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Risso's dolphin at surface

My lucky number – 13 years studying amazing Risso’s dolphins

Everything we learn about the Risso's dolphins off the coast of Scotland amazes us and...
Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whale (balaenoptera physalus) Three fin whales Gulf of California.

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Orca (ID171) breaches off the coast of Scotland © Steve Truluck.

Watching whales and dolphins in the wild can be life changing

Whales and dolphins are too intelligent, too large and too mobile to ever thrive in...

Recent sightings at Spey Bay

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.

Greylag geese

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!