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Investigations carried out in bid to determine why bottlenose dolphins died after 50-strong group swam into in the Cromarty Firth


By Val Sweeney

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The visiting bottlenose dolpins in the Cromarty Firth. Picture: WDC/Charlie Phillips.
The visiting bottlenose dolpins in the Cromarty Firth. Picture: WDC/Charlie Phillips.

Two bottlenose dolphins which died after a large group swam into the Cromarty Firth are being examined by scientists.

About 50 dolphins were seen in shallow water near Nigg at the weekend.

Most of the group – which was not from the local bottlenose population – were able able to reach the safety of deeper water on the incoming tide to relief of trained volunteers, who were monitoring their progress, along with anxious onlookers.

But two did not survive and post mortems are now being carried out by scientists from Inverness-based Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS).

A third dolphin was also reported to have been found later near Findhorn on the Moray Firth.

The dolphins finally headed back into the open sea. Picture: WDC/Charlie Phillips.
The dolphins finally headed back into the open sea. Picture: WDC/Charlie Phillips.

Whale and Dolphin Conservation field officer Charlie Phillips said when he spotted the visiting dolphins, they were behaving strangely.

"It was a really big concentrated group," he said.

"They were packed together so tightly. Our dolphins don't behave like that.

"I could see their fins and realised they were not from here."

Some were later spotted at Fortrose harbour and then the group was spotted in the Cromarty Firth.

Fortunately, the visitors left the following day.

"They have not been seen again and hopefully they are back out in the North Sea where they probably belong," Mr Phillips said.

"I am not sure where they came from. I have friends around the country who are trying to work it out."

He speculated that they had been attracted to the area for food and said the day before they arrived he had seen a group of common dolphins near Chanonry Point possibly chasing sprats or mackerel.

About 50 dolphins were seen in the shallow water near Nigg. Picture: WDC/Charlie Phillips.
About 50 dolphins were seen in the shallow water near Nigg. Picture: WDC/Charlie Phillips.

Cromarty-based Eco Ventures, which specialises in marine wildlife watching trips, encountered several large groups of bottlenose dolphins west of Cromarty on Saturday morning and quickly realised they were not the usual ones.

After receiving a call from a man concerned that there had been a mass stranding on Nigg Sands, they immediately headed over and saw dozens stranded on the mudflats in an area which was almost impossible to access from the shore.

In a post on social media, Eco Ventures stated: "Thankfully, they beached almost bang on low water and we think all bar one successfully refloated with the incoming tide.

"It was then an anxious 24 hours as they moved up and down the firth carefully watched and tracked by volunteers from British Divers Marine Life Rescue and SMASS.

"They at one point reached as far west as Alness before finally getting their bearings and making for open sea.

"It was a huge relief and a wonderful sight to see them racing out towards the Fairway Buoy on an easterly course."

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