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Dolphin Spirit Blog

Dolphin and Marine Wildlife Boat Trips from Inverness Marina

No-Fin!

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

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

An Otter-ly Different Kind of Day

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

Family Fortunes

The Original Pair Return!

After an exciting day yesterday, things got back to normal in the Inner Firth today; and not just back to normal with Kesslet and Scoopy, but 2016 normal with Kesslet and Charlie! After a quiet morning with the seals, Kesslet and Charlie put on a right show for our 12pm passengers, following the boat into the marina from as far out as Kilmuir! From then, they decided to stick around, and were spotted at 2pm hunting about for salmon in the river at first, then further out into the Beauly Firth. Between the 2pm and 4pm trips the mother-and-son bonding time came to an abrupt end, with the arrival of big Scoopy once more, who was spotted milling about with the pair in the river at the close of the day! It's lovely to see the firth being so active, and rather consistently again too. After 2016's rather controversial summer dredging of the harbour area, and the effect it had on the dolphins in the area, it's rather impressive to watch the difference this year! Seems like you can't shoo a hungry girl like Kesslet out of her patch with a little noise and silt! Hardy girl!

National Whale and Dolphin Watch

Guide Krystyna returns to her post for almost a whole week starting tomorrow, and with her, we'll begin to catalogue our sightings with Seawatch Foundation for National Whale and Dolphin Watch week! You can get involved on your own too, recording your sightings with us or on shore using their sightings form or emailing them over directly at http://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/recording-and-submitting-sightings/. With our recent surprise visitors this month, this data will not just be useful for us, but for other organisations who are working to conserve all cetaceans living in UK waters! Anything can help, and even if you don't see any cetaceans on your watches, you can participate in their social media spoof #NoWhaleOrDolphin hashtag to make up your own silly sighting (their example is a peeled banana resembling a dolphin!). So make sure you get involved, get your spotters sheets and binoculars out, and see who we can find!

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

Afternoon Activities

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

Clootie Well

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

Fort George

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

Chanonry Point

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

North Kessock

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

When In Doubt...

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

Hunting Party!

Dolphin Mischief Gatecrashes the Get-Together!

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

Hardcore Hunting

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

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

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!

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!

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! 

Sunshine Burnout!

Too Much Good Weather!

Only in the UK will you hear such a phrase being uttered unironically! After yesterday's rainy day, you'd think we'd be just buzzing to get some unexpected sunshine again, but it certainly didn't seem to be the case! With the return of the sun, I think everyone was too burned out by the mid-week sunbathing sessions to go out and enjoy it; including the dolphins! After some active days over the sunny spell, right into the evenings some nights too, our dolphins decided to take a bit of a break. We only had sightings of Charlie and Kesslet today in the morning, milling about quite happily together. After that they kind of left us in the lurch, and for the first time in a while, we were left fin-less for the afternoon. But it will take a lot more than that to break our Dolphin Spirit!

Sunny Days are Made for Seals!

There's at least one of our Moray Firth spotting list that's always up for a day in the rays; the seals! Thankfully, despite the quietness on the dolphin front, the seals were out in force all day, making for some great sightings themselves. The pupping season is coming into the latter stages now, and with still 4 recorded pups on the Longman mudflats, we're equal with last year's record. There is still possibility for some late arrivals but with it being so quiet on that front, and no really big females left on the patch, we may just have another year of 4. This is still fantastic to see, and great that our little population making home on those flats is doing so well to reproduce successfully year on year. What we're really looking forward to seeing is when those little ones start to grow up they'll be quite active out on the water; last year's pups were spotted making a quite a show, breaching in the Kessock Channel near the end of the season! We'll see just how many of the little ones make it to adulthood and possibly even return to the place they were born when they too breed. The cycle of life is always a fascinating one, and great to see when it comes to fruition. No dolphin newborns have been recorded yet this year near Chanonry or down our way, so there's always floppy dorsal fins to keep an eye out for when the seal season is over too! Exciting!

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! 

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!

Finding Mischief

A Successful Morning!

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

Teasing from a Troublesome Two!

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

A Brief Encounter

Hardy Hunters

Our sightings today were somewhat few on both boats today, and we are not entirely sure why! This morning was miserable weather-wise but certainly not on the dolphin front, with a nice sighting of Kesslet thrashing about a massive salmon as she toddled her was up the river at the very start of the trip, and again near the end too. We were briefly joined by a fleeing Charlie too, who had been actively hunting in the Kessock Channel on his own but somewhat disturbed by the arrival of two speedy Navy vessels, the HMS Biter and HMS Dasher. His flukes pointing skyward in a deep dive can just be seen in the picture above. There was a quite a bit of harbour activity and boat movement from the Clachnaharry Sea Lock, which may have spooked our locals a little bit after that, as we totally lost them for the rest of the day. We were still lucky enough to spot one of our pups piggybacking on mum, getting a lift between short swims, which was incredibly cute, and some other curious individuals throughout the day swimming alongside and getting pretty close though!

Missing on Mischief

Mischief got out twice today too, both trips heading out in the afternoon. Sadly though, there was another very quiet trip at 12.30pm, with not a fin spotted, which is very unusual at this time of year. The boat even traveled to the boundaries of our zone towards Navity near Cromarty, and still, not a thing. The seals were present again there too though, so they didn't go home empty handed at least. Hopefully the 3.30 was a bit more successful! The theory with rain normally goes that rain increases the fish activity and should therefore encourage the dolphins, but it seems that today was not our day despite the "better than average" spotting conditions. We will be keeping our eyes peeled tomorrow certainly, hoping for some nice weather again and calm seas, and hopefully more fins to be found along the way too!

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!

Return of the Queen

Kesslet Joins the Hunt

A grand day to be out on the Dolphin Spirit once again, with some fantastic sunshine through the early sailings and even better sightings, managing to fit all of the "Big 3" in throughout the day! The seal group was certainly enjoying the weather, popping up near the surface often through the morning when the sun was at its best. When the clouds started to roll in again, so did Kesslet, appearing at first near Kilmuir where she was milling around for sea trout. Spotting the Dolphin Spirit, she approached with care to show off her prize; tossing and ejecting the fish in close proximity to allow our passengers a good viewing. She then hitched a ride, following the boat all the way back in towards the river, enjoying the streamlined travel from sitting under the bow while she enjoyed her lunch. She stuck around for the rest of the afternoon, around the river as usual, hunting for salmon again. She wasn't the only body floating around the river either, as the otters managed to appear last thing in the day too, completing our mammal sightings sheet for the day!

Making Mischief

Mischief has been very lucky over the past couple of days too, with some fantastic sightings caught on our new Dolphin Dashcam! From breaching babies, to bow-riding buddies, we've encountered some very playful and active individuals throughout the day on our trips. The biggest players at the moment have really been the "Porridge family" and Zephyr and youngster. Spirtle and Honey are becoming very common sights around the Chanonry Point area and beyond, with Zephyr the "Kesslet" of Chanonry, hunting there pretty much every day. Her youngster got his five minutes of fame as the first feature on our Facebook from the Dolphin Dashcam a couple of days ago, giving a cheeky little breach ahead of the boat as everyone else was having a look for his mum and travelling companions! If there's anything that can be said about the Moray Firth dolphins, it's that they certainly have a sense of humour; one which develops very early on in life it seems!

Ladies' Night!

Quite the Crowd

It was an enjoyable afternoon for Mischief up near Chanonry, where several groups of dolphins were milling around and hunting together. Dolphin Spirit didn't have quite the same luck, as local fail-safe Kesslet was actually up at Chanonry too! She had taken Scoopy and Charlie with her as well, but seemed to drop them off with Bonnie and her youngster when the boys started to get rowdy. Instead, she enjoyed the company of the "Porridge" girls, Honey and Spirtle, as they came through from further out. Zephyr also turned up with her little one, babysitting a little for Honey early in the afternoon while she and Spirtle socialized and hunted on their own. Spirtle's wound was quite the topic of discussion at the point (as off-duty guide Krystyna found), with many onlookers inquiring about the unusual dolphin. There is very little redness left on the burn, and the blubber layer is all that remains visible, showing that maybe once the year is out, that wound may be fully closed. Certainly by the second anniversary of her incident at the latest one would think! Mischief spotted this lot near Craig Mee, where they had left the point until the rising tide by the early evening. A calm experience for a change, but probably mostly because they were in the company of the local "mother and toddler" group!

Ott-er for a Walk

While Dolphin Spirit was ditched by the dolphins today, it wasn't all bad! This afternoon saw the return of the cheeky otters, who are seemingly just getting bolder by the day; today they actively approached the boat, making for some fantastic viewing for our passengers! We also got to see the seals in all their usual glory, enjoying the sunny spells while we had them. Maybe now that Kesslet has had her time catching up with the girls, she'll return to the river again to enjoy the salmon running there, as Chanonry is proving to be quite quiet on that front at the moment. We all know how much Kesslet likes a full belly! Maybe she might even bring some friends with her too!

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!

Rainy Dolphin Days

Non-Stop Fun in the Rain

With Dolphin Mischief unfortunately cancelled due to weather and essential maintenance, it was down to Dolphin Spirit to get things going! Thankfully, the poor weather didn't put our passengers off, as we had all 4 sailings head out with some very enthusiastic passengers! At 10am, we were treated to the works; as we headed out, we spotted our seals out on the mudflats, with the wind whistling through their moulting fur. This wasn't just any ordinary seal sighting though, as it was our first sighting in a couple of days of our little pup friend! As the afternoon wore on, we became aware that this little one is not alone, and another pup has been born recently, as they were sitting beside each other as their mothers chilled out in the mud! So our seal count so far for this season goes up to 2! Will we beat our record of 4 from last year?

Dining with Dolphins

Our 10am got a special treat; a chance to watch dolphins dining up close and personal! As we approached Meikle Mee we spotted a small horde of gulls forming, and shortly after saw why! Kesslet was milling around with a nice big sea trout in her mouth! She must have clocked us, as she huddled under the front of the boat to chew on her catch out of reach of the hungry gulls. We then spotted another fin coming alongside, which turned out to be Scoopy, and the two of them surfed alongside us in the wild waves. They quickly bolted off once Kesslet had swallowed her prize however, chasing a blue fishing boat passing us by and then heading out to Alturlie. We thought they might return with the turn of the tide, but unfortunately that was the last we were to see of them today. Maybe they were hiding from the rain; I hear dolphins don't like getting wet!

A Big 3 Day!

Dolphins All Day!

Well if ever you needed a cure for the midweek blues, today was it! We saw all of our big three - otters, seals, and dolphins - on 3 out of 4 trips, and were blessed with dolphins for every trip too. Only the otters failed to appear at 12pm, but it was a cracking day out on the water for sightings despite the rough, windy weather! The day started off fine, with seals out on the mudflats and wind rustling up some minor waves. As we returned from the Meikle Mee buoy near the end of the trip, who should pop up but Kesslet and Charlie, spotted by a keen-eyed passenger who glimpsed their fins among the waves. They slowly but surely were heading inward, going at a fairly relaxed pace. We left them out there and managed to spot on otter (pictured above) making its way into a dummy passage just in above the low-tide surface. It poked its head up again at the passage's exit, before bounding up onto the dry, bare rock and into a real entrance to the holt. Possibly one of our best otter sightings to date!

Sun, Sea, and Sealife!

The afternoon came on quick, and as the 12pm set out we were keen to see where Kesslet and Charlie ended up! With no sign of them in the river, we went to the Beauly Firth. They weren't there either, nor were they further out past the bridge. Perplexed, we returned to the marina again to be delighted by a huge splash from Kesslet as she hunted just up by the South Kessock side of the river. We continued to watch for a while, and were even more amazed to see young Charlie breaching with a terrific salmon that was almost a metre long! It was so big, our guide had to do a double take at her pictures to ensure it wasn't a porpoise! Charlie wandered off with his prize in his mouth to join his mum, who had sneaked further up into the river, and again, we left them to it. They stayed up there for the rest of the day, so we were lucky enough to see them at 2pm and 4pm too, with Charlie greeting the boat in his usual way, before having a porpoising match with Kesslet, the pair just skimming across the surface like stones behind us. We didn't see them at the end of the 4pm, but with the high tide and the catches that were made, it's quite safe to assume they were happy enough to go and relax elsewhere for the evening. I'd be tired too if I'd had a day like them!

Charlie with a huge salmonCharlie and his catch just upriver of the marina


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