It’s around this time of year when baby animals begin to fledge from the comfort of their parents’ protection. And we’re in no short supply of fledglings here at Spey Bay. There are now numerous baby swallows swooping around the courtyard of the volunteer house, often settling briefly amongst the older birds on the wire of a telegraph pole, before swooping merrily off again. We’ve all become particularly attached to one rather inquisitive baby house sparrow, Barry. Barry regularly hops about around our feet if we’re eating outside, chirping loudly until one of us cracks and gives up some of our dinner.
Out on the estuary the curlews, Europe’s largest wading bird, are slowly returning from their moorland breeding grounds. Lots of goosanders can also be spotted; the females have a distinctive red head with a messy crest that hangs down. I think it makes them look like they have permanently just walked through a hedge backwards. These diving ducks have long serrated bills so are thus a member of the saw family. There are also lots of linnets to be spotted darting around the shingle; they look rather like swarms of bees!
Many of our plant species have been swapping their bright flowers for seed pods, whilst others have only just come to life! The gorse and broom bushes have lost their yellow petals and instead are covered in bulging pea pods. Of the carrot family, sweet cicely and cow parsley are coming to an end, to be replaced by Britain’s most toxic plant, hemlock water-dropwort. If eaten it can be deadly as it contains the poison oenanthotoxin, I’m staying very clear of that one!
Patches of a violet colour can be spotted on the track along the river. This is tufted vetch, recognisable by its long green leaves that grow in a symmetrical row and the curled tendrils, used for climbing and grasping, which grow from the ends. Out on the shingle there are a few patches of kidney vetch. This low growing plant is the main food plant of the small blue butterfly so it is very important to Spey Bay. It has small yellow flowers that sit in a round cluster.
Kristina has been exploring the night time world of Spey Bay by setting up a moth trap. She managed to see many species including lime-speck pug, true lover’s knot, common rustic, marbled beauty and to her particular delight a poplar hawkmoth. And just last night Sara spotted another very exciting nocturnal visitor outside the volunteer house. A hedgehog! He was rustling around our little garden quite happily whilst we watched him. His little face was very cute.
And on the cetacean front, we’re still getting fantastic regular sightings of the world’s largest bottlenose dolphins! Our visitors have watched some spectacular displays at all times of day. One particularly memorable sighting for us volunteers occurred late one evening last week. Four dolphins went on a feeding frenzy just in front of us with a magnificent sunset in the background. We’d never seen them breach so close!
I am continually amazed by the way this area is constantly changing. Every day, be it morning, daytime or evening the sun shines in a different way, filling the river mouth with various colours. It truly is an incredible place, and it’s definitely worth spending an extended amount of time here just watching the day go by.
Join us at the Scottish Dolphin Centre and experience all this wonderful wildlife for yourselves!