River Tay Dolphins

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Bottlenose Dolphins - River Tay

The photos of Bottlenose Dolphins in the River Tay on this page were taken from vessels “Badger” and “Marigot” run and maintained by the Taymara charity while on passenger carrying trips for the local community, on training our own members in seamanship and boathandling or while running Taymara courses which provide nautical training to assist in the rehabilitation of Dundee’s recovering substance abusers.

In recent years dolphins have returned to the River Tay possibly because of increased water quality as a result of the River Tay Wastewater Scheme being built. While the Tay dolphins are also known to frequent the Moray Firth, their presence in the Tay extends from at least May to October so it’s possible to regard these dolphins as at least a semi permanent resident population.

River Tay Dolphins  - Bottlenose Dolphin in the Tay

This dolphin rode on Marigot’s bow-wave in the River Tay near the Inner Buoys for about 15 minutes, often turning on her side to look at us. Marigot had sailed into an unusually smooth patch of surface water which, for once, really was like a mirror. This allowed me to get a few exceptionally clear photographs of the dolphin swimming underwater while leaning over the bow. While within this area of unusual clarity she suddenly dove vertically and disappeared from view.

These are Bottlenose dolphins. The pod inhabiting the Tay has been observed to consist of up to 50 individuals and include new born calves so they appear to be breeding sucessfully in the area. The Scottish bottlenose dolpins are the most northerly population in the world and have a tendency to be larger than “normal” perhaps as a result of having to bulk up to thrive in the colder Northern Waters. 

Tay Dolphin
Bottlenose Dolphin River tay

The plume of white water extending from this dolphin’s head is caused by her exhaling just before she breaks the surface. This can make quite an explosive sound which can carry for some distance. This particular dolphin, however made quite a musical note that I could best describe as somewhere between a flute’s sound and that of a reed. 

Dolphin from above Tay Dolphin close up in clear water
Dolphin in the River Tay seen from Marigot
2 dolphins jumping

A pair of young dolphins plunge and jump. The forceful exhalation of breath can be observed on the dolphin leaving the water. It can be quite funny on a windless day because if there are a lot of them, the smell of fish is quite pungent - a bit like being accosted by a herd of cats.

Bottlenose dolphin broaching River tay

I don’t care if it’s unscientific - they’ve got sweet faces and that’s that.

Upside down Tay dolphin

Difficult to resist the interpretation that this dolphin is playing and possibly showing off too.

another upside down dolphin

Well, whatever it was, there goes another one.....

Dolphin leaping near Broughty Ferry
Broughty Ferry River Tay Dolphin
Tay Dolphin exhaling  at start of roll

Wearing its breath like a hat, this dolphin begins its surface roll

Dolphin rolling
Breathing out

And again - another one blows bubbles as it comes up for fresh breath.

Dolphin near  Broughty Castle
Dolphin watching trips - Marigot and Badger

Dolphins jump around “Badger”  while “Marigot” slowly approaches

Dolphin trips - Marigot

A Hovis moment.

River Tay Dolphin  full Jump

A clean jump. Some of these dolphins are as fat as puddings.

Small group of River Tay Dolphins

A group of young dolphins approaching rapidly.

Two dolphins sounding below boat

These two - a mother a her calf, ghosted swiftly, powerfully and silently under the boat

Tay Dolphin swimming on its side

This one swam the full length of Marigot on his side and almost entirely out of the water by making rapid powerful strokes of his tail as he surfed on his own wave with his “shoulder”. As he passed by he appeared to very obviously look at each passenger in turn on Margot’s rail. 

Dolphin swimming on its side 2

Still surfing. Neat, eh?

Large pod of River Tay Dolphins

That’s a baby in the foreground. There is at least one other here (middle distance left). They swim right beside their mothers, almost touching, following each movement in the water as closely as possible. The smallest we’ve seen to date was about two and a half feet long. They’re also much paler and start life almost cream coloured.

Dolphin trips Broughty Ferry