Email: info@dolphinspirit.co.uk

Click To Call: 07544 800620

Dolphin Spirit Blog

Dolphin and Marine Wildlife Boat Trips from Inverness Marina

What About Winter?

Winter Wanders

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

Food First

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

What Else in Winter?

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

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

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Here at Dolphin Spirit, we are very conscientious, not just of the dolphins, but of our local community too. We see charity at the core of what we do, whether that's giving free or heavily discounted trips to local organisations, to our own staff getting involved in events to raise money for charities in their own time. One of the charities we support as a company, and who are in turn very important to the work we do, is the WDC, or Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

Helping Our Stars

The WDC here do vital work in helping to protect the dolphins and other cetaceans we have in the Moray Firth, by providing them with a voice in rallies and in firth-wide decision-making, raising awareness, and working with other organisations such as Seawatch Foundation, CRRU and BDMLR to help those who may be in need. They also run the Shorewatch program, which has been vital in gathering citizen science sightings data to help track the dolphins and their activities. For us, we used to be able to see this work from our office, at the old North Kessock Seal and Dolphin Centre, which is sadly now closed. However, with Charlie Phillips, WDC's Adopt-a-Dolphin Marine Mammal Field Officer, just over the water on a regular basis, we still get to see the work from time to time. Charlie is always welcome on our boat, so you may see him joining us for photo opportunities. We aim to work very closely with the WDC, and are always asking for advice, to make sure we are doing the right thing. We also want to support them and their work in return, and do so in a number of ways; our donations box on the front desk, charitable donations with the purchase of certain gift-shop items, and we have an adoption of our local girl Kesslet in the works too! 

Gamers For Orcas

The reason for this off-the-cuff blog entry so early this morning, is that blog-writer and guide Krystyna is taking part in the WDC's Gamers for Orcas challenge; doing a 24-hour live stream in aid of the WDC's conservation work, starting around 9am (you can read about it and watch here). Of course we wish her every luck in the endeavor, and hope she reaches her target of £200 soon! 

World Oceans Day

Celebrating the Sea in Style

World Oceans Day happens every year to raise awareness of the water around us, its inhabitants, what it does for us, and what we can do for it. There really is no better way to celebrate World Oceans Day (June 8th) than going out and enjoying the water with some friendly, wild, and free bottlenose dolphins! Our passengers today were lucky enough to do exactly that, getting to see Charlie and Kesslet in their natural habitat enjoying a hearty and healthy breakfast! The pair were out and hunting for some big salmon first thing in the morning, scouting out the Kessock Channel in tandem and being their usual nosy selves. With Charlie at her side for the second time in two days, Kesslet came out of her shell a little, and was happy to visit not just the Dolphin Spirit, but another special boat making its way through the channel today!

A Special Visit

The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust sailing vessel was making its way past the marina this morning. The large, white and blue yacht has made a couple of regular appearances in the marina before, and today was another to add to the list. It was a special visit for them too, as Charlie and Kesslet even graced the boat with an escort in their typical fashion, with young Charlie leading the charge at the bow. There is no greater honour in the Moray Firth than a dolphin welcome! Our visitors will have been lucky enough to see the impressive boat in person too, which will have added something a little different to the spotter's sheets! The Caledonian Canal and Kessock Channel are no strangers to impressive or important boats, having seen a fair number of Navy vessels pass through recently, as well as awaiting the arrival of the Vic 32, one of the last Clyde Puffer steamboats that regularly travels around the coast in summer.  

Have you ever spotted a fancy boat while out with Dolphin Spirit (except all those nice, expensive ones sitting in the marina of course!)? We would love to see your pictures of them if you have! It's certainly not just dolphin spotting we do here!

Meet the Team - Alan

Master of Mischief

Today's Meet the Team segment features a true jack of all trades (and quickly mastering them all!), Alan! Alan started up with Dolphin Spirit for the 2017 season, with the addition of Mischief to the boat roster. He was originally intended to simply work on Mischief, but has become a core part of office staff too! He has quickly become the boat's overseeing officer; doing all the morning checks, refueling her, checking the lifejackets, signing off all the paperwork, and caring for the passengers onshore before and after their trips (phew, that's a lot to think about)! Not only that, Alan will be running around the marina most of the day when the boat is out, also helping tend to the needs of the office and Dolphin Spirit too!

Shoreside and Spirit Support!

The first time you spot Alan around the marina you might not notice him, because he will be there and gone again in a flash! First thing in the morning, once Mischief's checks are done, he will be in the office fixing up the cafe display area and restocking. Once the stock is taken care of, he will be filling the Mischief hot drinks canister in preparation for the first trip of the morning. You'll see Alan fixed in one spot for the first 10 minutes of the Dolphin Mischief experience, where he helps with the safety brief and aids passengers with clothing and lifejackets. You might realize then that Alan is a very informed fellow, and if you have any questions about the boat or the trip he is very able to put you swiftly to ease. He'll then be your guide down to the RIB before waving you off on your journey, but that's not the end of the morning's work, as Alan will swiftly be off for fuel, or to check on Dolphin Spirit, or muddle around in the office making sure everything is ship-shape! If he's not waving you off, he will be joining you on the trip; he's getting to know the dolphins around here very well, and is a dab hand with a camera! He's also great for morale, with a sense of humour that gets everyone giggling. There's never a dull moment with him about!

Next time you're waiting in the marina office for your trip, or out on Mischief, keep an eye out for the flash that is Alan and be sure to give him a wave! He'll make your next Mischief experience one you will never forget!

A Little Rain Never Hurt Anyone!

A Grey Day in Many Ways

The Moray Firth, in fact, most of Scotland, isn't exactly known for its glorious weather; we're already beginning to think that our summer is already over with the past couple of weeks of brilliant weather. With today's flood warning and poor wind forecast, there was not a lot the firth had going for it. Dolphin Mischief was called off for the entirety of the day; and a good thing too, as we discovered this morning that the horrible rain overnight had actually resulted in the Mischief sitting up to its console in water! It's a wonder she hadn't sunk! Shore support Alan spent part of the late morning running the bilges to get it high and dry again. Dolphin Spirit was more lucky, and managed to get out into a somewhat unwelcoming firth!

Two Shades of Grey

Despite the 100% chance of rain all day, we were hopefully people would turn up to come dolphin-spotting; when we have days like this it's a bit of a double edged sword. Wet weather, for systems influenced by rivers like us, is fantastic, as it encourages a lot of positive fish behaviour and floods the river of tempting pheromones and actual fish to attract the dolphins. On the other hand, it seems to do the opposite for passengers. Two very brave visitors joined us at 12pm, much to our delight; having seen Kesslet pottering around the river mouth around 9.45, we were hoping she would still be around for our passengers to see. Sadly, she decided to stay hidden for most of the trip, but a glimpse of a fin near the big waves at the Kessock Bridge gave us at least a bit of hope that she may have still been about. And doubly sadly, we will never know if she was, because our 12pm was the only sailing to go out today! Seems like everyone forgot that even without the snuggly waterproofs our 12pm passengers were wearing, you can always stay warm and dry in Dolphin Spirit's heated cabin! Hopefully a few more people will turn up tomorrow; it's looking like a bit of a horrible week weather wise, but our dolphins don't mind, and neither should you! 

Baby Season Begins

The First Signs of New Life!

Summer is a very exciting time for us here at Dolphin Spirit, as the Moray Firth will soon be home to lots of new little bundles of joy, and today we were lucky enough to see our first signs of it! On our 2pm sailing, our local pairing of pied wagtails came by the rocky harbour wall, calling rather loudly over the ambient noises of the boat and work going on in the harbour itself. They were not alone however; they were joined by an adorable and chunky looking fledgling, who was hopping around the rocks alongside them! The little one is pictured above. The birds are usually the first to appear with babies, though in the past this has generally been either the local mallards or swans swimming around the marina entrance and river. It was refreshing today to see this cute little youngster as our first "newborn" instead!

Kesslet Pays a Visit

Despite the falling tide all day, local dolphin Kesslet was spotted in our earlier sailings today; first near the cardinal marker, chasing another boat before coming to say hello to us, and then later around the river. As with yesterday, she seemed to catch no fish, but was particularly active and playful regardless. It's nice to see her getting back to her old self. Charlie hasn't been around the past couple of days, but he may have been further out with some of the other dolphins that Mischief has encountered recently. Today, another excitable young group joined Mischief in the afternoon out towards the Point, just after a morning of particularly bad rain. We know Charlie has been spending time with Honey and her 1 year old calf as well as some of the other youngsters, so if we get pictures back from these trips we may be able to spot our cheeky Charlie among them!

Good Things Come in Threes

Our 12pm trip was especially successful, spotting seals, an otter and Kesslet throughout the trip. All of them were in the water, with the smaller critters hanging around North Kessock's slipway. With the strong possibility that the resident otter mother is pregnant and a sighting of a heavily pregnant seal on the mudflats yesterday, it might not be long until we are seeing these little ones around the Beauly Firth!

Dolphin By The Dozen

Dolphin Mischief Joins an Excitable Pod!

It was a great day to be out on the water, and even better if you came out with us! Dolphin Spirit got to spend a bit of time with Kesslet, who was enjoying a lazy Sunday just outside the marina. She spent most of the afternoon dancing around the mouth of the river, rolling around near the surface and being nosy with the boats who were coming in and out. She wasn't very active, but it was still nice to see her enjoying her Sunday too! Mischief on the other hand was unsuccessful on her first trip of the day, only encountering the seals at Whiteness at a barren Chanonry Point zone. However, the second trip was a totally different story, with a group of around 10 dolphins to the east of Whiteness, playing and riding along with the boat for a good bit of their journey! Just goes to show that every trip is different, and you just never know what will happen one day to the next!

Sunbathing Seals

It wasn't just a glorious day for us and the dolphins though, as our local seals were spotted sunning themselves on the mudflats early this afternoon too. Two harbour seals and one female grey seal took up residence there throughout our afternoon sightings, resting just out of arm's reach of the water. One curious seal bounced up and down excitedly as we passed by, watching the boat the whole while; the passengers were just as enthralled! As we get closer to the pupping season, we'll be keeping an eye out for more seals on the mudflats, and any signs of little ones floating around the area too. There was certainly as least one very heavily pregnant female in the group we saw today, so it's only a matter of time it seems!

Meet the Team - Sarah

A Lot of Bounce!

And we're not just talking about her tremendous, curly locks! Today's Meet the Team feature is about Sarah, another of the core crew members at Dolphin Spirit. Along with Jenni, Sarah is one of our full-time office staff, and has been since last year! Sarah is known for her bouncy locks and personality, making her a warm and friendly welcome to all of our passengers. When she's not working at Dolphin Spirit, Sarah has a number of other jobs that she works; she doesn't stop! Even in the office she always finds something to keep her busy; whether it's cleaning up, sorting the coffee machine, or updating the booking system with all the incoming bookings, there's never an idle moment!

Busy(ness) Bee!

Sarah is another of our "photography types" here at Dolphin Spirit, with her own business too. All of our crew portraits that you see hanging in our office behind the desk were taken by Sarah on our training days. She's not only a dab hand at portraiture, she also takes atmospheric shots for our Instagram account now and again (although the equipment she uses for this is nowhere near the setup she'd like; it's our company mobile!). When she's not being snap-happy or working the desk, Sarah also does Temple Spa nights; showcasing their range of spa-inspired body care. Her pitch and calming influence is not only perfect for getting you in the spa mood, but great for reassuring our passengers that they're in for a great time, even if the conditions look a bit scary! 

I'm On A Boat!

Sarah was one of the first people to join boss Yvette aboard the Dolphin Mischief on its maiden voyage; ever since she has been itching to hop aboard again! I suppose she certainly won't be the last to feel that way either! Whether it's photographing, inspecting, or joining the boats, Sarah is always keen to be involved with them and the dolphins too. She is even known to sneak down onto the pontoons during quiet times to snatch photos of the other boats in the marina if she spots a good photo op! As I said, there's never a quiet moment with Sarah!

Next time you pop into the office, look out for a warm smile and excited hello from Sarah; she'll make your Dolphin Spirit experience get off to a fantastic start! 

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!

Seriously Snoopy Seals

A Dull Day Can't Dampen Our (Dolphin) Spirit!

It might not have been as nice weather wise today as it was yesterday, but a little bit of grey never hurt anyone (especially not if that grey is dolphin shaped!). We had a fair few grey things floating around the firth today, including Kesslet, who finally managed to see past her expanding waistline to come and see us today (seems like the dolphins' idea of a beach body is somewhat different to ours). On the 10am Dolphin Spirit sailing, Kesslet was found under the bridge for a first time in a while, traipsing about until the boat came along and gave her something to do. She gave quite the hello, getting in nice and close, before playing tease again and dashing off. There's no doubt that Charlie doesn't get his mischievous attitude from her! After a somewhat exciting day yesterday for young Charlie, however, he was a bit of a no-show today. Probably sleeping at all kinds of silly hours like the teenager he's becoming!

Sociable Seals

It wasn't just Kesslet getting up close and personal with the Dolphin Spirit today either; our sightings of seals were pretty terrific too. At 12pm and 2pm the local mum's group was out sunbathing on the mudflats, quite possibly getting ready for the pupping season with a bit of moulting. Seals will often sit out of the water for extended periods to allow their old fur to drop off, keeping them not only looking fresh, but hydrodynamic too. A few other seals were also out on the water looking for lunch, including a very curious little individual who approached the boat and stayed at surface long enough for our passengers to get a good look and a few pictures too. Grey seals tend to be the boldest when out swimming, and will follow alongside quite the thing, but our harbour seals can be just as inquisitive when they surface and will sometimes stare at the boat for long periods before diving again. Some of the younger seals have even done this with fish in their mouths, almost as if they're showing off! And speaking of showing off, we will need to keep our eyes peeled for some of the males breaching the water like dolphins! We saw it a couple of times last season, very late out of breeding season from some of the youngsters, but if there's any time for some showboating it will be now! 

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!

Meet the Team - Jenni

The Office Veteran!

We've met the boss, we've met the guides, now we need to move back onto dry land! Today's Meet the Team showcase features the first of our office staff, Jenni! Jenni has been working on the Dolphin Spirit desk since 2016, and is our resident expert on Excel and booking system. Her ability to sort through bookings and all the data from them is unparalleled, mostly because she's the longest returning office member! She's super casual and will make you feel relaxed with a friendly smile as soon as you walk in the door. Jenni, like many of our team, is also a student, so you will tend to only see her through the summer, but she'll make sure your trip gets off to a great start!

She IS the Law

Jenni is currently studying Law when she's not on the dolphin desk, and she puts her skills to good use with us every shift; answering emails in a professional manner, and dealing with people's needs and requests without hesitation. She can dole out the commands too when required! She's perfectly suited for the courthouse! When she first started with us, Jenni came out on a few trips, hoping to be introduced to our lovely dolphins, but 3 trips later she had had no luck! Jenni has rarely stepped a foot on board since then, since she thinks she's a dolphin bad luck charm! That being said, she came aboard at the start of this season as a break from her exams, along with her golden retriever puppy Baxter!

Look out for Jenni on the desk this summer, she's service with a smile! Any questions or queries she'll be more than happy to help and get your Dolphin Spirit experience off to a splashing start!

Feathered Friends?

More Than One Mouth to Feed!

Kesslet was the only dolphin we spotted out on the Dolphin Spirit today, at 12pm and 4pm. She seemed far more interested in hunting for salmon though, as she kept her distance throughout the day and only came to see us briefly as she ducked and dived into the river. She wasn't alone as she normally is however, as a horde of hungry gulls descended upon her in the hopes of picking up even the tiniest morsel of her fishy dish. While dolphin spotting, the traditional tell-tales are the blow, tail, and dorsal fin, but in times like these, a flock of famished feathered friends can normally indicate a hunting dolphin; especially if the gulls move in unison, they can normally track a dolphin that's underwater better than we can!

Bad Behaviour

When you're out on the water, you have to understand that you're technically traipsing through another animal's home. It is only right to be respectful of the wildlife of the Moray Firth when you're out sailing, regardless of the boat you're on. Around the marina there are signs indicating you should look out for dolphins, and be careful around them; they even come with guidelines on the best code of conduct. However, not everyone follows these rules, and a single selfish person can end up ruining the situation for everyone. We were witness today to a boat chasing after Kesslet, an action which seemed to make her jumpy and flighty for the rest of the day. This wasn't only just bad for our sightings, but horrible for Kesslet; she's used to boats treating her normally with respect, and she was rushed to finish or lose her fish when this boat decided to herd her upriver. If you're ever out on a boat, tour boat or otherwise, remember to be cautious of the wildlife around you; dolphins are more likely to treat you to spectacular sightings and encounters if you let them, rather than force yourself upon them. This is part of the core reasoning behind our Dolphin Space Program, and it's so simple to follow, and great for everyone. We aim to make our trips as eco- and animal-friendly as possible, so you will never see us stray from our route to chase the dolphins. You can read more about the DSP and responsible dolphin watching here.

A Bumper Dolphin Day

A New Sighting for the Dolphin Spirit!

Every day, every sailing, is different at Dolphin Spirit, as you just never know who or what may appear on each trip, and that certainly was the case today. Our 10am sailing got a real treat, with a fleeting visit from Kesslet as she darted past us at Meikle Mee (heading upriver of course, as usual), and then encountering another group of dolphins around Munlochy Bay! In this group were another two of the WDC Adopt-A-Dolphin stars, Moonlight and Mischief. Mischief (who our RIB is named after, pictured diving above) was pretty serene today, happy to just cruise alongside with Moonlight and her calf. We've had Mischief with us before, as part of another big group (made up of several members of the infamous "Bad Boys' Club") where he was active and showing off, so it was nice to see this calmer side to him too today. We've never had Moonlight with us before, so this sighting was a real surprise, made doubly special by getting to see her calf with her too! Kesslet was kind enough to make another appearance at the end of the trip too, to make up for her rude behaviour earlier!

Another Successful Trip for Dolphin Mischief!

Dolphin Mischief (the boat, not the dolphin!), also managed to get out today, and had a great time cruising up to Chanonry Point at 12.30pm. It was a very dull day weather wise, and skipper George exclaimed that the dolphins looked very menacing, as the low light made them seem jet-black in the water. They encountered another curious group up near the point, though we haven't had a chance to sit down and do any ID work yet so it could be the same group Dolphin Spirit encountered that morning. That would be very interesting though, as we're just dying to get a shot of Mischief (the dolphin!) with our Mischief (the RIB!).

If you haven't yet, you should check out our video and pictures from today's awesome 10am sailing! While you're there, Like and Follow our Facebook page to see more and keep up to date with all our exciting sightings and various other cool galleries and contests!

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!

Meet the Team - Raymond

The Man with the (Dolphin) Plan!

Raymond is our only male guide, and the last to feature in the Meet the Team showcase! He's also probably one of the last people some of our younger visitors may expect to see on the boat, as he used to be a head teacher! Working with us here at Dolphin Spirit is Raymond's idea of "retirement" if that gives you a sense of how fun the job is! Raymond is only with us at the start and end of the season; it seems he has grown too accustomed to those long summers off! He's easily one of our more experienced guides in a number of ways, and his teaching experience is always put to good use when he's on board!

A Good Head (Teacher) on Him

Raymond's particular field of interest was in geography back in his teaching days; knowledge which he brings to work with him every day when he's working on Dolphin Spirit too! Raymond has all kinds of stories about the lay of the land, including the Black Isle and the Great Glen Fault, two major talking points on our trips. If you have any questions about geology, geography, or pretty much anything geo-related, you can bet Raymond will have the answer. It's always great listening to him talk, and you can see how he made it as a teacher too; his gentle talking pace and softly spoken words feels like you're listening to a story, not a script. Raymond has gotten to know our dolphins quite well too, and enjoys getting to see them play around the boat. While the dolphins always put an extra-wide grin on his face, Raymond rocks the "service-with-a-smile" attitude, and is just happy to be out there engaging people in a little outdoor education once again!

If you've encountered anything on your travels that's made you go "hmm", Raymond is the man to ask about it! Make sure you have a chat with him on the boat, you'll always come back learning something new! As they say, every day's a school day, and it's certainly true in Raymond's case!

A Lesson from Kesslet

Kesslet Shares Her Skills!

Kesslet is a fantastic hunter, with more than a few skills tucked away under her pectoral fin when it comes to landing a hearty meal! She's been fishing around the harbour and Kessock Channel almost every day since the flooding rains, which must mean there's some good eating going on down by us at the moment. She has been very social with the Mischief recently too, even taking a little time out of her busy fishing schedule to teach our intrepid passengers a thing or two about salmon fishing in the Ness! As you can see in the picture above, Kesslet might be a great hunter, but she has some appalling table manners; let's just say our visitors were lucky enough to see her just after she had caught her lunch, instead of some time after, like we did a few days prior! Gross!

Things are heating up!

The sun is back and shining on the Moray Firth once more; with the great weather comes the need for more suncream! For any passengers on the Spirit or Mischief over the next while, make sure you put some on before coming out; being out on the water can make you susceptible to burning due to the reflected rays off the water's surface. Trust us, we've been there! All eyes are peeled for the possible appearance of Orca once again in the Moray Firth too, as last year they were seen this far south for the first time. Keep your eyes on the water, as you just never know who may come for a visit. Most recent rumour has put them currently at Peterhead, which would be even further south! The start of summer is always an interesting time, as you can almost never predict what will happen. All you can really do is keep your eyes peeled and your fingers crossed!

Stranger Sightings!

Something Stingy Has Arrived...

That's right, it's that time of year again; the jellyfish have been sighted in the Moray Firth. Like bees and butterflies are the first signs of spring, jellyfish are the Moray Firth's sign of summer! Perhaps drawn in by the two weeks of fantastic, warm climate, the jellies are appearing in decent numbers now from the reaches of Kilmuir in towards the Kessock Channel too. Keep an eye out for these strange, almost alien-like critters just below the surface; they're bright, yellowy-white in colour with a red-pink star like pattern on the top of the bell (or body) of the jellyfish. Last year we had a great many of these animals in the firth, and they provided some vital nourishment for our wayward sunfish visitor. Perhaps this year may see something similar happening.

A Pilot without a Navigator

In our first year, we had some pretty tremendous sightings, though not all of them were bottlenose dolphins. In fact, around August 2015, we were accompanied by an altogether different kind of dolphin; a pilot whale. Pilot whales are not whales like the name suggests, but some of the largest oceanic dolphins, exceeded in size only by the Killer Whale (or Orca), who is also a dolphin. These "whales" are also referred to as "blackfish". Pilot whales are not totally unknown to the Moray Firth, and small groups have been spotted in the past near Cromarty, however, much like other dolphins, lone pilot whales are a strange sight indeed. So when we came across this huge fin following a pod of roughly 7 bottlenoses, we were obviously surprised. The sad fact of the matter is that this was certainly a bad sign; unusual sightings like these are normally not without reason, and many of the whales (true or otherwise) do not make it back out of the Inner Firth. This poor soul was no different. After disappearing into the Beauly Firth with its new friends, the pilot whale reappeared two days later; unfortunately this time it was floating belly-up near Kilmuir. It seems like this individual had gotten lost, and anticipated that following the dolphins may also have meant food. Sadly, it didn't get what it was looking for. Sightings like this just go to show that every day in the Moray Firth is different, and you never know what you'll see next!

White Tails and Wild Hearts

We always talk about the Red Kites and Osprey that hang around the Firth, but did you know there have also been sightings of an even bigger bird? White tailed sea eagles have occasionally been spotted over the Caledonian Canal area and around the Beauly Firth. These large birds are generally confined to the west coast, where they feed on fish and other birds. The sightings we get are typically of juveniles, obvious due to their impressive, white fan-tail. These could be west coast individuals on the move, or possibly even other individuals from a recent east coast reintroduction program. Regardless, they are very impressive to witness, so keep an eye on the sky next time you're out with us!

Meet The Team - Krystyna

Qualified and Crazy!

Krystyna is our longest returning guide; this is her third year at Dolphin Spirit. She started out with us as a Zoology undergraduate at Glasgow University, simply looking for a summer job... now she's graduated and still here! You can normally tell she'll be guiding you, as she will be glued to her huge Nikon camera set up; there's nothing better to her than a day of photographing our dolphins! Even when she's not working, she can often be found up at Chanonry Point (at least once every two weeks!), photographing dolphins and chatting about them with anyone who will listen. Not bad a bad life for a former city girl, wouldn't you say?

Jack of All Trades

Krystyna also works in the office over winter, putting her degree skills to use analyzing our sightings log for patterns and doing various odd-jobs to help improve the services Dolphin Spirit can give into the new season. Last winter she produced our new education packs, language sheets, and activity sheets and stickers. While photography and dolphins are her main passions, Krystyna really enjoys getting people excited about and engaged with the dolphins and other wildlife in the Moray Firth. She uses her photos to produce cards for people to buy as mementos of their trips, and also to show people the fascinating behaviours the dolphins display. 

Kesslet swimming in a sea of colours
A recent photo of Kesslet taken by Krystyna; many of the photos on our social media have been taken by her (look out for her Flipper & Fluke watermark)

Pride and Passion

It's not just the dolphins that Krystyna knows about; she photographs all our interesting sightings and helps charities like WDC and the Seawatch Foundation by reporting them. Last year, when we encountered a sunfish, we found out that this was the first sunfish sighting in possibly 15 years in the Inner Firth and perhaps the first live one so far in! Seawatch Foundation also requested Krystyna's photos to use in any future announcements. Krystyna is always eager to help, and loves getting involved in the science and study of the Moray Firth's spectacular wildlife. She is also an avid supporter of the WDC, having adopted our local girl Kesslet through them and raising funds by selling handmade dolphin toys with a donation for the WDC included in the price. She is even doing a 24 hour live-streaming gaming marathon on the 9th of June to raise money for the Gamers for Orcas program run by the WDC. You can read more about that here!

We can guarantee that you'll be buzzing with excitement after a trip with Krystyna, regardless of your sightings; her passion is very infectious! Be sure to ask her lots of questions on your trips with her, especially about Kesslet and Charlie!

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!



­