlet and make it upriver; with the rain, there's an additional force to contend with too. So with that in mind, the Dolphin Spirit set out on her spotting journey today with her eager and undaunted passengers; and boy will they be glad they braved the rain! With Kesslet and Scoopy around today, it was another great day (regardless of the weather) to be out on the water! The pair were a little more sedate, but spotted later in the evening too enjoying some quiet time together as well as breaching and hunting actively between the harbour and river. Long may this spate of activity continue! 

A Chill Out Kind of Day

Sleepy in the Sunshine

With the second day in a row of actual summer weather, it was a great day to be out on the water! Not only is the glittery reflection from the water great for topping up a tan, but the soothing sea breeze meant it wasn't too warm out on the firth either; with highs of 25 degrees Celsius today, it was certainly welcome for a change! The good weather seemed to have the same effect on everyone, making them chilled out and in a good mood throughout the day, even our local wildlife! The seals were out and present on all 4 sailings for Dolphin Spirit today, with those on the mudflats snoozing away rather peacefully for the best part of the afternoon. Those on the water were making the most of a lack of dolphins; the terrible trio didn't turn up until the later stages of the day! But as they say, when the cats are away, the mice shall play...

And Play They Did!

It wasn't just the seals who saw their opportunity and took it; the otters came by for a visit too! In the early afternoon, two of them were spotted just off the harbour wall mucking around. It's been our first sightings of the otters at the marina for a while, with resident male "Pierre" spotted recently back on his perch over on the South Kessock slipway again too over the past couple of days. We're still keeping our eyes and ears open for any signs of otter cubs, but no definite signals yet. The Kessock Channel went to the dolphins shortly after two, with a lovely visit from Kesslet and Charlie right up next to the boat. Charlie always brings that playful side out of his mum, and can often be seen actively pushing her to the boat. That being said, it seems to be rubbing off on old Scoopy too, who didn't turn up until later this afternoon, but he too has been getting close to both Mischief and Dolphin Spirit too! The three of them spent their afternoon around the river and Kessock Channel, and are still being reported there even at the time of writing; enjoying an evening salmon feast in the lovely weather it would seem! 

Cetaceans in the Sunshine!

The Terrible Trio Strike Again!

A glorious day all in all, with the sun shining for every single sailing that went out today! The wind from yesterday died down a little today, but there were still a few white horses to contend with, especially out in the Beauly Firth! That didn't put us, or any of the 115 passengers to join Dolphin Spirit today, off though! We all went out and had a great time, and were lucky enough to enjoy another afternoon filled with dolphins doing their thing; hunting down the salmon running up the River Ness! On which note, we had a call not too recently asking if "we were the company that feeds the dolphins"! In answer to that question, or to anyone who thinks that, NO! We absolutely do not feed the dolphins, interfere with, or track them or any of our wildlife at all! Every salmon, every trout, caught by our dolphins is just as wild as they are! So when you see pictures of dolphins with salmon hanging out their mouths (like Kesslet in the picture above), that's one the dolphins have chased down and caught themselves; and let us tell you, that's a sight to behold in and of itself! But back to today; we had the troublesome two from yesterday back in the river, Kesslet and Charlie, but they were joined a little later by big pal Scoopy, who has been sniffing around the area (and Kesslet in particular!) quite a bit recently. Lovebirds or just really good friends? We'll leave that for you to decide!

Hunting Happiness

Kesslet and Charlie were, unsurprisingly, the first to appear on the 12pm sailing, and what an entrance they made! Appearing just ahead of the boat near the ICT Stadium, they came alongside briefly before Charlie gave a cheeky little side breach behind us... right on top of Kesslet! Like a stern mother grabbing her child by the ear, Kesslet dragged her (somewhat big) baby off under the bridge and away into the river. With a laugh and smiles on our faces, we left them to it, hoping to see them again at the end. Luckily enough we did, and found they were not alone, as big Scoopy was milling around on his own too just at the mouth of the river! All three came together just in front of us, before disappearing off out again as we headed into the marina; Scoopy chomping down on his lunch as they swam up the Beauly Firth. The 2pm seemed less promising, since none of them were present or accounted for at the start of the trip! Thankfully, they reappeared and put on quite the showing with their catches right at the end, much to the delight of our patient passengers! They were still about at 4pm as well, where Charlie gave us an escort to where his mum and Scoopy were sitting just off Carnarc Point in the river. All three of them joined up when close enough again, and swam off out of the river in what was a lovely end to another 3 out of 4 dolphin day!

Best Day Ever?

An Afternoon of Dolphins

The 10am might have been one of the best trips through the day weather wise, with even a little sunshine to brighten the morning, but sadly it missed a vital ingredient for the perfect trip; dolphins! Thankfully though, it was the only trip of the day to suffer such misfortune. But that being said, it did get some fantastic views of our seals, including a little suckling pup! But as the rain took hold and the afternoon began, the dolphins made their appearance felt! First we saw of them was at 12pm, when Scoopy, Charlie and Kesslet were chilling out, drifting in no rush at all down the Beauly Firth. They took a moment to sit at the cardinal marker, almost as if deciding their next move before turning tack and heading into the river. We caught them on the way back too, and Scoopy eventually led the group back out of the river while he carried another lovely big salmon with him. At 2pm, Kesslet sat alone in the incredibly strong rip tide off North Kessock, making it difficult to spot her. As we headed out under the bridge we kept our eyes peeled for the other two, and found them up near Kilmuir, where they briefly appeared at the rear of the boat before turning back towards Meikle Mee and heading back in. Little did we know what they had brought back with them...

Season Record Smashed!

We got a message from Charlie Phillips over in North Kessock around half three, telling us that at least 7 dolphins were sitting in the Kessock Channel. With Kesslet meandering with a fish just outside the marina, we wondered where they had come from and who they were; we soon learnt just who! Charlie, with a grin in his voice, called to say Sundance, Bonnie, Zephyr and associated youngsters had joined Charlie and Scoopy for a feed around the rip tide Kesslet had been earlier. Nerves were shaking as we set up for the 4pm, hoping this second bumper dolphin group in as many weeks would stick about! Kesslet wandered out of the river shortly before 4, so we were slightly shaky that it was a sign they were leaving. With 32 passengers on board, we made our way into the river where we got out first major surprise! Kesslet came bombing past us in a huge surface rush, Charlie following shortly after for a quick bowride, and Scoopy not too far away either. Those three started a bit of social fun as we headed out, where we found Zephyr sitting furthest out near South Kessock, and Sundance, Bonnie and her youngster coming down the North Kessock side heading towards the bridge. We sat in the Beauly Firth waiting for a large cargo vessel to head into harbour, and as we came back down to head under the Kessock Bridge, it all kicked off! Lots and lots of breaching! Starting out of the river, Kesslet and Charlie headed the charge, bouncing all the way out and past the bridge into the Inverness Firth as we followed behind. We enjoyed watching them continue to breach, spyhop, rub each other and just generally be active for over 45 minutes out in that part of the firth! The group of around 9 dolphins we had in the Beauly Firth moved out past Meikle Mee and into the mist, leaving us all completely gobsmacked and grinning from ear to ear. I'm sure there will be many dolphin dreams had tonight!

Kesslet Breaches in the rain
Kesslet breaching on her own in the rain

Making Waves!

Finding Fins

It was 2 out of 4 day for Dolphin Spirit, but so close to being a 4 out of 4! We had Kesslet and Charlie scooting around South Kessock this morning, travelling toot-sweet up the coat towards Clachnaharry. They came to briefly say hello; Charlie doing fast surface rushes towards us and under the bow as he hunted around us. A daydreaming Kesslet dondered past to follow him, and the pair disappeared out of view behind us. We kept our fingers crossed that they would hang around, and that Kesslet's taste for sea trout may have been beaten by the nudging of a salmon hungry Charlie. Sadly though, Kesslet won in the end, and the pair were absent at 12pm. Despite the lack of dolphins, the quiet allowed us a moment to admire the seal colony outside the marina, and we discovered a couple of new seal pups out there! We are now, we think, up to 4 pups in that group! We are so close to beating last year's record, currently matching it; do you think we'll see any more?

Chase Me Charlie

Luckily, the gruesome twosome would arrive back in the area, sweeping past North Kessock on their way back down the Beauly Firth. We got some fleeting glances of fins floating around the heavy waves in the riptide. We thought that may have been it, but were lucky enough to encounter them on the way back, with the addition of Scoopy in the river too. We got some nice close encounters around the river on our way back in from the two there. Guide Krystyna went up to the quayside for a quick scout out of the dolphins for the next trip, finding Scoopy and Kesslet sniffing around just at the river mouth. Kesslet came further up for a moment before it all kicked off! With a great splash, Scoopy suddenly appeared just off Carnarc Point. With another big splash, Kesslet breached quickly back to join him. Scoopy fired past with a huge salmon hanging out of his mouth! The excited pair leaped for joy at the thrill of the hunt in a lovely double breach! And then it was over, as fast as it started. The two wandered our of the river to join Charlie further out and disappeared out under the Kessock Bridge. We must have just missed them somewhere along the line on the 4pm, as they weren't moving very quick when last seen. But despite no dolphins on the 4pm, we had some breaching seals instead to steal the show. Who needs dolphins if the seals are that good at impersonating them!

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!



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