Page last updated at 19:22 GMT, Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Dolphin mother and calf rescued

Man helping dolphins. Photo courtesy of Jim Guthrie
The stranded dolphins were helped by two builders

A dolphin mother and calf were rescued with the help of members of the public after becoming stranded on River Tay sandbanks, it has emerged.

Jim Guthrie, 40, spotted the marooned dolphins at Broughty Ferry and watched as two builders came to the rescue.

The pair managed to lift the calf back into the water and its mother was later helped back by wildlife rescuers.

Mr Guthrie, whose 10-year-old daughter sponsors a Cromarty dolphin, said: "It was all very dramatic."

The Scottish SPCA believes the calf, which was found completely out of the water, had got into trouble then the mother had become beached while trying to help it.

The mother had been flapping because you could see its marks in the mud
Jim Guthrie
Mr Guthrie, an offshore worker from Dundee, said that after getting the calf back in the water the builders, who left without passing on their details, unsuccessfully tried to persuade the mother to swim after it.

He described how he first found the dolphins on Wednesday morning.

"The tide was way out and I saw a shape that I couldn't quite make out, so I took a closer look and saw this beached dolphin," he said.

"I phoned the police and this other guy came along and said there was a wee calf further along.

"I went down and took a closer look. The mother had been flapping because you could see its marks in the mud and it had just managed to get back into a bit of water. It was lifting its head and blowing through its blowhole."

Dolphin sonar

Mr Guthrie said that after being put back into the water, the calf swam off and seemed fine.

"The builders turned the mother around to face the calf, but it stayed where it was, half submerged," he said. "Whether it was in shock or whatever, it was making no attempt to swim to its baby.

"We stayed with the mother dolphin and I phoned my wife at work, who phoned the police, coastguard, and then the volunteer wildlife workers."

Stranded dolphin. Photo courtesy of Jim Guthrie
The dolphins became stranded on sandbanks on the River Tay

The volunteers from Shanwell Wildlife Rescue Trust waded out to the mother dolphin and got it back into the water.

"It then swam off with the calf, which was just great to see," Mr Guthrie added.

"I wasn't sure if the builders should have touched the dolphin calf at all, but it seems that they did the right thing.

"The two builders left before anyone could really thank them. But the main thing was that the dolphins were back in the water and seemed to be safe."

Scottish SPCA inspector Nicola Stewart arrived after the dolphins were back in the water.

"They were happily swimming together despite their ordeal," she said.

"It may be that the baby got stuck first and the mother came out to try and encourage it back and then become stranded herself.

"Some beaches slope at such an angle that the dolphins' sonars are not able to detect the sea bed until they are in very shallow water."

She added that anyone who finds a stranded sea mammal should contact the Scottish SPCA's animal helpline on 03000 999 999.

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