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Dolphin Spirit Blog

Dolphin and Marine Wildlife Boat Trips from Inverness Marina

That Friday Feeling!

Dolphins Dancing in the Firth

Friday doesn't always mean the same to us at Dolphin Spirit as it means for everyone else! Normally, Friday is the start of our busy weekend period, so no resting up here! That said, it was a very quiet day in the Moray Firth in pretty much every possible way; there was nothing really going on with the weather, not many boats around, and the wildlife wasn't particularly active either. A late arrival from Kesslet changed that however, when she eventually rocked up to the party at 2pm this afternoon. The neap tides have been playing havoc with the fish, making it harder for the salmon to get through when there's only about 2 hours of fast flow from the sea. It doesn't help that the recent "good" sunny weather has made the already colossal journey even harder by lowering the water level in some of the rivers to mere trickles. For the salmon, all this hassle isn't really worth their time! Kesslet certainly had food in mind when she came to visit however, charging her way upriver to see if there was anything worth having! 

Kesslet Makes a Splash 

Always at the very last second of our trips, Kesslet likes to pull a little trick or two as a goodbye to our passengers. After spending a good little while with her out in the channel earlier on, Kesslet felt the need to give us a great big send off as she disappeared back upriver. The surprise today was a huge surface-rushing dive, sending spray everywhere, and a fantastic, huge breach just out the rear of the boat! She's been a little elusive at late, but this amazing display was enough to put a great big smile on everyone's face (even on our skipper and guide!). It was lovely to see her so active, especially with the weather being so grim and grey besides. 

Why not come aboard with us this weekend to see if you can catch up with a bouncy Kesslet? Will Charlie come and join his mum in the channel again? The only way to find out is to hop aboard and experience the Dolphin Spirit for yourself! 

Something Seal-y

Seals Return to the Marina Mudflats

Our local seals have been appearing around the Firth in greater numbers recently, but when we looked over the mudflats just outside of the marina they were nowhere to be seen! Our harbour seals (also called common seals) are known to use that spot for a little bit of mid-day sunbathing, particularly on the low tide when the mudflats are the most exposed. Their growing presence there has resulted in some lucky sightings over the past couple of years; mainly the births of a small number of pups! With summer on its way, it is soon going to be time for some of those cute little faces to reappear in the Inner Firth. Thankfully today, our local seals picked up their favoured basking spot, returning to the mudflats once more to enjoy the great weather. Keep an eye out for them on your next adventure with us!

Kesslet Keeping Quiet

Local girl Kesslet has been hanging around the harbour as usual, taking advantage of the neap tides to sneak in for a snack whenever she likes! With son Charlie off gallivanting up at Chanonry again, Kesslet has reverted to her introverted self; keeping her distance a little and focusing on food. Hopefully with the season getting into its peak soon, Kesslet will have some company to help fight off the baby blues. With sightings of many of her known social group in the area again, it is likely they will pass through to see her soon if she doesn't make the journey herself. We love to see her around of course, but can't help but think she could probably do with a little bit of company; Charlie certainly isn't being as obliging as he was last time around!  

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

The forecast for the next few days predicts some much-needed rain for Inverness and much of the country. Make sure you pack a jacket! That being said, a good dose of rain might just be what the salmon run needs just now; with the neap tides there are very few fish coming in at the moment, and those that do are struggling in the low water. Maybe with a bit of a fishy frenzy on the cards, our fish-eating friends may put in a bit more of an appearance! 

Discover The Dolphins

Meet Some of the Moray Firth's Superstar Dolphins!

Upon writing the "Meet the Team" segments, it becomes apparent that we actually haven't given you a proper introduction to the other stars of the show - the dolphins! In today's blog we will cover a few of our most spotted individuals, how we identify them, and where we find them! How many on the list have you spotted?

Kesslet

Easily our favourite local lass here at Dolphin Spirit, Kesslet has been present on our trips since day one. Arguably the easiest to identify, due to her incredibly curved dorsal fin, Kesslet is a common sight around the River Ness and Kessock Channel. At the young age of 22, Kesslet is considered to be in the prime of her life. She has had 3 calves so far, though only one of which has survived - her son Charlie. Kesslet stands out, not just in appearance but in personality, choosing to spend a lot of time hunting on her own. She is occasionally joined in her hunts and travels by Charlie or her old pal Scoopy. That being said, Kesslet is also sometimes spotted among larger groups further out towards Chanonry; groups which will normally include Charlie, Scoopy, Bonnie, and Bonnie's calf. She seems to be particularly fond of sea trout, a food which keeps her around the Inner Firth even in winter. 

Charlie

Charlie is a cheeky chappy, and we love seeing him around. Ever since Kesslet had and lost her last calf, Charlie has remained a little distant from the Kessock Channel, but often returns to check in on his mum (what a good son!). Charlie will be 10 this year, making him a sub-adult; he's not quite the age to start breeding yet, but that doesn't stop him showing off in the hopes it will get him some attention! Charlie is a member of a young male pod affectionately named "The Bad Boys' Club" who are known for their boisterous antics and acrobatic displays. Even on his own, Charlie displays these youthful behaviours, often breaching and showing off to any boat who'll let him. Charlie's social groups are particularly wide, though he is known to flirt with various mother-calf groups, including Zephyr, Bonnie, Honey and all their youngsters. Bonnie's calf and Charlie seem to have an almost brotherly-spat going on, as when they're together they are often bouncing around each other and socializing, despite a 6-or-so year gap. Charlie is quite easy to identify in a number of ways (he is pictured above). His fin is tall and slightly bent near the top, with a few newly-accentuated nicks near the top and middle. His face is very recognizable, with a band of white over his rostrum (nose) with what almost looks like little black freckles. 

Zephyr

Zephyr will most likely be seen by the Dolphin Mischief, as she is a very regular visitor to Chanonry Point. Zephyr is a mother to a couple of calves, namely Breeze and her newest youngster who is 1.5 years old and doesn't have a name yet. This youngster will often be spotted at Zephyr's side, though is becoming more independent now - often adventuring his environment and hunting tiddlers just within sight of his mum. Having been around for a while, Zephyr is very used to boats and often curious of them, though if there's salmon going you can bet that will be on her mind more than chasing boats! Zephyr is perfectly happy to hunt on her own, usually the first dolphin to arrive at the point. That being said, she will mingle with other mothers when they do arrive. She's an excellent hunter, and can easily catch 3 or 4 big salmon in a single session. Zephyr is quite easy to identify, with a slightly curved fin like Kesslet, though not as pronounced. The rear side of her fin is slightly nicked when you see it up close, and her back just under her fin has some mottled patches.

Zephyr peeking through the waves
Zephyr peeking through the waves

Scoopy

Scoopy is a bit of a social butterfly, flitting in and out the Inner Firth, possibly spotted anywhere. He has been hanging around with Kesslet for a number of years, and is thought to be just a little bit older than her, perhaps around 25 years old. Up until recently, when he was around 18 or so, Scoopy was relatively unmarked and was generally on the outside of social gatherings. These days, however, Scoopy is relatively well marked and easy to spot, with two large nicks near the middle of his fin and a number of rakes and marks around his head. He mingles in generally the same circles as Charlie would, and sometimes travels on his own. His shyness extends to how he treats boats; he's a little elusive. In the right circles he can be encouraged to get excited, but is generally quite relaxed when we've spotted him.

Bonnie

Bonnie's Aberdeen University ID is "Squat Fin", and it is easy to see why. Very easily recognizable by her short dorsal fin and generally quite petite stature, Bonnie is another of our commonly spotted individuals. She is often accompanied by her older male calf, who is around 4 years old now. In comparison to Bonnie, her calf has a very tall fin that is as of yet relatively unmarked. When they were last spotted aboard Dolphin Spirit, Bonnie's calf had a few shallow rakes on the left hand side of the dorsal fin, though those will have faded by now. Bonnie is a very sweet little dolphin, always part of a group and generally with either other mothers or the youngsters; it seems she has a bit of a nurturing side! She has been spotted right down into the Kessock Channel and out at Chanonry, so there is opportunity to spot her on any sailing, like Scoopy.

A Nice "Tern" of Events!

The Local "Air Force" Come to Town!

We're not talking the RAF here, we're talking terns! It's been a long while since we saw our delightful little feathered friends over the firth, but today was got quite the showing. Around 20 or so terns, mixed in with some gulls, were hunting around Kilmuir most of the day. Photographing them is hard going since they are so small and so quick, but even just watching them dive at almost 90 degree angles into the water is an absolute joy. We will be keeping an eye on the population of terns hanging out around Kilmuir and the Meikle Mee buoy, as over the summer we are more than likely to find some Arctic Terns in there too!

Kesslet Capers

Local girl Kesslet was present for every sailing today as well, though this time without any sign of Charlie. When she's alone, Kesslet is quite withdrawn and tends to keep her distance from the boat. That being said, at 10am this morning we had barely left our berth before she made an appearance, diving right under the bow of the boat before heading upriver. She spent most of the day in the Ness, at times wandering out into the Kessock Channel or around the Kessock Bridge itself. She seemed to catch a few salmon on her travels today too, though wasn't exactly forthcoming in sharing it with everyone else. I spent a good while between sailings watching her from the quayside, buteven then, she was teasing me at the surface more than anything else!

Kesslet sneaking around the river

Kesslet sneaking around the river just outside Inverness Marina

Weather Watch

The weather has been quite good recently, but over the next week or so is set to get a little rainy and perhaps a little windy. Make sure you bring a jacket if you're planning to join us on the boat! Don't worry if you forget though, as the Dolphin Spirit's cozy cabin is sure to keep you warm and dry in even the worst weather!

Childminders' Day Goes Out With A Splash!

A Visit From Our Lovely Locals!

Our local mother-son pair, Kesslet and Charlie, really made a splash aboard the Dolphin Spirit today, giving our guests a rousing welcome back into the marina! We were celebrating our first Childminders' Day aboard the cruiser, with various childminding groups and families joining us for a fun filled day of face-painting, games, and, to top it all off, our dolphins! While we did have a very fleeting glimpse of them on the 10am trip, it wasn't until 12pm that they decided to come out and play; and boy was it worth the wait! You can see their antics over on our Facebook page here.

Super Skippers Ahoy!

We had so many brave youngsters join us today that Skipper Brian almost found himself out of a job! Once we were past the Kessock Bridge, everyone was given the opportunity to drive the boat! While this really was meant for some of the younger passengers, that didn't stop parents and group leaders getting involved too! It was a lot of good fun, and everyone who tried was a natural. Guess we won't have any trouble looking for new skippers in the future then!

Fabulous Painted Faces

Yvette's daughter Jemma was in this afternoon, dolling up our guests with some wonderful facial artwork! We had everything from tigers, to dolphins, to stars today! Thankfully, the weather stayed dry for most of the day, and the face paint survived (at least until the end of the trip!). We're hoping that this will become a constant feature of our seasons from now on; we had so much fun hosting the event and everyone else seemed to have a great time too! Come and visit us next year if you have a childminding group and take advantage of our special rates and events when we host our next Childminders' Day!

A Day Full of Dolphins

Every sailing saw dolphins!

Our resident girl Kesslet didn't disappoint our passengers today, as she was present for all four sailings! First spotted out near the canal, Kesslet bee-lined straight for the boat after clocking us over at North Kessock. She even came for a short bow-ride before leaving us to hunt; something she has been very reluctant to do since the loss of her calf. It seems that, being the big, resilient girl that she is, Kesslet is beginning to get over the sad passing of her second calf in a row and is getting on with things. 

Closure

Speaking of Kesslet's calf, our friend at the WDC, Charlie Phillips, may have stumbled upon the poor soul at Avoch beach today. On his way to work at Chanonry Point this morning, Charlie found a small dolphin among the seaweed on the beach. After 5 weeks at sea, the little body was in a poor state, but it was Charlie's opinion that is highly likely this is (or was) Kesslet's youngster. The body was recovered by the SMASS and will likely be studied by various departments. We may yet get some information about the calf, though the body was in too bad a state for a formal necropsy. For now we are simply going to wait and see what comes of this rather sad discovery. 

Weekend Fun

As some of you may know, it is childminding week this week. We are celebrating this weekend with a special childminding day on Saturday with special rates for childminders, their families, and the kids they look after. After working in the industry for many years, boss Yvette knows the struggles childminders face and the lack of appreciation they receive for the hard work they do. Along with our child-friendly and activity focused trips, there will be face painting in the afternoon to help make the day unique and specially tailored to children's groups! If you, or someone you know, is looking for the perfect day out for a childminding group, get in contact with us over the phone on 07544 800620 to book your place; spaces are filling up fast! 

Dolphins Get Into The Dolphin Spirit

Fun in the Sun

Over the past week we have seen the return of young Charlie, Kesslet's 9 year old son, to the Kessock Channel for a bit of fun and mischief. Much like his mum was at that age, Charlie is incredibly energetic and social around boats, earning him the title of "urban dolphin". He's been spotted bow-riding the Dolphin Spirit, as well as hunting and resting around the Kessock Bridge and Meikle Mee buoy. Like mother like son so they'd say!

Trading Places

Despite Charlie's grand return, mum Kesslet was nowhere to be found! On the evening of the 8th she was spotted on her way back into the Inner Moray Firth by one of our guides on a "busman's holiday" to Chanonry Point. She was on her own as usual, and didn't hang around for long before zipping off. Charlie and his mum have not spent as much time together as they have apart in recent times; one can only wonder if they've had a bit of a falling out! It was also noted that Kesslet has been through the wars recently, as her tail is covered in a small number of new rake marks. This could be the result of social interaction with some of the other dolphins when she's been away on her travels, though it has been somewhat unusual to see her so marked, especially given how much she's secluded herself since the birth of her last calf. It doesn't seem to have bothered her much, as she's still fishing around the river mouth and Kessock Channel once more as usual.

Kesslet with new rakes on her tail
Kesslet's back and tail, showing the extensive markings; some are old, some are new

Shy Seals Spotted

The other local marine mammals seem to be coming out of hiding too! Our seal sightings are on the up, after a particularly quiet start. Harbour seals are the most frequent, generally popping up around the Kessock Channel when they can sneak a fish from the dolphins. Our grey seals have also been present, mostly out in the more shallow water near Meikle Mee. It's nice to see them again, considering that the start of the harbour seal pupping season is soon! We will be keeping our eyes out for more pups this year as our sightings of pups across both the harbour and grey seals have grown exponentially over the years; only 1 pup in 2015, but 4 last year! Now that Dolphin Mischief is also regularly checking in on the Whiteness seal colony near Ardersier, it will be interesting to see how this population compares!

Marvelous May Sightings

May Gets Off To A Splashing Start!

The start of May has brought us some brilliant weather and the Moray Firth seems to have sprung alive! We've been seeing a lot of Kesslet aboard the Dolphin Spirit, but she isn't the only visitor making our passengers "ooh" and "ahh" just now. Dolphin Mischief has been struggling with some difficult weather conditions, but when she gets out, they've been seeing a lot of two very lovely dolphins in particular, Zephyr and her young son!

Read more

Attention All Mischief Makers and Spirited Sailors

We can’t shout about it enough; 2017 is going to be the biggest and best year yet for Dolphin Spirit! Don't get us wrong, 2016 was a brilliant year; our 5-star quality assurance rating from Visit Scotland was the icing on a delicious cake made up of tremendous sightings, a whole load of new experiences, and of course, visits from our fantastic passengers! It's hard to believe 2017 is only going to be our third year!


With all that success in 2016, we are aiming for the stars with our new vessel Dolphin Mischief (I’m sure you’ve heard about it by now!). A longer experience at 2 hours a trip, Mischief is set to be a fast-paced, adrenaline-fuelled race to Chanonry Point and beyond. For those who have already been aboard Dolphin Spirit, or for those looking to get their blood pumping, this is the perfect experience to see a little bit more of the glorious Moray Firth landscape, and hopefully a little more of the wildlife on offer too! Tickets for Mischief are available to book now from £32.


The Dolphin Spirit herself has had a bit of a facelift too, with a new paint job and some touch-ups to her graphics on the outside, and a furniture fix on the inside. In addition to all the big, fancy works, Dolphin Spirit now carries 5 languages on board with her new language sheets! All you need to know about the safety drills, the wildlife and the scenery is now available in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish for the new season! School groups are in for a treat too; education packs are also now available in primary and secondary levels to help make the trip a more school-friendly and educational experience. Tickets for Spirit are available to book now from £18; larger groups should contact us directly by phone or email for discounts and information on private charter.


But that’s not all! The reception area is receiving a bit of an upgrade as well! We are currently working on a project which will see the reception area equipped with new display stands for our gift shop products, as well as an upgraded snack section! Along with our hot drinks and biscuits, we are planning to also have various sandwiches and cold drinks and snacks available in our new display fridge. A lovely new slideshow will also play on the reception’s (formerly) redundant big-screen, featuring footage from our sailings from guests and guides alike.


We’ve been working really hard this winter to make 2017 really special for all our passengers, new and returning, so we hope you’re all as excited about it as we are! Meanwhile, locals Charlie and Kesslet have been enjoying their winter around the Moray Firth, poking their noses into the Beauly Firth to see us now and again. Kesslet and her brand new calf were also recently spotted in Scrabster, near Thurso, where they seemed to be enjoying some alone time on a short break! This impromptu trip is the furthest north Kesslet has ever been; talk about sightseeing!

Our season starts on the 1st of April this year, so book now and get yourself into the #DolphinSpirit or into #DolphinMischief!



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