A group of three bottlenose dolphins have been captured on camera playing in Loch Etive.
The mammals were filmed after swimming under the famous Connel Bridge near Oban and into the loch, where the sea mixes with freshwater.
Eilidh Muir, 26, daughter of owner of Falls of Lora Hotel, Michael McPhee, recorded the footage from the hotel garden.
She said: “I caught sight of them originally from my bedroom window. I have never seen dolphins up under the bridge before. We often see seals and otters and an array of seabirds but never dolphins.
“I went down onto the shore and stood and watched them. They would go under water for a long period of time and I was thinking they must be hunting or something. They were using their tails and flicking up seaweed. It was not far from the bridge.
“I just wouldn’t ever have expected them to come under the bridge.”
Morven Summers of Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) said: “Bottlenose dolphins are an inshore species so it’s not unusual for them to be spotted in coastal waters, even up sea lochs and into estuaries.
“Through Whale Track, our community sightings network, reports of bottlenose dolphins have been received further up the loch – in Loch Leven even – as far back as October 18, so it seems like the group has been in the area for a wee while.
“We rely on people reporting their sightings to us, so if you do see anything, please visit whaletrack.hwdt.org .”
Dr Nienke van Geel, of the Scottish Association for Marine Science (Sams), at Dunstaffnage, near Oban, said: “Bottlenose dolphins are one of the marine mammal species regularly sighted in Scottish waters, and they are often observed close to shore.
“However, very little is known about the individuals living on the Scottish west and north coasts.”
The marine mammal ecologist added: “To contribute to ongoing research on marine mammal species, people can submit photographs and sightings of whales and dolphins to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.
“With these, questions relating to the population size, calf and adult survival rates, movement patterns, as well as impacts from pressures can be assessed. Ultimately, increased knowledge of local species will help safeguarding the rich marine life we have in Scotland.”
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