DOLPHINS AND WHALES
Bottlenose dolphins are probably the best known marine animals that live within the Moray Firth. Our population is one of only two or three 'resident' populations of such size found in UK coastal waters.
These dolphins have been the focus of intense research that can be difficult to undertake, as the dolphins spend 90% of their time underwater. Photographic studies have identified 130 individuals from their characteristic features, such as patterns of scarring and notches on fins. These long-lived (25-50 years), sociable animals live in small groups and each has a unique 'whistle' used to communicate with each other.
One of the things that makes the Moray Firth population so special is that they can easily be seen from the shore. Groups of 20-30 bottlenose dolphins and smaller harbour porpoises can sometimes be seen from sites all around the Moray Firth during the summer months. Some dolphin watching 'hot-spots' are found where fast-flowing tidal currents flood through the narrow entrances of the Cromarty Firth (North and South Sutors), the Beauly Firth (North and South Kessock) and the Inverness Firth (Chanonry Point and Fort George) as well as off Findhorn, Burghead, Lossiemouth, Spey Bay and Portknockie.
Dolphins can also be seen from wildlife watching boat trips. If you intend to go out on a boat trip, please support the code of conduct scheme, known as the Dolphin Space Programme, initiated by Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. By taking trips with accredited boat operators, you will ensure that disturbance to wildlife is minimised.
Altogether, sixteen species of cetaceans (whale, dolphins and porpoises) have been recorded in the Moray firth and minke whales are frequently seen in the autumn.
The Aberdeen Lighthouse Field Station website has more details of research being carried out into the Moray Firth Dolphins.
The Friends of the Moray Firth Dolphins website has more information about cetacean ecology and dolphin watching tips.
Visit the Dolphins and Seals of the Moray Firth Visitor Centre, at the Tourist Information Centre in North Kessock. Here you can watch for dolphins and listen to them on underwater microphones.