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Cetaceans

Dolphins may be the main attraction for many visitors, but don’t overlook the many other creatures which can be found in the Moray Firth. Sixteen different species of cetaceans - whales, dolphins and porpoises - have been recorded in this stretch of water.

Minke whales are regular visitors, and are frequently seen during the summer and autumn months. A giveaway to the presence of a whale is the behaviour of seabirds on the surface: if they suddenly scatter it usually means that something much, much bigger is feasting on fish below! Keep your eyes peeled for a grey-coloured hump emerging from the waves and be amazed by its size. Don’t get too close though - whales are renowned for having very fishy breath!

Risso’s dolphins have been known to make an occasional visit, and generally tend to travel in groups. These dolphins are distinguishable from the bottlenose species because they are bigger, have a straight dorsal fin and a rounded head.

Novice cetacean watchers often mistake bottlenose dolphins for harbour porpoise. It’s an easy one to make when they appear so fleetingly on the surface, but the biggest clue is their size. Harbour porpoise are the smallest cetaceans found in these parts, but their numbers are plentiful. Their dorsal fins can be hard to see because they are so small, and unlike the naturally inquisitive dolphins they tend to shy away from boats. Most sightings are close to the shore - the area around Whitehills is known to be something of a sighting hotspot.

You can find out more about the Moray Firth and how it is managed through the voluntary organisation, the Moray Firth Partnership.

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