Warm weather means dolphins are close to shore on porpoise

Scots who have delayed donning their winter woollies in the midst of the sensational September heat wave and instead are packing buckets and spades to head to the seaside could be in for an unexpected bonus.

The phenomenally good weather has led to an increased number of pods of dolphins frolicking just off our shores to the delight of visitors enjoying boat trips around beauty spots such as around the Bass Rock, off North Berwick in East Lothian.

Tour guides from the town’s Scottish Seabird Centre say the dolphins have been swimming up close to their tour boats in the Firth of Forth and diving in and out of the water chasing the waves left behind.

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Staff at the centre have tracked seven sightings in the last 12 days, after only witnessing a couple earlier this year.

Last year dolphins were spotted three times in the area.

Marine experts say dolphins “follow the food” and that warm weather means fish such as mackerel and herring remain nearer the shore rather than moving to colder waters further out to sea.

Tour guide Gavin McDougall, based at the Scottish Seabird Centre, said: “We’ve seen them every couple of days, and even a calf, and in a real abundance of locations including the Bass Rock, Craigleith and the Isle of Mey. They are coming right up to the boat and playing with it, turning on their sides and looking up at us, looking to see what we are. They’re playing with the waves made by the boats and having a great time.”

Mr McDougall added that the trips were also seeing a number of minke whales and porpoises.

Professor Vincent Janik, director of the Scottish Oceans Institute at the University of St Andrews, said: “The dolphins in this area travel back and forth from around the Moray Firth to Newcastle depending where they find food. We tend to see less of them in September but the particularly warm weather means that the fish, who go off shore during colder weather, are staying longer.”

Tom Brock OBE, chief executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre, said visitors were queueing up to join the trips: “Over the last few years dolphin sightings have certainly increased, which has been amazing for East Lothian locals and visitors alike.

“We update marine mammal conservation and research contacts when we see them as they track how the pods travel around the coastline – they can even identify individuals from good photos of their dorsal fins.”