Page last updated at 23:08 GMT, Friday, 8 May 2009 00:08 UK

Rains could help dolphin watchers

Dolphins in Moray Firth
About 40 dolphins are thought to feed and breed in the Inner Moray Firth

Heavy rains and a full moon could make this weekend one of the best to spot dolphins from land along the Inner Moray Firth, an expert has said.

Charlie Phillips, of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), said the mammals were hunting salmon.

Rivers swollen by recent downpours and large tides controlled by the moon could lead more of the fish to make runs for rivers to spawn, he said.

The firth is thought to provide habitat for about 40 bottlenose dolphins.

Mr Phillips said: "This weekend might be one of the best to see dolphin from land."

Dolphin study

He said the best time to see the dolphins would be in the mornings.

Mr Phillips also said there had been reports of killer whales off John O'Groats and dolphins off the mouths of the rivers Don and Dee at Aberdeen.

Earlier this week, it was announced that a study is to assess the economic value of Scotland's bottlenose dolphin population.

The largest single group of the animals is found in the Moray Firth where wildlife cruises regularly cater for tourists.

However, the survey will stretch as far south as the Tay and Forth estuaries where dolphin watching is developing.

The study is being co-ordinated by the Moray Firth Partnership along with Aberdeen University.

The data will be used to develop dolphin-related tourism projects that are economically and environmentally sustainable.

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