RSPB Dolphinwatch has had another brilliant year and all the organisations involved would like to thank the visitors, the volunteers and the dolphins for making it all possible.
This year was the fourth year that the RSPB Dolphinwatch project, which is a partnership between RSPB Scotland, VisitAberdeenshire, Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeen Harbour Board and Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), has run in Aberdeen and it has been every bit as exciting.
Between April and August, more than 4700 visits were made to see the team at Torry Battery, including Kevin Stewart MSP and Lewis MacDonald MSP who visited for the second year running. All came with the hope of catching a glimpse of the world's largest bottlenose dolphins. Most visitors were not disappointed, with dolphins being seen on an impressive 82% of the days the team were on site. It's hardly surprising then that when visitors were asked for feedback about their visit 100% said they would recommend RSPB Dolphinwatch to friends and family.
Chris Bain, External Relations Director for Aberdeen Harbour Board, said: "Dolphin activity in the harbour mouth has been significant again this year, and we are delighted that increasing numbers of people are being given the opportunity to view these wonderful creatures in the educational and fun environment created by Dolphinwatch. This has been the third year that Aberdeen Harbour Board has sponsored this project, and we believe that their work is of great value to the local community and for the city as a tourist destination."
Forty-two percent of people who filled in feedback forms lived locally highlighting the value of this project as a leisure activity for local communities. However, the rest came from elsewhere in Scotland, elsewhere in the UK and 12% were from overseas. Add to this that more than a quarter claimed to be in Aberdeen specifically to visit Dolphinwatch and the potential of this wildlife spectacle as a draw for visitors to the city becomes clear.
Steve Harris, Chief Executive of VisitAberdeenshire, said: "It is fantastic to hear that over half of visitors to the RSPB Dolphinwatch site were from outside of Aberdeen, with a quarter of visitors specifically visiting the region to spot the dolphins. The people of Aberdeen have embraced the dolphins that live on our beautiful coast, and you only need to look at the success of the Wild Dolphin art trail in 2014, which was organised by the ARCHIE Foundation and WDC, to understand just how ingrained in our culture they have become. I hope that we are able to share our stunning coastline and thriving wildlife with even more visitors in the future, so they can see what Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have to offer."
Aberdeen's status as a top dolphin-watching destination and the success of the project in raising awareness of this were confirmed late on Tuesday evening last week when the news came that the project had been shortlisted in the Species Champion category of the prestigious Nature of Scotland awards.
Aberdeen City Council Communities, Housing and Infrastructure vice convener Councillor Jean Morrison said: "Dolphinwatch has once again been a fantastic project which we were only too delighted to support - the shortlisting for the award just shows how popular and how highly regarded it has been in 2016. We are very fortunate to be able to see dolphins in their natural habitat in a city and we really appreciate all the hard work put in by City Council and RSPB Scotland staff for the project, along with all the volunteers and their enthusiasm for teaching people about dolphins and other wildlife seen from Torry Battery."
The onsite staff had "amazing support" from a large volunteer team again this year, who between them contributed 1209 hours of their time. They were dedicated to providing a great experience for their visitors and answering as many questions about these fascinating creatures as they could.
The project staff would also like to thank visitors for kindly donating more than £2,500 to RSPB Scotland and would like to extend a big welcome to the 51 new RSPB members who decided to begin their support of the charity's work during their visit to the project.
Catherine Leatherland, People Engagement Officer at RSPB Dolphinwatch, said: "The RSPB Dolphinwatch project is a great chance for visitors to experience watching some of our best-loved animals, while learning about them and getting wildlife watching tips. It is great to know that after four years the project is as popular as ever, especially with the people of Aberdeenshire. Our volunteers have been fantastic and many of our visitors took time to tell us how much they had appreciated their help and knowledge during their visits this summer. It's a great way to get outside and get involved - for volunteers and visitors alike, and the project wouldn't be the same without the amazing support of both!"
As part of the project, RSPB Scotland staff and volunteers were also trained by Whale and Dolphin Conservation staff so that they could contribute to WDC's Shorewatch programme which monitors the presence of whales, dolphins and porpoises in order to protect them.
Katie Dyke, WDC Scottish conservation officer, said: "It has been an exciting summer working with Dolphinwatch with a number of dolphin sightings, but whether you took part in Dolphinwatch or not this summer, you can still join WDC's year-round Shorewatch programme and record dolphin sightings. We will train and equip members of the public to gather vital data from a number of selected sites whenever they are able to. All Shorewatch volunteers attend a full or half-day training course in which they learn how to identify common whale, dolphin and porpoise species found in Scottish waters and how to do a 10-minute WDC Shorewatch. You can find out more by emailing email@example.com."
RSPB Scotland's Dolphinwatch team was at Torry Battery from 11am-6pm on Thursday to Sunday every week, from 31 March to 14 August this year. They had binoculars and telescopes provided by Viking Optical, and plenty of expertise to help visitors get the best experience possible. After another successful year, the project hopes to welcome even more visitors, volunteers, and dolphins, in 2017.
1. For more information on the Nature of Scotland Awards visit: http://www.rspb.org.uk/natureofscotland. Now in their fifth year the awards celebrate the people, projects and organisations across the country working to protect our internationally renowned precious wildlife and habitats.
2. The RSPB is the UK's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.