Dulnain surveys complete

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 long and ending road out to the upper Dulnain via Dunachton Estate

The long and winding road out to the upper Dulnain via 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.

Suspension Bridge site in the upper Dulnain

Suspension Bridge site in the upper Dulnain. The water level was up a few inches which actually makes fish capture a lot easier. Once they are attracted to the electric field they are swept into the net before they can get away.

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.

Site history for D9, suspension Bridge upper River Dulnain

Site history for D9, suspension Bridge upper River Dulnain. The improvement in parr densities following the good fry density in 2012 can be seen clearly. At 1600′ this is close to the margin of salmon habitat in the Dulnain and it is clear that only every few years is there good recruitment of fry. We found only 7 fry in the site today so parr numbers are likely to be down next year.

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′.

The survey site in the Feithlinn (actually the Allt Mor) was a short section 18m long just above the confluence with the burn that joins form the right.

The survey site in the Feithlinn (actually the Allt Mor) was a short section 18m long just upstream of the truck. We got a salmon parr in the first sweep, the first of 12 caught in the site.

Site history for the Feithlinn Bothy site.

Site history for the Feithlinn Bothy site. The 2013 result was the second best for salmon parr. The mere presence of salmon in such a remote burn always comes as a surprise, although it shouldn’t be; they are present here every year.

Upper Dulnain sites complete we headed back downhill to the Allt Lorgy and the Auchnahannet Burns.

This hind was pretty tame, it must be used to human presence.

This hind was pretty tame, it must be used to human presence.

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.

Allt Lorgy lower survey site. Mainly glide habitat, more suited to trout but the run at the top end produced a lot of salmon fry.

Allt Lorgy lower survey site. Mainly glide habitat, more suited to trout but the run at the top end produced a lot of salmon fry.

Allt Lorgy D4a site history.

Allt Lorgy D4a site history. The habitat at the site was pretty good for trout so it is surprising to see how variable the results have been. The fish numbers today were good although the trout parr were all found lying under the few areas of overhanging  vegetation or branches. Good salmon fry numbers this year!

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.

Auchnahannet Burn below Milton Fam results

Auchnahannet Burn below Milton Farm results, note the increase in the parr densities this year.

Auchnahanet Burn survey site. An unusual burn of the Spey, it has obviously bene dredged int he past and the bottom consisted of an odd mix of sand and small boulders. The bankside cover was great.

Auchnahanet Burn survey site. An unusual burn for the Spey, it has obviously been dredged in the past and the bottom consisted of an odd mix of sand and small boulders. The now lush bankside cover was great. Obviously a rich wee burn.

A very enjoyable day out today, a nice bit of relief before the Foundation Committee meeting tomorrow!

 

There are 6 comments for this article
  1. ian gordon at 5:41 am

    UK numbers of grey seals – Around 5k at the turn of the last century. Source – Anecdotal! Working whalers from Peterhead and contacts from various fishing towns.
    Now they number more than 200K
    Mind you, in some eyes, that’s just an old wives tale!

  2. Anthony Tinsley at 11:51 am

    We could do with a resident pod of Orcas! Do they ever come to the Moray Firth; I know they do to the Solway?

    • Brian Shaw Author at 8:13 pm

      Hi Anthony,

      Yes they do, Richard Whyte our Head Bailiff was telling me he saw some recently, must get more details from him.

      Brian

  3. Anthony Tinsley at 5:38 pm

    Brian,

    What can you tell us about the numbers of seals, porpoises and dolphins historically cf. present day in the Firth and what they are probably doing to our kelts and smolts as well as returning adult fish?

    Does Tweed have a similar problem?

    Regards,

    Anthony

    • Brian Shaw Author at 9:00 am

      Hi Anthony,
      I have heard some figures quoted recently regarding the number of seals and dolphins etc but if you leave this with me I will do some research before replying.
      Best regards
      Brian

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