As this summer's dolphin viewing at Aberdeen's Torry Battery prepares for its finale weekend, Dolphinwatch Visitor Experience Officer, Laura Watson describes the summer season and what else there is to look forward to over the coming months.
Dolphinwatch 2018: what a summer so far!
10 May marked the launch of the RSPB Dolphinwatch project based at Torry Battery in Aberdeen. The high vantage point is the perfect place from which to watch the pods of dolphins that are regular visitors to the city's busy harbour as well as to discover more about the area's other amazing marine wildlife.
Since we launched, thousands of visitors have been amazed by the bottlenose dolphin’s gravity-defying leaps, playful tail-slapping and exhilarating bow riding. As I write this, we are yet to have a day when the dolphins have not appeared in the harbour. On average, the pod sizes have included around 14 individuals and we have been lucky to witness a very reliable group of five led by our regular visitor Quasimodo (named due to his very recognisable body shape). There have also been occasions when what feels like an army of dolphins has descended on the harbour and we have witnessed groups of over thirty animals feeding and surfing the waves. These days have certainly been the highlights as, no matter where you look out to sea, you can’t avoid seeing a dolphin! Other highlights included the first time we saw a calf. So far this year, we have seen four different calves and we have been privileged to watch as their jumps develop from small, sideways belly flops to fully-fledged leaps.
Bottlenose dolphins haven’t been our only visitors to the harbour though. We have been wowed by the variety of bird life we've seen including ospreys, gannets, cormorants, curlews and even a puffin out at sea. An otter has been spotted a number of times too, but, for me, the real highlight of the season came at 5:45pm on Saturday 21 July when everyone was thrilled to see three minke whales pass by! Our visitors were in awe and the whole team were almost vibrating with their own excitement. The moment only lasted a few minutes but it was truly one of the most memorable moments on site. Then, the following weekend, just when we thought things couldn’t get any better, a humpback whale was briefly spotted on its way down the coast! Our fingers are crossed and our eyes are peeled for more sightings.
The Dolphinwatch team (of myself, Sadie and our fabulous volunteers) will soon be finishing up the season of regular viewing and turning out focus to community events and commencing a brand new schools programme. However, we have planned some exciting events to end the visitor season with. These include a carnival week on the 16-19 August when we'll be bringing back all the best parts of our summer events into one last week of fun. It’s going to be fin-tastic! (Sorry) More on this event here.
We are also taking part in the Great British Beach Clean on the 15 September. Marine litter causes devastating effects to wildlife and most marine litter comes from land sources. This is a chance for us to clean up the area before the litter can affect our amazing wildlife.
Dolphinwatch runs at Torry Battery until the 20th August every Thursday-Sunday, 11am-6pm (weather permitting).
Dolphinwatch is funded by ScottishPower Foundation and Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the project is led by RSPB Scotland in partnership with Aberdeen City Council, Whale & Dolphin Conservation (WDC) and the Aberdeen Harbour Board Community Action Fund.