Moray Firth bottlenose dolphin Spirtle surprises experts after being spotted off south-west Ireland
A PLUCKY dolphin who won countless hearts after surviving a harrowing brush with death in the Cromarty Firth has surprised scientists after she made an appearance off the south coast of Ireland.
Spirtle hit the headlines back in May 2016 when she was found beached in Nigg Bay completely by chance.
The dolphin, who had suffered severe sunburn while being out of the water, was discovered by passing tourists who had gotten lost while looking for the famous Chanonry Point dolphin viewing spot on the Black Isle.
And that stroke of luck helped to save her life. Rescuers used wet towels to protect her skin from further injury and she was successfully refloated as the tide came back in.
In the years since then Spirtle has continued to impress wildlife experts and conservationists, who have seen her life-threatening sunburn injuries gradually scar over. Today she is healthy and fighting fit.
However, the distinctive white markings on her body, where she sustained her burns, have made her easy to identify – aiding experts tracking her movements around the local coastline.
And she surprised everyone when she was spotted with other dolphins off Tralee and Brandon Bay in North Kerry at the weekend.
Her appearance off Ireland is the furthest flung sighting made to date of one of the east coast's resident bottlenose dolphins. They are known to travel large distances, but are normally spotted in an area that extends from the far north coast down to just south of Scarborough in Yorkshire.
Her sighting off Ireland by the Irish Whale Dolphin Group is puzzling experts, who are keeping a keen eye on the other dolphins with her to see if any of her companions are also from the local east coast population.
They are keen to work out the reasons for the "unusual" sighting so far from the Moray Firth – with the search for food and breeding activities among the possible contenders.