Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Moray Firth Dolphins

When you are near the Moray Firth, one of the things you should try to see is the pod of dolphins that inhabits this stretch of water. They are the biggest dolphins in the world apparently - bulky due to the fat reserves demanded by their chilly northern home! We were told that the best place on land to see dolphins was from Chanonry Point at high tide, where the Moray Firth narrows between two spits of land (the other is Fort George, opposite Chanonry Point). In atmospheric evening light we wandered down to the lighthouse, water rushing silent and smooth past the point, a view down the fault line towards Loch Ness, the lighthouse lamp starting to wink. An Indian couple were also strolling about.

"Bottlenose dolphin!" exclaimed the man excitedly, pointing to a dog-like head just offshore.

"Seal," I replied.

Dolphin spotters at Chanonry Point, looking to Fort George:

The next morning we returned, but it was too late in the day: the tide was right out. A nice spot for a picnic however, and there were plenty dolphin watchers in attendance. The only thing to do if we wanted to see dolphins was to take a boat trip! A trip to Cromarty and a boat ride with Ecoventures was on the cards.

Cromarty from the sea:

First, our captain Sarah drove the RIB into the Cromarty Firth, close to old rigs that rest in Nigg Bay, either awaiting breakup or redeployment elsewhere.

Oil rigs in Cromarty Firth from North Sutor:

South Sutor lookouts:

No dolphins here, so we went out through the narrow channel between the headlands of North Sutor and South Sutor and into the Moray Firth. The North Sutor has a rocky and inaccessible coast, home to many seabirds, and old lookout stations from the 20th century wars. But no dolphins.

North Sutor:

But then we saw them! Engine at idle, we drifted along as a group of three feeding came close to inspect us.

Adult dolphin:

Two were adults and one was a baby, its stretch marks still showing.

Baby dolphin:

They are not easy creatures to photograph!

After seeing the dolphins we headed back to Cromarty, and we explored this beautiful little town, walking up to a viewpoint on the South Sutor.

North Sutor from South Sutor:

Cromarty has been a prosperous little town for a long time, and was the base for the King's Ferry. This northern counterpart for the Queen's Ferry over the Forth was first mentioned during the reign of William I, but possibly dates back to Pictish times. Its most celebrated passenger was James IV, a regular pilgrim to the shrine of St Duthac at Tain. This peninsula between the Cromarty and Dornoch Firths is a little-visited area, but one for another post!

Cromarty from South Sutor:

After a day in the open air we were glad to get back to Cromarty and find the Sutor Creek Cafe. Cromarty is a great place and we will surely be back!


blueskyscotland said...

Hi Robert.
The Black Isle is an interesting place.I Dont get up there often enough.Some nice photos of the old lookouts and Flipper.
You get a real mix of folk from every corner of the world on that one wee beach.

Anonymous said...

You will also see a lot of these beautiful creatures when you get to have dolphins oban. They're living in the wild and with that, you'll appreciate them more.