What About Winter?
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!
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!