Highlands & Islands

Beauly Firth bottlenose dolphin numbers 'best in years'

Bottlenose dolphins off South Kessock
Image caption Bottlenose dolphins photographed off South Kessock in Inverness

Numbers of bottlenose dolphins visiting a Highland firth are the highest since the late 1990s, according to a conservation officer.

Twenty individuals, including seven calves, were counted on Tuesday in the Beauly Firth and Kessock Channel, near Inverness.

Charlie Phillips, of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), has been monitoring numbers for years.

He said the animals were likely to be following a good run of salmon.

Mr Phillips said: "I haven't counted that many dolphins here for nearly 15 years.

"Let's hope this dolphin trend continues."

Entering the channel and Beauly Firth from the Moray Firth and the North Sea, the bottlenose dolphins are from the world's most northerly resident population of the species.

Almost 200 dolphins are found in the North Sea and the animals are frequently seen in the Moray Firth.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), which commissions a report on the health of the population every six years, said in May the population was stable and could even be increasing.

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