Things are definitely changing around Spey Bay and it is almost starting to feel and look the way it did when we arrived back in February. The vibrant colours of spring and summer are long gone, replaced with a gentler and softer atmosphere. The estuary is full of gulls; herring, greater black-backed, common and black-headed. Gannets and cormorants are frequenters along the shoreline. The cormorants most noticeable when they take up their distinctive perching stance, with their wings half opened and neck outstretched.
Cormorants at Spey Bay ©WDC
On a walk the other morning with our wildlife expert Martin Cook we headed down one of the tracks leading to the viaduct and spotted all sorts of birdy delights! Siskins, blackbirds, goldfinches and redwings were all darting about the hedgerows. The redwing, UKs smallest true thrush, generally arrives in late September from Iceland. Field fares, also of the thrush family, will begin to arrive from northeast Europe soon, preferring open countryside with hedgerow borders but we haven’t spotted any yet.
As we reached the river mouth Laura spotted a very exciting little bird, a dipper. We all grabbed at our binoculars and watched this merry little bird live up to its namesake. And as we were ooing and ahing another flew down and joined him. We watched their unique bouncy dance for quite a while, transfixed. And on our way back my favourite, the little yellowhammer, appeared. The males’ vibrant red brown breeding plumage will become more subdued over the winter months but they will keep their pretty yellow heads. I do love those little fellas!
Swans and geese are gradually arriving from their breeding grounds in Iceland. Whooper swans can be spotted in large groups in nearby fields. One even flew right over my head during a Shorewatch the other morning. It gave me quite a fright I can tell you! These whooper swans differ from mute swans as they have a long yellow wedge on the side of their bills. The mute swans however have a reddish orange bill with a black facial knob. These guys are resident to the area and two or three can often be spotted on the estuary.
And looking up to the sky you can often see the amazing ‘v’ shaped formations of returning geese. These pink footed and greylag geese are also on their way back from Iceland to winter over here. The two species can be easily differentiated; greylag geese are the largest of wild geese native to the UK with large orange bills. Pink footed geese on the other hand are a more delicate bird with a pink bill and pink feet and legs.
As the end of the season is nearing, we volunteers are hanging on to any dolphin sighting we can get. And they are certainly not disappointing us! Summer guide Heather came back for a visit last Friday evening and was treated to a spectacular show of breaching and spy hopping. Just this morning, on my 8am Shorewatch, I witnessed one lone dolphin silently feeding close to the river mouth. There is something particularly special about these early morning sightings when the only things around are the dolphins, birds and the rising sun. During my Shorewatch another group popped up further out at sea. A wee calf was splashing away in the group, breaching and having an excellent time! I was happy enough with this sighting but amazingly the dolphins were still there for both my 9am and 10am Shorewatch!
So as you can tell, there is certainly still a lot to be seen at Spey Bay. So head down to the Scottish Dolphin Centre and join us for our last week of the season!