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Dolphin Spirit Blog

Dolphin and Marine Wildlife Boat Trips from Inverness Marina

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!

Sunshine Splashing Spectacle!

The Sun Sets the Stage for an Amazing Show!

After the horrible, stormy day that was the second last day of May, it seems the month has decided to go out with a stunning, sunny bang! With little wind and plenty of sunshine, both Dolphin Spirit and Mischief were able to get out on the water and enjoy some mid-week therapy with our dolphins! It wasn't just the passengers sunning themselves either, as Mischief found at Chanonry Point, where a group of 8 dolphins were enjoying the weather and good food just off the point.

Charlie Gets Animated!

Our local boy Charlie is very well known for being a cheeky rascal, regardless of who he's with and he's always keen to put on a performance. Today was no different! While hanging around with Honey and her calf from last year, Charlie gave a fantastic set of breaches in the Chanonry Narrows (one of which is pictured above)! You can only imagine that Honey was underwater rolling her eyes at him, much like mum Kesslet must do. He's certainly a show-off and a bad influence on the little ones! Zephyr and her little one were also around, a little further away, as well as big Scoopy, who was chilling out with Bonnie and her youngster. In total contrast to Charlie, Bonnie was rolling around all relaxed-like in the currents as Scoopy and her youngster swam alongside. It was nice to see that it wasn't just a good time for all those watching!

Sneaky Seals!

And if that wasn't enough, the local seals were also getting a little up close and personal! Our sightings of them have been increasing steadily over the past couple months, and as we come into the pupping season over summer, it's only set to get better on that front too! That being said, we had a few couple curious seafarers pop up to say hello to the boats too. One even seemed to join the Mischief in a spot of dolphin watching! With the better weather too, hopefully our resident harbour seals will be appearing on the mudflats as well. It's all looking good here at Dolphin Spirit sightings-wise! Why not join us? You can book your experience here!

Mischief with a sealNot all dolphin-waters with Mischief had waterproofs!

Double Trouble

The Gruesome Twosome Play Hide and Seek with Dolphin Spirit

Charlie and Kesslet came out to play today for 3 out of our 4 sailings. The weather was beautiful but hazy, making distance shooting very difficult. The dolphins seemed to use this to their advantage, moving to places where they were like shadows in the mist, or passing us by entirely. It started at 10am, when we spotted Kesslet hunting on her own in the Kessock Channel, just off of the North Kessock slipway. As we left the area, we received a message from Charlie Phillips, who had returned unsuccessful from a packed-out Chanonry Point to observe at North Kessock instead, to say that his young namesake was floating around too. At 12pm, cheeky Charlie led his mum away on a merry trout-chase, disappearing up towards Redcastle, possibly to hunt sea trout there. We didn't see either of them until the 2pm, where they came dashing past the cardinal buoy, Kesslet with a fish, and a hungry Charlie mooching along beside her as they made way towards the bridge. It must have been a busy day hunting all in all, as Kesslet was seen at 4pm rolling around on her side looking rather lazy and full. Both she and Charlie spent a good while in the calm waters near the Meikle Mee buoy, probably just letting all that big lunch go down!

Mischief Meets A Merry Bunch

Mischief had 3 sailings to do today, and they all seemed to be a success. The first morning trip was nearly full, but it sounds like the empty seats were nearly taken up by some pretty active dolphins who came to visit the boat of Chanonry Point! As the summer months start up now, it seems like Mischief is coming across these active groups more and more often, which is brilliant. Hopefully soon we will have a rough idea what and who we can come to expect up there! Why not join us to see these sprightly critters in action? With the good weather fading off into rain and cloud again soon, now is the best time to enjoy the best of the activity and the weather!

Cheeky Charlie Visits Dolphin Spirit!

Chase Me Charlie!

What a fabulous fun-filled morning we had with resident bad boy Charlie today! It seems we may have caught him on his way out this morning as he lazed around under the Kessock Bridge, but once he spotted the Dolphin Spirit (and all its excited passengers too!), he was more than game for a little bit of fun. It started off with a roll onto his side to wave his pectoral fin at us, then a fancy headstand, sideways breach, and then a game of chases on the way back into the marina! Phew! It's tiring even just thinking about it! Some of our passengers got very close to Charlie downstairs during his antics, as he surfaced a few times just under where they were looking out for him! He left us to go back to his earlier plans as we returned into the marina, satisfied with his fun and games.

Kesslet Keeps Her Distance

Whether she was worn out already by an excitable Charlie, or just eager to get as many salmon as she could, Kesslet wasn't exactly up for playing much today. She kept her distance a little further upriver, at one point really struggling with a fish she had caught; her back arching as she attempted to regurgitate the troublesome meal. She played tease with the Dolphin Spirit, but came over to greet the Mischief as it returned from their 2 hour adventure. It was really nice to see the pair of them in the same area again, and hunting quite well by the looks.

Mischief Makes Friends at Chanonry

Mischief's travels to Chanonry today made them some new buddies! A group of youthful, playful dolphins came for a play around the boat out towards Fort George, much to the delight of the full group on board! Mischief also encountered Dolphin Spirit as she headed back in, and engaged in a little bit of showboating, zooming around the larger boat in huge circles for a photo op. Mischief really does live up to its name!

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.

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!

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!

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News on Kesslet's Calf

The Bad News...

Unfortunately we have some rather sad news about Kesslet's latest calf, nicknamed "Kessickle". On the afternoon of April 9th, our 4pm sailing encountered a rather sleepy Kesslet with her young calf around Meikle Mee. All seemed well then, with the youngster rather active around Kesslet as she rested after a long day hunting in the river and Kessock Channel. The next day, our locals were absent all day, which was unusual. The truly unusual thing was that, on the 11th, Kesslet returned to the River Ness with Charlie in tow. The little calf was nowhere to be seen. We kept a vigil on for a few days, still with no sightings of Kesslet's little one. After two whole weeks of a solitary Kesslet, it has officially been announced by the WDC that the calf has sadly passed on. We will never know what happened to it, unfortunately, and we are very saddened to say goodbye to such a beautiful little bundle of joy. For now, Kesslet is getting on with things, and so are we.

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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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