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Stormy Sightings at Spey Bay!


This week’s has been written by one of our residential guide and education volunteers Laura. Find out what she has been seeing around a stormy Spey Bay.

Well these past couple of weeks have seen a lot of change here around Spey Bay! The landscape has had a complete makeover as we felt the side effects of Hurricane Bertha; our sunny skies were suddenly replaced with torrential downpours and the River Spey made a bid for freedom, bursting its banks and even flooding our Icehouse!

This has meant that we haven’t been able to look for our dolphins as frequently as we are used to, due to the weather conditions affecting our ability to spot them. As well as the rain, the sea has not been in a favourable state to spot them; displaying huge waves that could easily disguise the dorsal fin of a dolphin, particularly if they’re behaving quietly and not showing off their impressive jumping and acrobatic skills they often treat us to.

 

However saying this, over the past two weeks there have been still been sightings of the Moray Firth bottlenose dolphins, showing that the tough weather hasn’t fazed them  – at 4m in length and weighing up to 650kg, they’re made of tough stuff.  For the first time in a while yesterday the sea was nearly mirror calm, which made for perfect dolphin watching conditions and they definitely didn’t disappoint us! Seen throughout the day, we were reminded why we are at one of the best land based dolphin watching spots in the world!

 

As well as the dolphins, grey seals have been seen battling against the mighty River Spey and only a few weeks earlier I was lucky enough to see an otter fishing in the dusk. A variety of birds have again been spotted recently – there are still wading birds here in the estuary; whimbrels, redshanks and large flocks of curlews and dunlins have all been seen.  Greater black backed gulls are out in force along with their (more appealing looking) juveniles alongside them. At the moment there are not many arctic or common terns left, as many of them have begun their long migration journey. Sandwich terns are just starting to return from their breeding grounds in Aberdeenshire and other various places around the British coastline, they will stay here for a while for the abundance of fish, before leaving to migrate to Africa. A couple of little terns were just spotted yesterday, as their name suggests, they are smaller than the other terns and seem to have a more fluttering flying style too. In terms of the smaller birds, house sparrows are also around as is the yellowhammer, although they seem to have gone much quieter of late; their distinct song has not been heard for some time. Perhaps it could be a shortage of breath from having to fight against the gusts of wind. The house martins have migrated, but the swallows are still gracing us with their presence, it will be a shame when they do leave. It’s always entertaining to watch the young struggling to balance on the telephone lines, but my car definitely won’t be sad to see them go; as it’s parked near their nests it seems to have served as their personal litter tray for the entire summer.  There have also been reed buntings seen around the centre, looking rather bedraggled from the raindrops and lots of goldfinches and their young are being spotted sitting in the gorse bushes.

 

As you can see even without the high frequency of dolphin activity we were having last month there is still an abundance of wildlife here at Spey Bay. With so much to see why not head on down to the Scottish Dolphin Centre and see what wildlife you can encounter!

About George Berry

George is a member of WDC's Communications team and website coordinator.