Up in the hills again

We had a great morning up in the hills today finishing off the upper Dulnain electrofishing surveys. Once again we were lucky with the weather although there was cloud on the high tops which spoilt the view of the Cairngorms on the way back. The route out took us alongside the Gynack Burn. When you see the extent of the active erosion in the upper reaches it is easy to understand why there are often problems with gravel deposition at the road and railway bridges in Kingussie – the bedload coming down the Gynack in high spates must be enormous.

An example of the many eroding banks of the Gynack

An example of one of the many eroding banks of the Gynack.

The wetted width of the Gynack is only about 6-7m at low flows but the bed width must be over 30m.

The wetted width of the Gynack is only about 6-7m at low flows but the bed width is up to 30m. This is an extremely active system, it must be a very hostile environment for fish life during big spates.

The hill road reaches 2400′ in altitude and near the top we had a really good view of an eagle.

Golden eagles are so impressive when you see them close up. The other wildlife certainly showed it plenty respect as there were packs of grouse flying in every direction. As the eagle approached us a white hare broke cover just beside us. The eagle stooped but failed to pick it up - a great sight though. A little further along the road two more eagles appeared both harrie by ravens. It's always a gret day when you see an eagle, even better three.

Golden eagles are impressive birds when you see them close up. The other wildlife certainly showed it plenty respect as there were packs of grouse flying in every direction. As the eagle approached a white hare broke cover just beside us. The eagle stooped but failed to pick it up – a great sight though. A little further along the road two more eagles appeared both harried by ravens. It’s always a great day when you see an eagle – even better three.

The survey sites in the upper Dulnain lie at 2030′ altitude making these some of the highest spawning salmon in Scotland. Up here the Dulnain is only about 4-5m wide and lacks the stream power seen in the Dulnain below. Consequently there are a range of sediment sizes including some nice spawning gravel.

The upper Dulnain - a nice wee burn at this point.

The upper Dulnain – a nice wee burn at this point. The conductivity was 38microsiemens/cm, quite high for the Dulnain suggesting that there may be some more favourable geology in the upper reaches. We noted heptagenid mayfly and blue-winged olive nymphs in the net signs that acidification is not an issue. Likewise the presence of a dipper at the site was a positive sign. 

Salmon parr from upper Dulnain timed site. This one was 112mm so probaly a two year old. We also had parr of 80mm and 123mm, likely to be one and three year old respectively. No fry however but our previous records for this are show that spawnign salmon are not present this high up every year.

Salmon parr from upper Dulnain timed site. This one was 112mm so probably a two year old. There were also parr of 80mm and 123mm, likely to be one and three year old respectively. No fry however but our previous records for this area show that spawning salmon are not present this high up every year.

In the three minute timed survey we captured four salmon parr a few trout fry and 15 trout parr including one of almost 10″.  All in all we were quite happy with the fish life we found.

The Dulnain is known to colour readily with peat stain during high flows and when you see the amount of exposed peat on the high ground it is easy to see why.

Exposed peat in the upper Dulnain catchment.

Exposed peat in the upper Dulnain catchment. There is debate about whether this level of exposed peat is a consequence of climate or land use. But for sure it is probably not a new issue, the Dulnain has long been known as a source of much of the peat stain which is a feature of the Spey in a wet summer.

On the road down this little chap sat beside the pickup for a minute or two – it probably reckoned it was safe from eagles if it stayed close by us!

A young white hare in summer coat.

A young white hare in summer coat.

 

 

 

 

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Smolt traps again

Soon be that time of the year again when the smolts start to move. Today we were over in the upper Deveron area and the upper River Fiddich installing three of the smaller, 4 foot diameter traps. There was the usual confusion over which bit went where at first but by number three it was a well oiled team effort between the Deveron and Spey. All three traps were deployed as part of the fisheries monitoring plan associated with the Dorenell Wind Farm.

The trap in the Allt Deveron

The trap in the Allt Deveron. It might not look it but the Allt Deveron was by far the biggest of the three rivers visited today. There is very good habitat in the upper Deveron and there was a good catch of salmon smolts last spring.

A short distance downstream of the Deveron trap location is the confluence of the Blackwater, a good sized spawning tributary well known for its spawning run of big river trout. Salmon spawn in it also but if I recall correctly the Deveron Trust caught more trout parr/smolts than salmon last year in this trap.

The Blackwater trap

The Blackwater trap in position

The last trap was in the upper Fiddich. The Fiddich is quite small at this point but there are still 5 or 6km of first class habitat used by salmon upstream. We had a good mixed catch last year with the salmon smolts considerably larger on average than found in the upper Spey tributaries.

River Fiddich trap in location

River Fiddich trap in location. Lovely clear water in the Fiddich. The conductivity and pH in the Fiddich are amongst the highest found in the Spey catchment.

The Fiddich is little more than a burn at this point and barely wide enough for the trap but it was turning good today.

The Fiddich is little more than a burn at this point and barely wide enough for the trap but it was turning great today. The Deveron team will be looking after all three traps initially.

On Friday the Avon traps and the Tommore Burn trap will be installed although not operational until Monday; our last weekend of freedom for a while!

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