Dolphins and whales spotted every day in Aberdeen

Kirsty Nutt

Friday 24 August 2018

Two bottlenose dolphins leap out of the water alongside an orange breakwater in Aberdeen Harbour

RSPB Scotland’s popular Dolphinwatch project celebrates a 100% success rate for marine mammal sightings this summer

The team of staff and volunteers running Dolphinwatch at Torry Battery in Aberdeen recorded dolphins, whales or porpoises every day they were on site between 10 May and 19 August this year. This represents the most regular sightings since RSPB Scotland began running viewing activities in 2013 and shows a 14% increase on last year’s dolphin sightings. 

Aberdeen Harbour is becoming a well-known destination to view bottlenose dolphins and these charismatic mammals were witnessed on all but three days of the dolphin viewing this year. On the three “no-dolphin days”, the Dolphinwatch team and visitors were lucky to experience rare encounters with minke whales, harbour porpoises and even a distant humpback whale.

RSPB Scotland and partners have been growing the project over the last six years, offering free use of telescopes and binoculars and running activities every Thursday to Sunday during the summer months, to raise awareness of the importance of the area for marine wildlife and how people can protect it. Over this period, sightings of bottlenose dolphins have occurred on between 80 and 90 percent of days with a previous high of 95% in 2014. This year marks the first ever 100% success rate for sightings of cetaceans (the umbrella term for whales and dolphins), and equals the highest ever dolphin success rate of 95 percent.

Laura Watson, Dolphinwatch Visitor Experience Officer for RSPB Scotland explains: “The high number of sightings confirm that Aberdeen is one of the best and most reliable places in Europe to see bottlenose dolphins. Since May, thousands of visitors have been amazed by their gravity-defying leaps, tail-slapping and bow riding. 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 recognisable visitor known as Fitri or Quasimodo. There have also been occasions when we have witnessed groups of over thirty animals feeding and surfing the waves.”

Sightings this year have also included harbour porpoises, minke whales and a humpback whale which a volunteer noticed and Laura subsequently identified. In addition to marine mammals, Torry Battery is a haven for birds and mammals, with a total of 72 different species observed this summer. Laura added: “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 several 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 excitement. The moment only lasted a few minutes but it was truly one of the most memorable moments on site.”

The project hosted over 3,500 visits this year and, based on visitor feedback forms, 100% of people would come again and recommend to others. However, the viewing activities at Torry Battery are just part of the wider Dolphinwatch project which includes events, beach cleans, a soon-to-launch schools’ programme and a festival next summer. 

The team are hosting a special beach clean event in front of Torry Battery on Saturday 15 September in partnership with the Marine Conservation Society to celebrate the Great British Beach Clean and the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup which occurs on the same day. They will also be running marine wildlife-themed activities at TechFest in Aberdeen on Sunday 9 September and Banchory on Sunday 16 September (TechFest Eureka Day). These events will celebrate the abundance of wildlife found on the north-east coast while highlighting the threats facing marine wildlife from climate change, litter, pollution, disturbance and entanglement.

Dolphinwatch is a ScottishPower Foundation and Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) funded project led by RSPB Scotland in partnership with Aberdeen City Council, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) and the Aberdeen Harbour Board Community Action Fund. 

Keep up to date with all aspects of the new project at or (#RSPBDolphinwatch; #DolphinsABDN).

Last Updated: Wednesday 7 November 2018

Tagged with: Topic: Aberdeen City Topic: Scotland Topic: Birds and wildlife Topic: Marine and water Topic: Volunteering