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From whales and dolphins to otters and ospreys

Jack Farge is a residential volunteer at WDC’s Scottish Dolphin Centre at Spey Bay on Scotland’s north east coast. In this blog, Jack talks about the amazing wildlife walks that he has been leading, and why you really should come and visit if you have the chance.

WDC’s Scottish Dolphin Centre at Spey Bay is situated in an idyllic part of north east Scotland. It’s a great place to visit for many reasons; an amazing visitor centre, woodland walks, a stunning beach, the list goes on. But the main reason people visit the area is to spend time in a landscape that is teeming with wildlife. As well as the wonderful Moray Firth dolphins, there is a long list of charismatic species that call Spey Bay home.

As a volunteer at the Scottish Dolphin Centre, one of my key responsibilities is to ensure that visitors are given every opportunity to engage with this stunning environment. Guided wildlife walks are an effective way of doing this. They are run daily from April to October and are a great attraction. People from across the globe take real pleasure from connecting with Spey Bay’s wildlife. Children especially, are always eager to explore the landscapes sights, sounds and smells. This is refreshing at a time when natural history can be shifted to the margins of our lives. Our aim is to inspire visitors to join WDC in our fight to protect the marine environment.

During the summer months, we run evening events, and our recent otter and osprey walks were sold out. They were enormous fun! Alongside the dolphins, these animals are real crowd pleasers. Ospreys are large fish eating birds of prey. They migrate from West Africa every year to raise their chicks on the fish in our rivers. These birds became extinct in Scotland in 1916, mainly as a result of persecution by egg collectors, but they made a comeback in 1954 when ospreys from Scandinavia nested here once more. Today, Spey Bay is one of the best spots in the UK to see these birds on the hunt. Their technique is unmistakable; hovering high above the river they use binocular vision to lock onto prey, and then stoop (dive) into the water using their formidable talons to latch onto fish.

Otters, large but elusive, cute yet awesome aquatic predators, are a joy to watch. They are also a conservation success story. Their numbers dropped drastically in the 1950s and 60s when chemicals used in farming washed into rivers, poisoning them. But these chemicals have since been banned, and although they are notoriously tough to spot, there are now otters all over the UK. With such incredible creatures on our doorstep it is not difficult to get visitors excited about nature, and WDC is working to protect the healthy ecosystems they rely on.

On the walks we explored the local plant life, we saw roe deer, a kestrel, leaping salmon, otter tracks, and the icing on the cake was when an osprey flew low over our heads. In folklore, it is said that fish turn belly up in surrender when ospreys fly above them, and we were certainly mesmerised by these majestic birds.

Our next evening walks will be twilight walks on the 23rd and 30th August. We’ll explore nocturnal wildlife such as bats, moths and owls, and it is set to be a real hoot! If you would like to come along, book your place by calling us on 01343 820339. Tickets are £3 per person, and under 16s go free. Alternatively, when you visit the centre, join one of our daily wildlife walks at 2:15 PM every day – we’d love to welcome you.