Spey Foundation staff have been busy over the last few weeks. Callum and Toby, the summer students completed the invasive weeds survey in the lower river. Target species were Giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam, White Butterbur and Ranunculus. There plants are all present to varying degrees in the lower river although only Ranunculus is found upstream of Ballindalloch in any quantity.
The photo above shows one of the worst stands of Giant hogweed. It is bad in the area around Fochabers but with sufficient resources it can be controlled. To that end I completed an application last week for the Spey to participate in a joint RAFTS/SNH EU Life+ Bid for invasives control. If that project is successful it would provide real resources to allow us to get on top of at least some of these problem invasives.
We have began the timed electrofishing in the main stem although water levels mean that we weren’t able to start in the lower river. The area from Ballindalloch to Boat of Garten has been completed with interesting results. Fry were present in moderate to good numbers at all sites with excellent numbers of parr at a couple of sites. Somewhat surprisingly the fry were larger at Boat of Garten than at Ballindalloch. The normal pattern is for the fry to be larger at the lower altitude sites, where water temperatures are higher and productivity often greater. However the influence of the Avon, which joins just upstream, may be a factor as Steve Brand, the Ballindalloch Senior ghillie, tells me that the Avon consistently runs a couple degrees cooler than the Spey. Our main stem monitoring this year will extend over a longer period than normal due to the water levels, making direct comparisons on size across the whole river difficult. However it is best to wait for the right river levels rather than try to rush things. The point of the main stem surveys is to investigate the distribution of salmon fry throughout the main stem in suitable habitat, and that can best be achieved by waiting for stable low river levels.
On the habitat side of things Duncan Ferguson is making progress with improving fish access past some of the man made obstacles in the catchment, hopefully there will be something concrete to report on this over the next few weeks.
The weekly monitoring shows that fish suffering from UDN are at a stable and relatively low number compared to May, although fresh fish, including grilse and sea trout, suffering from lesions are still being caught in all areas of the river. Aside from the lesions these fish are otherwise in excellent conditon. There are very few reports of dead or moribund fish.
I am on leave this this week as we have sold the house down south and we have the joys of flitting to deal with! Hopefully we will be settled in Speyside by this time next week.