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Dolphin Spirit Blog

Dolphin and Marine Wildlife Boat Trips from Inverness Marina

Watching in All Weathers

Sightings in Sunshine!

The difference in weather in just a mere 24 hours can sometimes be astounding in Inverness; the past couple of days have proven this much. Yesterday, by all accounts, was a fabulous one, with sunshine all day (despite the forecast at the beginning of the week citing cloud and rain) and, even better, dolphins all day too! First thing in the morning, Charlie turned up on his own to mill around the river and hunt for some of the delicious (and large!) salmon that have been populating the Ness recently. He was there until the afternoon, where he moved out towards the ICT Stadium to join up with Kesslet and Scoopy. It is undeniable that the amount of time that those two are spending together is suspicious, and Charlie himself doesn't seem all too pleased to be phased out in the interactions. Scoopy has even shown somewhat dominant behaviours towards Charlie, with Charlie responding in kind with clingy behaviours towards Kesslet; the poor girl must be torn between them! Regardless, when in their trio they seem to be tolerant of each other at least, and they moved back in to the Beauly Firth for some feeding before moving once again at 4pm. This time, the movement was a little more excitable, with breaching around the Kessock Bridge area! It's certainly pleasing to see them all being so active, and one can only wonder at what it all might mean...

Spotting in Showers...

Today, on the other hand, proved far wetter than anyone had thought, with decent sprinklings of rain throughout the day into some scattered heavy spells too. But a little bit of rain doesn't put off the Dolphin Spirit, and the dolphins certainly don't seem to mind! In fact, with the recent sunshine the salmon have had a fairer chance to run the dolphin gauntlet and make it upriver; with the rain, there's an additional force to contend with too. So with that in mind, the Dolphin Spirit set out on her spotting journey today with her eager and undaunted passengers; and boy will they be glad they braved the rain! With Kesslet and Scoopy around today, it was another great day (regardless of the weather) to be out on the water! The pair were a little more sedate, but spotted later in the evening too enjoying some quiet time together as well as breaching and hunting actively between the harbour and river. Long may this spate of activity continue! 

Meet the Team - Gwyn

Last but not Least!

And rounding off our Meet the Team showcase is the last of our skippers, Gwyn! Of all the skippers across both boats, it is highly likely that Gwyn is the most experienced of them all; an instructor for all kinds of vessels, a courier for boat owners, and captain of our gracious Dolphin Spirit! Gwyn is also very well acquainted with the dolphins and their adoring public; living in Rosemarkie his wife also runs the Rosemarkie Beach Cafe, a natural tourist draw for the dolphins and the ice cream (on those hard to come by, but oh so glorious, sunny days)! He isn't one of our truly full-time skippers, but with his experience and warm personality, Gwyn is sure to make every trip memorable for passengers, young or old! One thing about Gwyn is that his timings are always on point, and he doesn't do late! So if you have places to be, be sure that Gwyn will make sure you get there!

Skills That Pay the Bills!

Gwyn has been out on the water for longer than most of our guiding crew have been alive! When he's not being the skipper at the helm aboard the Dolphin Spirit, he's giving sound advice to make sure she runs well, properly, and safely. Gwyn was the man behind the safety briefing, the adviser for many of our safety procedures, and the trainer for the crew during our yearly safety drill refresher! He also helped some of our other skippers through the boatmaster's licence; a job he does privately too! If you've ever had a question about boats or boating, Gwyn quite likely has the answer! When he's not around Dolphin Spirit at all, Gwyn is occasionally away instructing others to sail or even appearing on camera! He has had the pleasure of skippering some really impressive vessels in his time, from barges to cruisers, I'm sure there's very few vessels that Gwyn hasn't driven! What we can say is there is one boat that we see a fair bit in the summer that Gwyn is itching to try; the Vic 32! You may recall Vic from a previous blog post, but if you don't, the Vic 32 is one of the last Clyde puffer boats in existence. She sails around the west coast and through the Caledonian Canal in summer, so we often get to see her meandering her way down the Moray Firth! As a rare boat, it's something that I'm sure any skipper, not just Gwyn, would be keen to have a go of!

So think up your biggest boating question for your next Dolphin Spirit cruise, and keep your fingers crossed for skipper Gwyn! He's certainly the brain to pick for all things boat here! And if you're not in to boats all that much, you'll still get to enjoy a great and comfortable trip with him behind the wheel!

A Chill Out Kind of Day

Sleepy in the Sunshine

With the second day in a row of actual summer weather, it was a great day to be out on the water! Not only is the glittery reflection from the water great for topping up a tan, but the soothing sea breeze meant it wasn't too warm out on the firth either; with highs of 25 degrees Celsius today, it was certainly welcome for a change! The good weather seemed to have the same effect on everyone, making them chilled out and in a good mood throughout the day, even our local wildlife! The seals were out and present on all 4 sailings for Dolphin Spirit today, with those on the mudflats snoozing away rather peacefully for the best part of the afternoon. Those on the water were making the most of a lack of dolphins; the terrible trio didn't turn up until the later stages of the day! But as they say, when the cats are away, the mice shall play...

And Play They Did!

It wasn't just the seals who saw their opportunity and took it; the otters came by for a visit too! In the early afternoon, two of them were spotted just off the harbour wall mucking around. It's been our first sightings of the otters at the marina for a while, with resident male "Pierre" spotted recently back on his perch over on the South Kessock slipway again too over the past couple of days. We're still keeping our eyes and ears open for any signs of otter cubs, but no definite signals yet. The Kessock Channel went to the dolphins shortly after two, with a lovely visit from Kesslet and Charlie right up next to the boat. Charlie always brings that playful side out of his mum, and can often be seen actively pushing her to the boat. That being said, it seems to be rubbing off on old Scoopy too, who didn't turn up until later this afternoon, but he too has been getting close to both Mischief and Dolphin Spirit too! The three of them spent their afternoon around the river and Kessock Channel, and are still being reported there even at the time of writing; enjoying an evening salmon feast in the lovely weather it would seem! 

Cetaceans in the Sunshine!

The Terrible Trio Strike Again!

A glorious day all in all, with the sun shining for every single sailing that went out today! The wind from yesterday died down a little today, but there were still a few white horses to contend with, especially out in the Beauly Firth! That didn't put us, or any of the 115 passengers to join Dolphin Spirit today, off though! We all went out and had a great time, and were lucky enough to enjoy another afternoon filled with dolphins doing their thing; hunting down the salmon running up the River Ness! On which note, we had a call not too recently asking if "we were the company that feeds the dolphins"! In answer to that question, or to anyone who thinks that, NO! We absolutely do not feed the dolphins, interfere with, or track them or any of our wildlife at all! Every salmon, every trout, caught by our dolphins is just as wild as they are! So when you see pictures of dolphins with salmon hanging out their mouths (like Kesslet in the picture above), that's one the dolphins have chased down and caught themselves; and let us tell you, that's a sight to behold in and of itself! But back to today; we had the troublesome two from yesterday back in the river, Kesslet and Charlie, but they were joined a little later by big pal Scoopy, who has been sniffing around the area (and Kesslet in particular!) quite a bit recently. Lovebirds or just really good friends? We'll leave that for you to decide!

Hunting Happiness

Kesslet and Charlie were, unsurprisingly, the first to appear on the 12pm sailing, and what an entrance they made! Appearing just ahead of the boat near the ICT Stadium, they came alongside briefly before Charlie gave a cheeky little side breach behind us... right on top of Kesslet! Like a stern mother grabbing her child by the ear, Kesslet dragged her (somewhat big) baby off under the bridge and away into the river. With a laugh and smiles on our faces, we left them to it, hoping to see them again at the end. Luckily enough we did, and found they were not alone, as big Scoopy was milling around on his own too just at the mouth of the river! All three came together just in front of us, before disappearing off out again as we headed into the marina; Scoopy chomping down on his lunch as they swam up the Beauly Firth. The 2pm seemed less promising, since none of them were present or accounted for at the start of the trip! Thankfully, they reappeared and put on quite the showing with their catches right at the end, much to the delight of our patient passengers! They were still about at 4pm as well, where Charlie gave us an escort to where his mum and Scoopy were sitting just off Carnarc Point in the river. All three of them joined up when close enough again, and swam off out of the river in what was a lovely end to another 3 out of 4 dolphin day!

Troublesome Twosome!

A 3 out of 4 Day!

For the last few days we've been lucky enough to have had dolphins across the majority of our sailings! Today was no different, providing us with a dolphin-filled spectacle on 3 out of the 4 trips that went out for Dolphin Spirit, and on the only trip braving the waves with Dolphin Mischief too! The stars of today's show were the usual suspects, Kesslet and Charlie; there was no sign of big Scoopy today, strangely. Activity between the pair varied from trip to trip, with them being totally absent on the 12pm sailing despite being in the river less than 15 minutes prior to it sailing! We first spotted the pair last thing on the 10am trip, where Kesslet was milling around with a lovely big fish just off the rocky harbour wall, and Charlie was further upriver chasing his own under the watchful gaze of Mischief (who had had to return early from the 9.30am trip due to the high winds at Chanonry Point). Both boats returned to the marina, leaving the pair to join up once more, where they headed into the waves and great unknown until 2pm.

Active Hunters

Hunting Mode was definitely engaged when the pair returned down to the marina. Kesslet was the first to make her entrance with an impressive surface rush right towards us into the river. She appeared out behind us again, circling around near the harbour quayside, teasing us a little with just glimpses of her fin. She disappeared upriver for our return, but by 4pm, she and Charlie were sitting outside the marina just waiting for us! Kesslet was happy to give us a brief hello, but that wasn't enough for cheeky Charlie, who you could see just under the water circling his mum and actively pushing her over to come play. When she was having none of it, Charlie stomped off in a bit of a huff and distanced himself from Kesslet. We left them to it to go up into the Beauly Firth, but as we came back down we saw Charlie out near the cardinal marker. He gave a brief breach before chasing mum Kesslet back into the river with a spray of water in all directions! When we returned to the marina at the end of the trip they were still there, Kesslet outside the river and Charlie further up near the harbour again. Kesslet was in full predator mode, rushing the surface and giving a lovely big breach where Charlie had done his, much to the delight of the passengers who had been keeping an eye on her! Charlie, who had already caught his dinner, swam circles happily with his prize at a distance, disappearing upriver again as we headed back to our berth. All in all, another successful day with the troublesome two!

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

Making Waves!

Finding Fins

It was 2 out of 4 day for Dolphin Spirit, but so close to being a 4 out of 4! We had Kesslet and Charlie scooting around South Kessock this morning, travelling toot-sweet up the coat towards Clachnaharry. They came to briefly say hello; Charlie doing fast surface rushes towards us and under the bow as he hunted around us. A daydreaming Kesslet dondered past to follow him, and the pair disappeared out of view behind us. We kept our fingers crossed that they would hang around, and that Kesslet's taste for sea trout may have been beaten by the nudging of a salmon hungry Charlie. Sadly though, Kesslet won in the end, and the pair were absent at 12pm. Despite the lack of dolphins, the quiet allowed us a moment to admire the seal colony outside the marina, and we discovered a couple of new seal pups out there! We are now, we think, up to 4 pups in that group! We are so close to beating last year's record, currently matching it; do you think we'll see any more?

Chase Me Charlie

Luckily, the gruesome twosome would arrive back in the area, sweeping past North Kessock on their way back down the Beauly Firth. We got some fleeting glances of fins floating around the heavy waves in the riptide. We thought that may have been it, but were lucky enough to encounter them on the way back, with the addition of Scoopy in the river too. We got some nice close encounters around the river on our way back in from the two there. Guide Krystyna went up to the quayside for a quick scout out of the dolphins for the next trip, finding Scoopy and Kesslet sniffing around just at the river mouth. Kesslet came further up for a moment before it all kicked off! With a great splash, Scoopy suddenly appeared just off Carnarc Point. With another big splash, Kesslet breached quickly back to join him. Scoopy fired past with a huge salmon hanging out of his mouth! The excited pair leaped for joy at the thrill of the hunt in a lovely double breach! And then it was over, as fast as it started. The two wandered our of the river to join Charlie further out and disappeared out under the Kessock Bridge. We must have just missed them somewhere along the line on the 4pm, as they weren't moving very quick when last seen. But despite no dolphins on the 4pm, we had some breaching seals instead to steal the show. Who needs dolphins if the seals are that good at impersonating them!

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!

Meet the Team - George

A Master in his Field

Keeping on the theme of Mischief skippers, we come on to the last, but certainly not the least, George! Everything going on here with Dolphin Mischief is essentially old hat for George, who has been out on the Moray Firth for 25 years! George's strengths as a skipper are not just in his excellent handling of the RIB, but also in his extensive marine knowledge. He's a keen diver, and used to dive for the Highland Council, surveying the firth, undertaking conservation projects, and even doing diving boat surveys privately! Out of all the team, George has probably come closest to our dolphins, having encountered them on dives before too. According to him, these big show-offs are actually incredibly shy once you're in their domain, and prefer to keep a distance. They will, however, ogle you incessantly until they know what you're up to! While George's main marine biology passion was in the slightly smaller aquatic life of the firth (namely nudibranchs, or sea-slugs, which he wrote a book on!), he's still incredibly excitable when it comes to encountering our bottlenoses out near Chanonry.

Oh The Places You'll Go...

George is a fascinating character, and incredibly enthusiastic about the Moray Firth and all the secrets it holds. Incidentally, George himself discovered one of these many secrets along with a few diving buddies while exploring the waters off Cromarty; a sunken submarine! The sub in question had actually gone missing from its original position, called locally as The Barge, decades prior to George discovering it. He was aiding in the recovery of a net which had entangled on something near the sandy depths, when they discovered that the net was not attached to The Barge wreck as described, but in fact the missing submarine Tantivy! Selflessly, George and co. went on to inform the MoD of their discovery and sought to buy the wreck in effort to preserve it. Many divers have since been down to see the submarine and enjoy the microhabitat it has now created for soft corals and fish, so it's just as well that it was George that found it!

George is full of exciting tales; perhaps his next book should be about his own adventures! Go on an adventure of your own with George and learn the secrets of the firth when you book aboard Dolphin Mischief!

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!

A Brief Encounter

Hardy Hunters

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

Missing on Mischief

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

Gotta Spot 'Em All!

Another Big 3 Day for Spirit AND Mischief!

What a day! Not only Dolphin Spirit have a fantastic Big 3 day (and then some!), so did Mischief! Despite the forecast, the day was dry for the most part and while enjoying the calm, we also enjoyed some great sightings of the lovely local wildlife. Sightings started literally first thing in the morning for Spirit, when Kesslet appeared just in the river with a nice big salmon within the first 5 minutes of the trip. After letting her approach us and disappear off again to dodge the incoming gull horde, we continued on into the Beauly Firth, where we encountered one of the seal pups out for a swim! That was for the most part how the morning went on, but as the afternoon wore on, our sightings only got better!

Strange Sightings at Chanonry Point!

While Spirit was making friends down in the Beauly Firth, Mischief was watching some weird and wonderful goings-on up near Chanonry Point. On approach to the Point, the boat spotted a lone dolphin having interactions with a seal. The seal, according to skipper George, wasn't too keen on its big new friend, but the dolphin was approaching with seemingly playful intent; I guess around 400kg of dolphin can be quite intimidating when it's in your face like that! Moving on, Mischief also encountered an otter at Chanonry! They also managed to spot a fair bit of dolphin activity throughout the day, with all 3 sailings going out! Skipper George is also keeping his eyes peeled for juvenile Sea Eagle which he is certain is in the Munlochy area! Next time you're out with our boats you might want to keep your eyes peeled for these so called "flying barn doors" to see if he's right!

Not a Sea Eagle But...

While Dolphin Spirit spent some extended time out near Munlochy and Alturlie Point today due to a fair amount of harbour traffic, we didn't see any sea eagles. That being said, we did have a very close flyover by a red kite passing over the firth from the Black Isle towards Culloden! In the same area we found ourselves a Charlie in the afternoon, who was initially resting near Meikle Mee before coming to see us and zipping off towards the shore with a few bouncy breaches to boot! The last sighting of note was on the 4pm trip at the last minute, where a cheeky otter appeared next to the mudflats on our way back in, swimming alongside towards a small lone rock near the harbour wall and climbing up onto its back feet to have a better look at us! A great end to an overall fantastic day!

Return of the Queen

Kesslet Joins the Hunt

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

Making Mischief

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

Meet the Team - John

From Sailboats to RIBs!

Moving on with the Meet the Team segment of the blog, we come to another of the Mischief skippers, John! Some of the more boaty folk around the marina and in the sailing community may already be familiar with John, as he headed up his own sail school before joining us! Since coming aboard Mischief, John has found himself going from teacher to student, but it won't be over-long until he's back top of the class again! He's a superb and capable skipper, and is also very communicative about what they see on the trips. He's full of questions too, always on the look out for interesting sightings and wondering what the behaviour of the dolphins means. He's taken his behavioural studies a step further, helping him to produce the most dolphin-friendly trips possible by analysing the movements of the dolphins and how they are reacting. At Dolphin Spirit, this is exactly what we love to see from our skippers, and it's been an absolute pleasure having John with us; I'm sure the passengers are enjoying his knowledge and keen attitude too!

A Retirement Hobby

Like the rest of our Mischief crew, John took up working on the RIB as something different from the work he was doing before. John has been around boats for quite some time, so for us, it was a simple choice to ask him to come aboard and thankfully he agreed! He's made great friends with the rest of the crew, and is so proactive in the job, throwing out ideas and giving feedback where possible to help us all improve the operation. Mischief's first year is a learning curve for us all, but a curve that is all taken in stride it seems! When not on the boat, John may still be found around the marina working on his boat, or out on the water enjoying some recreational time at sea. John and our previously featured skipper Gus even took a mini-break on the West coast for some R&R and practice too! 

John will guarantee you not just a fun experience, but an educational one too! Maybe he'll be skippering you on your next Mischief experience, so why not come aboard and meet him for yourself?

Ladies' Night!

Quite the Crowd

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

Ott-er for a Walk

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

Quiet on the Dolphin Front

The Troublesome Two Make an Appearance!

The day overall was a rather quiet one, in both weather and sightings. The quiet weather was a blessing after yesterday's hard conditions; the wind was milder than before, despite the dreary forecast, with some light rain in the afternoon. This was all fine for us, as it meant we could go out for all four sailing again, and were we glad we did. In the afternoon, our mischievous locals made themselves known to the boat, appearing together not too far from Meikle Mee on their way in to their usual hunting grounds. Unlike himself, Charlie was less focused on play and more on food, and the two were quite straightforward in their interaction with us but it was still great to see them. They must have gone their separate ways later on, as it was only Kesslet left in the river hunting alone when the boat saw her last. By the end of the day the dolphins had disappeared as quickly as they'd appeared. Sometimes it's like trying to catch mist with those two!

Adorableness to the Max

Guide Rachel started her 4-day stint today to the news that we now had two seal pups in the colony outside the marina. She was so enthused about the first, that the second will just have been double the fun! They were present pretty much all day out on those mudflats, wriggling around to get comfy and feed from the milk their mothers are providing. It won't be long now though when they get bumped off into the murky firth to feed themselves though, so they should enjoy the peace and cooing at while it lasts! No sign of the otters today to report, but plenty of bird activity, with herons along the shore enjoying a feast; including one tremendous eel caught on camera by Charlie Phillips of the WDC, who was also watching from shore this afternoon!

Watching in the Wind and Waves

Attack of the DSWs!

For those who haven't been out on a trip with us, the dreaded DSW (or Dolphin Shaped Wave) strikes most often during dolphin-watching trips on the Moray Firth on a windy day. For today, we were inundated with sightings of the DSWs, before the actual Ds (or Dolphins!) turned up in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the sighting was so fleeting of the two fins surfacing out the rear of the boat, that we could only hope to hazard a guess at who it was. But WDC Field Officer Charlie Phillips went out to investigate after getting a heads up call from us, and found the pair herding fish in an impressive display up near Bunchrew. He, too, couldn't discern an ID through the choppy waters. It was a difficult day in that regard, and a steadily increasing wind throughout the day eventually managed to cancel the 4pm Dolphin Spirit sailing and 12.30pm and 3.30pm Dolphin Mischief trips. We made the best of what we had though, with some great sightings again of our lovely seal colony and cheeky local otters.

Seal Update

Our seal colony showed well today, with 8 individuals spotted lazing around in the morning; a number which included our 2 newborns and 6 adults, including the bull of the harem. The bull has been in some competition lately, as he has a tremendous slash across his neck, but thankfully this has been healing well over the past week or so. Our pups seem to be feeding well too, with sightings of them suckling from their mothers a common thing these days. We're still keeping watch for any other youngsters, as well as keeping an eye on the main body of the colony at Redcastle, which seems to mirror numbers in our own when the shore is exposed their too. So far, as far as we've seen, our two pups are the only little ones around, so it may still be early days yet. The otter's recent spate of activity is leading us to believe there may also be the pitter-patter of tiny paws around the harbour wall soon, as cubs for her also seem to be a high probability. It's going to be a busy river mouth soon!



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