Slippery surprises and Spring-time smells arrive at the Scottish Dolphin Centre
Many changes have taken place at Spey Bay in the last few weeks, from small to large, colours, smells and sounds!
Numerous plant species are now bursting into flower. If you take a walk down the river track you can spot red campion, greater stitchwort, pink purselane, lupin, smiths pepperwort and much more. New smells are appearing everywhere. One that particularly stands out is the sweet coconut smell of the gorse bush. This plant has small yellow flowers so the paths are covered in a blanket of brilliant yellow. If you pick a gorse flower and carefully remove each petal you will eventually find a small pod. This is because strangely enough gorse is actually a member of the pea family! The petals can be used to make coconut tea or even as an added flavour in your salads.
Gorse flower – © Fiona Hill
Broom, another pea family member, is also starting to show its yellow flowers. These two species are very closely related with similar green stems. Gorse however is much thornier than broom; it can be quite painful if you catch your leg on it! If you’re lucky enough you may spot the vibrantly coloured yellowhammer in amongst the gorse and broom. These little guys have quickly become one of my favourites, especially with their cheery song. If you listen closely it sounds like they’re singing ‘a little bit of bread and no cheeeese.’
Yellowhammer – © Sara Pearce
Sandwich terns, a returning spring migrant, have been spotted flying around the river mouth making quite a raucous. Keith, a friend of the centre, taught me a sneaky trick for remembering these fellas: the yellow spot on the end of their long black bill is like the little bit of butter on the knife for your sandwich! Oh you’ve got to love a good pun! The small, ground-dwelling wheatear is another returning visitor to Spey Bay. This species has come all the way from its wintering grounds in central Africa. Other bird species that have been spotted include the blackcap, common tern and common sandpiper. The common sandpiper is a cute little bird recognisable from its stiff flight and bobbing movement when on the ground.
Blackcap – © Aimee Burrows
A few days ago I wandered down the track next to the river and settled on a rock that jutted out from the bank. Letting my eyes focus for a while I spotted a small salmonid resting on a rock on the riverbed. After a while I began to notice more and more of these little fish, no longer than my index finger. Little groups would appear and then dart off, while a few remained resting in the shade. I even noticed a sand eel pass by. Just as I was about to get up and leave, a big salmon suddenly jumped right out of the water, it was quite a surprise. It just goes to show that it’s worth sitting quietly and waiting!
And let’s not forget our main attraction, the bottlenose dolphins! We were all getting a bit itchy, having not seen them for a good week or so, but a few nights ago Sara and Aimee were treated to a magnificent sunset performance of not one but five breaching dolphins! And the osprey even made a special guest appearance! Since then they have been sighted at Spey Bay five days in a row so they are definitely making more regular visits to take a bite of their favourite snack, the slippery salmon.
Bottlenose dolphin – © Aimee Burrows
So, make your way down to the Scottish Dolphin Centre and you never know what special surprises you might be in for! I would definitely recommend taking a stroll along the river bank during your visit to the centre and stopping for a moment to take in everything you can hear, smell and see. You can even join us on one of our Wildlife Wanders (14:15 every day) to see what we can discover together!