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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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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!

Play Time!

The Gruesome Twosome Make a Splash!

It had been a quiet month up until a couple of days ago! Kesslet, and at times Charlie too, are starting to become more commonplace in the firth again. While they're not always in their usual haunts due to the dwindling salmon, the pair are still finding food around the Inner Firth towards Kilmuir and Bunchrew. It's certainly giving them enough energy, whatever they may be catching (most likely sea trout and herring), as they have been very active! On Friday, they came close to the boat on two of the four sailings they were seen on, even following the boat around the Inverness Firth as it made travels on the 2pm. Charlie's best show was on Saturday however, when, after a few very distant sightings of them prior, Kesslet and Charlie reappeared at the end of the trip in the river mouth. Charlie turned to come and say hello to the boat, at first coming in nice and close for a bow ride. He then came firing out from under us, nice and high! A tremendous breach! Then another, facing us! Then another, under us again but like a speeding bullet ahead! And a final one, tilted to the side! It was magical! But that was not all, he returned to our side as we turned into the marina entrance... and followed us in right to our berth before heading back! He joined up with mum Kesslet again before disappearing into the firth. It was a trip to make our jaws drop for sure! We're still waiting to see if we have some videos of the action to share with you!

Otters
Otters playing under the Kessock Bridge in the sunshine

Kesslet Capers

Kesslet was roaming the firth on her own today, and was nice enough to come and see us on two of the three trips that went today. She was missing at 12pm, but there's been a lot of really rowdy activity from a number of small power vessels in the area recently, and they've been seen chasing the dolphins while they're here. We think she may have been scared off this afternoon by a really foolish and selfish private boat, but she returned to us at 2pm before we saw her heading out to join up with Charlie and Honey's group near Chanonry (who were spotted earlier by Mischief and joined them for a bit of fun too!). We'll see what tomorrow brings for us sightings wise of the dolphins, but with a good splash of rain and favourable tides, things are looking up for the end of the month! We've been seeing a lot of our seals (commons mostly, as the greys have seemed to move out east to pup), and our otters have been making appearances too! It's a great time to join us, and with some stunning weather recently, you may even get sunshine to boot!

Shhhh-eptember

It's Oh-So Quiet...

Welcome to the new, weekly blog here at Dolphin Spirit; as our season starts to wind down we'll be leaving all the blog excitement for a weekly recap to get the most out of every story coming out of our trips! But as it stands, after a stellar start, September is proving to be a rather quiet time, with all of our wildlife seemingly taking a bit of a breather after a hectic summer season. The seal pups have all been weaned and are now occasionally being spotted out in the water on their own, but for our Grey seals, all of the fun of the pupping season in just beginning. We'll see numbers of these seals drop off in the coming weeks as they make headway to their own preferred pupping grounds. Our otter mum hasn't shown up very much recently, and after all the eager anticipation over summer of new cubs, she seems to have not had any... yet. Her patterns have changed once again and she's being spotted early morning and late evening, which may be a sign of feeding youngsters. Her older cubs are still around, and sometimes have a bit of a sibling romp around the rocks and under the bridge, which is always good fun to watch. With the slow-down of the firth, we've been lucky enough to see (albeit briefly) some of the speedier visitors to the firth pop by now and again; the porpoise! Without doubt the shyest of all our wildlife, it's almost like spotting a unicorn when these little fellas appear, and luckily for us, we've had a couple within the past few days to get our hearts racing!

Dolphin Daydreams

It's been highly unpredictable once again on the dolphin front, with very little being seen of the resident terrible two, Kesslet and Charlie, but more visits from some of the Chanonry social groups now and again. Chanonry has been rather quiet for Mischief as well, but small, scattered groups are regularly being encountered off Eathie and over the other side towards McDermott Yard. We've seen a fair bit of Spirtle and crew, and Spirtle herself has gained even more fame after appearing on Countryfile! She had her own little segment describing what she's been through and how well she has been doing since. It's always an absolute joy to see her with all the spirit and joie de vivre a young dolphin like her should have, despite her injury and experience. She was recently photographed playing with friends and chucking about a huge chunk of seaweed like a true juvenile! In other calf news, there have been so far reports of around 5 or 6 newborns this season, including one for boat namesake Spirit! After her latest daughter turned three, Spirit surprised everyone by appearing with a tiny little tooty alongside near the Cromarty Firth! We can only hope they all have a lovely mild winter! It's also naming time for some of the older calves, who have had the old once-over from Aberdeen University and given their monikers for life. One such star from our trips to get his name is Zephyr's little boy, who is now called Zuzu! While convention normally has the names be in pattern with mum's name (and therefore we were expecting a more wind-based name like big brother Breeze), we think Zuzu's name is very fitting! What do you think?

Tides Have Turned

Another Visit from the Blue

Well it took us until 12pm to find our dolphins today, but when we found them, boy did we find them! As we approached Munlochy Bay, guide Krystyna was certain she saw something surface just at the entrance of the bay itself. She enlisted skipper Stuart to look, who grabbed a pair of binoculars to check out what she'd seen. Sure enough, about 200m in the distance, a fin surfaced! Then another one, and another one, and they just kept appearing! Zephyr and her youngster were the first to be identified, as Zephyr brought her little one close to the boat's port side after catching a small fish for herself. Ahead, there was a series of big breaches from two others, who, on approach, we found out were Bonnie and her youngster. The group swam with us for a while before we had to leave them be, and we turned around at Alturlie Point to head home. On the way back, Stuart spotted activity ahead near the Meikle Mee buoy, which turned out to be yet another dolphin! Kesslet appeared out of the blue, chasing fish on her own. She gave a few quick surface rushing dives and some more laid back surfacing before we had to leave her too. Charlie was also in the area, and as it turned out, while we were seeing that lot out under the bridge, he was throwing his own catch in the marina! He had approached a bright pink catamaran with his salmon, almost as if with a welcoming present, before turning tail and heading out not too long after, where we also caught him! All in all a wild 12pm trip, just showing how odd and wonderful August really is!

Spies in the Firth

We had Kesslet around for the 2pm as well, where we caught her tossing around a small salmon she had caught as she made her way back out towards Chanonry. She was very chilled out on her own, and we spent a good 10 minutes just watching her follow a bit in the distance. While that was the last of the dolphins to be seen, it wasn't the end of our wildlife spotting day, as the snoopy seals were certainly out and about too! We had a nice handful of harbour seals through the afternoon, but the morning saw no less than 3 spy-hopping seals do big high jumps to get a good look at us; most of these cheeky chappies were young grey seals! With this kind of unexpected sightings becoming a little more commonplace, who knows what we might see every day? Why not come aboard yourself and find out!

Not Being Seal-fish!

A Quiet One for Spirit

After all the madness that seems to have befallen the Kessock Channel over the past couple of days, it was strange to see it so quiet! Not a dorsal fin in sight all day, including on our special 7pm trip, but plenty of other wildlife making their presence felt. Primarily, the seals stole the show! We managed to spot another seal pup, possibly around a week old, among the adults on the mudflats this morning, and again later in the evening! Jet black in colour, the youngster stands out next to his rather pale mother! That puts us at either 5 or 6 new seal pups this year, and with the season for them coming to an end, it's fantastic to be able to say we've broken last year's record of 4 for sure now! I think next year will have a hard score to beat, but it's entirely possible; we'll just have to wait and see!

Mischief Makers!

That left us wondering where the cetaceans were hiding; it wouldn't be long until we found out where! Early this morning, both Kesslet and Charlie parked themselves at Chanonry Point to cause some trouble with Zephyr and her youngster. Our two and Zephyr's boy were spotted having a whale of a time, bouncing around each other with a good deal of social contact. Later in the afternoon, they were reported coming back in towards the Kessock Channel, but seemed not to have got that far as Spirit didn't spot them. However, Mischief had great views of the fun they were having we can be sure! It's weird that Scoopy isn't hanging around as much as he was before; in fact we've barely seen him with Kesslet in the past week or so. He's probably back with Bonnie's group, where he was before tagging onto Kesslet. It is that season after all, so we can't blame the fella for trying to get around! We do hope to see a little more of him soon though, as he was getting more confident with the boat and having a bit of fun with us too!

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! 

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!

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!

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

Another Dolphin-tastic Day!

Bring Your Child to Work Day

Or so it seemed! On both Dolphin Spirit and Mischief, the groups spotted today were made up of mothers and calves (with the exception of Sundance at Chanonry, who was flirting with all the mums instead!). For both as well it may have seemed a little bit like a copy and paste scenario from yesterday, as the dolphins seen were very much along the same lines. On Spirit, today's sightings were of the troublesome two, Kesslet and Charlie, who spent the reasonably sunny Thursday morning and early afternoon hunting away in the river and Kessock Channel area together. Later in the afternoon it was only Charlie who turned up, throwing around his catch for the 2pm trip to see. Kesslet was probably not too far away, but being her usual sneaky self, she may have been sulking away in a corner. The two were a little more sedate than yesterday, and missing big buddy Scoopy to complete their threesome from yesterday; but I'm sure Charlie was relishing a little one-to-one time with his mum, as it's been a while since the two were together without the company of others.

The Mother-And-Toddler Group Makes Chanonry Their Playground

For Mischief today there was some fun to be had in the company of a few different groups of mothers and their youngsters. Sitting at the point for the good part of the afternoon were the usual suspects of late, Zephyr, Bonnie, Honey and associated calves. Spirtle also joined her sister for a bit of fun, and big lad Sundance was mooching in and cosying up to a couple of the ladies as well! They, too, were quite sedate for the most part; Spirtle got a little bit spritely in the latter part of the afternoon, giving a few excitable breaches further out from the point along with a hunting Zephyr. Zephyr caught a wee tiddly salmon for her efforts, but the rest of the crew were more than eager to have a look at her prize for themselves; moochers! Heading further out in the afternoon, Mischief was also joined alongside by a couple of travelling groups; a video of the encounter was taken by co-skipper Gus who has since put it up on our social media pages, so go have a look!

A Great Dolphin Day!

Dolphins All 'Round!

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

Mischief Stirs Things Up

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

Finding Mischief

A Successful Morning!

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

Teasing from a Troublesome Two!

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

Making Mischief!

Dolphins by the Dozen!

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

A Mostly Grey Day

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

Morning Madness!

A Season Record

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

 

Breaching buddies in the Kessock Channel
Breach buddies!

Special Visitors

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

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!

Not Alone!

We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat...

Mischief got out today to enjoy the rays which graced the Outer Firth this afternoon; after the forecast of heatwave conditions for the rest of the country, we here up north were understandably wondering where ours would be. We got our "heatwave" in the form of some late sunshine and 15 degree heat. It wasn't just the humans who were enjoying the lovely weather, but the dolphins too, who graced Mischief with a visit as she passed through Chanonry in the afternoon. Our relatively imposing 9.5 metre RIB was also dwarfed by a passing cruise liner leaving Invergordon in the distance; it made even Dolphin Spirit look small!

Hunting Buddies

The point was relatively quiet this afternoon, with Zephyr and calf, Moonlight and calf, Scoopy, and young Spirtle the first to arrive for a spot of hunting as the riptide formed close to the shore. Zephyr and her little one got into a little bit of animated antics, with her son breaching nice and high over her head as she spyhopped to look; it was like something out of a toddler swim class! Spirtle disappeared with a group of young friends, leaving the "nursery group" behind. Unusually, Zephyr was not the one to be catching fish today, as Moonlight had beat her to it with a fantastic salmon that she was very reluctant to show; seems like Zephyr could learn a thing or two from her about table manners! Scoopy milled around, entertaining the youngsters from time to time, travelling in and out of the rip with them by his side. Things suddenly spurred up in the distance with the arrival of Bonnie, who, in great fashion, punted a terrified and stunned salmon into the sky with a tremendous surface rush. She would later move towards the point in an attempt to find a quiet patch to swallow her catch. Keeping their distance so as not to disturb all the action going on, Mischief got to enjoy all this action in comfort. Who will you see on a trip with us?

Zephyr and calf breaching
Zephyr and her calf engaging in some cute duo acrobatics

Bouncing Baby Dolphins!

Chasing the Grey Away

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

Dolphin by the Dozen

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

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

What About Winter?

Winter Wanders

People often ask us why the season only runs through summer, and there are a few very particular reasons; first off, the salmon run hits its peak in that time, then the dolphins' breeding season gets underway to coincide with the food stock, and lastly, the dolphins just aren't around in winter. It's hard enough trying to predict the movement of the dolphins during the summer, even when we know where their favourite food is. In winter, the dolphins feed on herring and mackerel, which are full of essential oils and fats to help them keep their blubber up over winter, and for mums to produce a high-quality, fatty milk for their youngsters. This makes them notoriously hard to find even when they remain in the Moray Firth, but, as Kesslet herself proved in winter just passed, there's always room for travel during the quiet season!

Food First

They say an army marches on its stomach, and the same is true for the dolphins; they will move to areas with the food they want or require first and foremost. For some, this extensive travel and see them doing up to 70 miles of swimming a day! When it's summer, and the salmon are running thick and fast, the choice is obvious, and the dolphins will be found hunting in the areas they have found or were taught by their mother. This is typically why Kesslet and Charlie spend so much time in the Kessock Channel and River Ness on their own. However, in winter, that all changes. A dolphin's true identity comes to the fore here, when food is more scarce the dolphins tend to choose what they can get easily and dependably. It has been noted with Kesslet for example, that she will sit in the channel for sea trout and small herring even through the colder season. Not all dolphins are this predictable however, and many will travel further out in the search for food; mainly places such as Aberdeen or down the east coast. 

What Else in Winter?

We have been wondering about running in winter for different reasons however, as the Moray Firth can be a very beautiful place even without the summer sun. One hotspot for winter photography here in the Highlands is a place called Alturlie Point, where locals are known to congregate to photograph the aurora, or Northern Lights. A boat trip out into the firth could easily make a great vantage point for photographs of this sort, or just to enjoy the spectacle when it arises. Winter is also a fascinating time for birdlife in the firth, with Long-tailed ducks and other visitors taking the place of our summer visitors. For wildlife spotters, this could be an altogether different reason to hop aboard!

Would you consider a boat trip on the Moray Firth in winter? What would make it special for you, and what would you like to see? Let us know in the comments!

What's The Scoop(y)?

Dolphin Spirit "Regulars" Join Dolphin Mischief!

In another warm and wonderful day out on the Moray Firth, all 7 sailings scheduled for today went out to enjoy the gorgeous weather and were treated to some lovely sightings to boot! Mischief had a blast zip-zooming around Chanonry with skipper Stuart at the helm for his usual Friday shift. Several groups of dolphins were encountered throughout the day, including a spirited hunting party of a couple of regular visitors to the Inner Firth; Scoopy, Bonnie, and her calf. Bonnie even made a special visit up close, diving just under the bow of the boat and disappearing off behind to join up with the other two who were bouncing around Fort George. On the same trip, Kesslet also had a bit of a crowd going, saying hello to both Spirit and Mischief near the Meikle Mee buoy as both boats crossed paths!

Spirit Sees Double

It was double trouble today for Dolphin Spirit who encountered both Kesslet and Charlie again today - that being said, it was Charlie this time who was in the river on his own, rather than his mother! Kesslet was further out, near the calmer waters at Meikle Mee, making a bit of a splash most of the afternoon. Charlie was hunting into mid-afternoon, and possibly around to play with the huge flotilla around North Kessock today. A fair number of boats were out in the Kessock Channel for the boat race event, having poured out of the canal in the morning. This may have put Kesslet off hunting there for the day, which is why she was further out. While she is very much used to boats in the channel, Kesslet can be a little awkward with new ones at times, which was something which became apparent a couple of years back when the RNLI open day put her off the channel for a couple of days. We'll be keeping an eye on her and seeing where she ends up tomorrow, just in case!



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