Chris Lock can highly recommend saving a dolphin or two as a good start to the day.

The businessman was on his morning walk around 7 o'clock yesterday when he saw a man with a dolphin in a tidal creek in the Upper Waitemata Harbour.

"I went to give him a hand and realised they were everywhere.

"I would guess they had been there for hours. They were just stuck in the branches and trying to get to the beach.

"So I started helping to lift them back into the middle of the river."

Department of Conservation and Project Jonah workers arrived and Mr Lock spent the next five hours "doing what the experts said", helping return the dolphins to the harbour from Lucas Creek near Albany, 12km north of downtown Auckland.

"The little beggars got out of Lucas Creek and started heading up another tributary. Then we thought we had them out but they started coming back. I jumped into a canoe and ended up herding them with DoC all the way to Greenhithe.

"So that's two parts of a triathlon done. My stomach muscles are creaking from riding in the canoe all that time. But I was just glad to be there. They were lovely little animals and they trust you completely."

Massey University marine biologist Karen Stockin said the stranded mammals were common dolphins - smaller than the more coastal bottlenose dolphins.

They usually stuck to deeper water but this group was probably chasing food or trying to escape a predator.

She said it was likely they were the same dolphins that were seen in Hobson Bay last Sunday, but it could not be confirmed.

DoC Auckland area manager Beau Fraser said about eight dolphins got caught in the creek when the tide went out. Locals had reported two dead dolphins stuck in branches, but the high tide had so far prevented DoC looking for them.

He said dolphins had occasionally stranded in Lucas Creek before.

"There is a weir further down and at spring flush tides they can swim over the top of it. But then the water drops and the weir holds them back and the dolphins get stranded."

Kayakers and DoC's inflatable boat had about an hour to herd the dolphins back out to the entrance of the Waitemata Harbour before the tide dropped too low again.

Three exhausted dolphins were carried out on the boat and managed to rejoin the pod.