Aberdeen is one of the best places in Europe to see bottlenose dolphins and it’s particularly special because we can watch them from land. Through Dolphinwatch, we’ve been working in partnership since 2013 to help people get closer to the amazing marine wildlife found near Aberdeen and help inspire them to take action to protect it.
Obviously wild dolphins don’t arrive to a schedule, but so far the team have seen them on every day they have been on site this year and are hoping for a glorious summer of dolphin watching with special family events throughout the holidays too. Dolphinwatch Visitor Experience Officer Emily Burton tells us more.
What we've been up to at Dolphinwatch 2019
This is the seventh year that RSPB Scotland has run Dolphinwatch in Aberdeen in partnership with Aberdeen City Council and Whale and Dolphin Conservation. Thanks to funding from ScottishPower Foundation and the National Lottery Heritage Fund we were able to massively expand our activities from last year introducing a school’s programme and running Aberdeen’s first-ever Dolphin Festival in April. But with the school term now over and plans for DolphinFest 2020 (made possible thanks to funding from the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 Events Fund) moving along in the background, our focus has returned to where it all began back in 2013 – Dolphinwatch viewing.
We are now mid-way through the seventh summer season spent showcasing the frequent presence of bottlenose dolphins in Aberdeen harbour. With a small information stall, binoculars, activities and a team of enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers, we set up each Thursday to Sunday from 11 am until 5 pm in the Torry Battery car park.
We are very lucky in Aberdeen because not only can we get great views of bottlenose dolphins from land, but they visit the harbour mouth nearly every day in the summer. Some days we get a few fleeting glimpses, other days there might be 20-30 individuals feeding at the mouth of the river for most of the day. But this means that with a bit of patience and the weather on our side – there are no facilities or shelter at the car park – visitors are rarely disappointed.
The purpose of Dolphinwatch is to help connect visitors with the natural world and inspire them to act to protect it. This summer holidays, alongside regular viewing, we hope to entertain visitors with three special family events – a mix of old favourites and new ideas – as well as rockpooling sessions and beach cleans each month
Rockpooling at Torry Battery
Beach clean in Aberdeen
Returning by popular demand, the first family event of the year was Marine Mammal Madness which took place last Saturday (6 July). It’s basically a Dolphinwatch sports day and is perfect for putting competitive families through their paces while helping them learn about marine wildlife. Visitors had the chance to take part in several active games and challenges to learn about the special adaptations of marine mammals and see how their own skills match up. Folk leapt like a dolphin in the long jump, dove into the limbo to discover the deep-diving capabilities of marine creatures and raced their way through man-made threats in the obstacle course.
Bycatch rescue game at 'Marine Mammal Madness'
For anyone who missed out, the next family fun day we have planned is on 10 August. Detective Day will offer visitors the chance to dive into some food chain forensics to solve a series of mysterious clues and reveal the truth behind a perplexing crime scene. Aimed at families with children aged 7-12, this event will explore the marine food chain whilst introducing some iconic local species and building team working skills.
The final event of the season is the Big Wildlife Picnic on 17 August. We really want it to be a celebration of spending time with loved ones outdoors. Folk are invited to bring food, drinks, picnic blankets or camping chairs along with sunscreen and waterproofs depending on the weather. We will have games and activities on offer that people can take part in to help them discover and identify the wildlife at Torry Battery.
An otter that is occasionally spotted at Torry Battery
I must say I am really excited about the events we have lined up this summer. I’m looking forward to seeing lots of people having fun outdoors, meeting new friends and reconnecting with nature. I’m especially keen to run the Detective Day, as I love coming up with creative ways to connect young people with the natural world and challenge them to work as team to solve puzzles and complete challenges. It’s going to be great to meet some budding detectives and see if they’re up to the task!
Children enjoying Dolphinwatch despite the haar (fog)
Dolphinwatch viewing is free and runs every Thursday to Sunday from 11am until 5pm until 18 August. For more information about the project and the 2019 events visit our Facebook or Twitter (#RSPBDolphinwatch; #DolphinsABDN).
A nicer day at Dolphinwatch
The RSPB Dolphinwatch team also provide community outreach talks for local groups interested in learning more about the bottlenose dolphins seen in Aberdeen. These interactive sessions are accompanied by a bespoke set of resources designed to further the participants understanding of the dolphins and the marine environment.
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