With the Spey Foundation committee meeting tomorrow I was keen to complete the juvenile surveys in the Dulnain catchment. Being the westernmost unabstracted tributary of the Spey the Dulnain benefitted from some of the rain yesterday and had risen by about 8″ overnight. The main site today was in the upper reaches at the old Suspension Bridge which we thought would be fishable despite the rain. Access to the site involves a 40 minute drive in low range through Dunachton Estate.
The Suspension Bridge site lies at 490m (1600′) altitude and it felt like it this morning. The first snow of the year could be seen on the Cairngorms on the drive up and it took half an hour for the fingers to become accustomed to the cold at the site. The water temperature was 4.3 degrees C; its a short growing season up there.
We saw several golden eagles at the site. Three were in the air at once with two twisting and turning together on the wing, then a single a short while later. That sight certainly helped warm the cockles on a chilly day.
The catch from the site was very good with 34 salmon parr from a short site 13m in length. The reason for visiting this site again this year was to follow up on the good salmon fry densities found in 2012. The site history is shown below.
On the way back we surveyed the Feithlinn at the black bothy. This is a tributary of the Dulnain which is accessible to salmon. It also lies at just under 1600′.
Upper Dulnain sites complete we headed back downhill to the Allt Lorgy and the Auchnahannet Burns.
The Spey Catchment Initiative completed habitat enhancement works on the Allt Lorgy last winter but the site we wanted to survey today was downstream of the project works. The main interest was its long survey history.
The last site of the day was in the lower reaches of the Auchnahannet Burn, another Dulnain tributary, which was also subject to a major enhancement project by the SCI last winter. This burn was reminiscent of the agricultural burns that were so common in Ayrshire, the difference being that there were lots of fish today. The site was over 32m long but the average width was only 2.6m giving an area of 86.1m2. In the site we found 49 salmon fry, 37 salmon parr, 36 trout fry and 26 trout parr; a tremendous quantity of fish, most of which were in great condition – there must be good feeding in this burn. The composition of the salmon and trout population had changed quite a bit from last year when very high salmon fry numbers were recorded.
A very enjoyable day out today, a nice bit of relief before the Foundation Committee meeting tomorrow!