VIDEO: NI dolphin displays draw tourists to causeway coast

The north coast is fast becoming a mecca for dolphin spotters, with pods putting on breathtaking displays for tourists.

The majestic creatures are now being spotted on a regular basis from Ballycastle and along the Causeway coast as far as Lough Foyle.

Interest was sparked in the mammals some weeks ago after a pod was first spotted near Church Bay on Rathlin Island about one mile off shore.

Locals now believe there are between 50 and 70 dolphins in the area.

Boat Charter Operator Christopher McCaughan, 66 and from Ballycastle, said dolphins have come to the north coast because “the gulf stream has dropped down and the hot waters they go with has dropped down near the coast here”.

He added: “For that reason there has been a proliferation of dolphins all the way down to Carnlough.

Dolphins put on a display of excellence in the sea between Ballycastle and Rathlin Island

Dolphins put on a display of excellence in the sea between Ballycastle and Rathlin Island

“More and more tourists are coming to Ballycastle now wanting to see either dolphins, porpoises, sharks or gannets.

“But dolphins can travel at over 30 miles per hour meaning they can be in Ballycastle and then in Port Ellen, Scotland, within one hour”.

Mr McCaughan, who has been involved with fishing all his life, said dolphins have been “coming up so close to the boats because they are looking for food which delights tourists”.

“Of course boatmen in the area keep in touch with each other so we know where the dolphins are at any given time,” he added.

More of the creatures off the north coast

More of the creatures off the north coast

“The dolphins like calm weather and pods of up to 30 have been here, but of course the problem is the very day you go out to see them with your binoculars and your friends you cannot get them. However on a day you go out fishing for mackerel they are everywhere.”

Mr McCaughan, a retired teacher, said he has seen dolphins around Ballycastle “starting to show off” where they “swim alongside you and then jump up in front of you when you are in the boat”.

“It had been people were going to the furthest point of Ireland to see dolphins, and even further afield, but now they are up here off the Causeway coast,” he said.

“Now it is possible to see 20 or 30 dolphins at any given time.

A fin cuts through the water in this image, one of many taken by Stephen McAuley on September 14, 2015

A fin cuts through the water in this image, one of many taken by Stephen McAuley on September 14, 2015

“In recent weeks I have been taking dolphin spotting tours and when you see them you get a great feeling of time standing still.”

Dolphins have remained unchanged throughout human history, and he added that “people are fascinated by them”.

Photographer Steven McAuley, who took pictures of the dolphins when on a boat tour with Mr McCaughan on Monday said: “It was a bit of a gamble as we have been keeping a eye out for them for a while with no success, as a matter of fact we were on Rathlin on Sunday and there was not one to be seen.”

However on Monday the photographer struck ‘gold’ when “first they appeared in ones and twos and then in multiple groups breaking the surface and putting on a excellent display”.

“Rathlin Island residents have claimed they have seen them almost daily over the last number of weeks,” he added.

According to online magazine ‘Defenders of Wildlife’, dolphins are highly intelligent marine mammals and are part of the family of toothed whales that includes orcas (also known as killer whales) and pilot whales.