Sunday, 25 July 2010

Risso's Dolphins off Unst - Jon Dunn

Thursday morning and I was on Unst for the second day of a photographic tour around Shetland with top Spanish photographer Jose Menéndez Guerra. We had headed north to spend the day making the most of the fine weather and take some portraits of the teeming seabirds at Hermaness NNR, and it was just as we were parking there that my phone rang. Fellow Shetland Wildlife leader David Fairhurst was calling to let me know he’d just found a pod of 8 Risso’s Dolphins at the other end of the island. “They’re at Uyeasound – right next to the pier!”

We turned straight round, and headed at haste back the way we’d just come, stopping only to flag down another party of Spanish wildlife tourists and their guide who also happened to be on the isle that day - but were oblivious to the news. Naturally, being first with the news, I felt responsible for making sure all interested parties got to share what sounded like a uniquely close encounter with a normally elusive species of cetacean...

We arrived at Uyeasound to find an elated David and his group of Ultimate Shetland guests gathered at the end of the pier watching the Risso’s Dolphins a mere 15 metres away. The dolphins gave us a fantastic display of social behaviour – spy-hopping, breaching, rolling, and tail-slapping. They even appeared to be playing with pieces of seaweed, as they occasionally spy-hopped with seaweed held in their mouths, or lifted seaweed from the water on their tails before flicking it into the air!

There appeared to be 8 individual animals, including an older animal so white with scars it was almost Beluga-like. We spent a very happy hour watching and photographing them while more and more local folk and tourists arrived to see them - this was a social occasion for humans and dolphins alike! Eventually we had to tear ourselves away – there were seabirds still needing to be photographed, and even in Shetland’s long summer daylight, time was pressing on…



3 comments:

Eagleseagles said...

Well that's certainly closer views than the views we had last October on Fair Isle!
Lovely photos and great to see the video!

Splendid find!

Corinna

Amila Kanchana said...

That's one experience life is not worth without! I've not yet been to see them, though Dolphin watching is available here,but I will. Many thanks for the post!

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Hugh, what delicious images. I had never heard of these Dolphins before, they sort of remind me of the lovely Beluga Whales. Stunning creatures, beautiful images. Have a great week, stay safe~