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Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

Bottlenose dolphins appear in coastal waters all around the World. They can be seen in scattered localities in bays and estuaries around Britain and Ireland. They are mainly coastal animals but can also be seen far from shore, These dolphins are fast swimmers and are often seen riding the bow of moving ships or even large whales.

They are social animals living in herds of between 2 - 25 animals, but can also form much larger groups of 45 - 60. The smaller groups are like an extended family with individuals remaining together over a number of years. Calves remain with their mothers for 3 to 10 years. Adult males may join the group for a short while, or go off to live in bachelor herds.

They eat a wide range of fish including herring, cod, mackerel and salmon. They tend to feed singly or in small groups and also by herding fish into a tight circle close to the surface. A single calf is born a metre in length usually between March and September after a pregnancy of twelve months. If needed, other females will assist the calf up to the surface for its first breath of air. The interval between births is usually 2 - 3 years. Dolphins have a complex communication system. Like human beings, a dolphin has a well-developed auditory memory, can learn through observations and comprehend a simple language and rules.

Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)

The harbour porpoise is generally found in estuaries and shallow coastal bays. In the Moray Firth, single animals, pairs and groups of 5 - 10 are most often seen. The pattern of colouring on the body is not sharply defined with the dark brown-grey on the back shading down the flanks through paler grey to white on the underside. There is a sharply defined black stripe from the eye to the pectoral fin. They can be active and fast moving, but are frequently shy and do not normally approach boats.

They tend to be permanent residents in particular locations, moving from inshore to deeper feeding grounds where their diet includes mackerel, herring, sprays and squid. A single calf, measuring around 2.5 feet in length, is born in the summer months after a pregnancy lasting eleven months. Porpoises can be highly vocal and demonstrative, although you will never see them leaping out of the water or bow ride with a boat in the manner of dolphins. They may gambol alongside a slow moving vessel in small groups before cutting away at a sharp angle. There is some evidence of conflicts between porpoises and bottlenose dolphins in the Firth, but the cause and frequency of these are unknown.

Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

The Minke is noticeable for its small dorsal fin which is positioned two-thirds of the way along its back and its slow arch as it dives. If you get really close, you can see the white coloured bands on the pectoral fins.

Colouration is dark grey to black of back, lightening to white on the belly and undersides of the slender, pointed pectoral fins. Individuals in the north have a diagonal white band on the upper surface. Minke whales have a slender, streamlined body with a pointed triangular head.

Length: Male 7-9.8m, Female 7.5-11m. Weighing up to 10 tonnes. 230-360 short baleen plates on each side of the upper jaw. Minke whales have a relatively tall, sickle-shaped dorsal fin two-thirds of the way along their back. A typical breathing sequence is 5 - 8 blows at intervals of less than one minute The most likely time to be sighted is towards the end of summer, close to shore, in areas such as Cullen Bay and along the coast towards the inner firth.

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