One of the best spots on Earth for observing marine fauna
Dolphins, minke whales, ospreys, seals, gannets and otters are among the species residing by the River Spey that can be admired leisurely from the coast.
However, the bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are the stars of this permanent natural show. At rising tide, 2–3 hours after low tide, visitors keep watching the river to catch a sight of the dorsal fins of cetaceans. The bottlenose dolphins that are seen in the Moray Firth are part of a resident population that uses the whole North-East coast of Scotland. This is a relatively small population of dolphins and they can be spread out over a large area. Scientific observations and photo-identification show that the group comprises nearly 130 individuals in the Moray Firth Estuary. From May to September, the number of dolphins in the coastal areas of the Moray Firth increases due to the dolphins feeding on salmon as they enter and leave the rivers. The dolphins are present in the area all year round – however they can be harder to spot outside summer months as they may range over a wider area and look further out to sea for their food.
The River Spey, a legendary river
The River Spey, which was designated as a Site of Special Interest in 1998, is the second-longest river in Scotland. It has a watershed of over 3,000 km2 and after flowing down from the mountainous area of the Scottish Highlands at diverse speeds, its water that is a priori free of pollution reaches the sea at a subdued pace.
Whisky distilleries are established along the course of the river for many centuries, of which some of the best known locally and internationally are Cardhu, Aberlour, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, etc. Very pure water needs to be used in the preparation and in keeping with tradition, some pure fresh water must be added before tasting this spirit whose origins date back to the ancient Celts. This certainly weighed on economic choices made in favour of sustainable development and the preservation of the environment.
It is clear that the River Spey is today among the streams with the greatest fish density in Scotland. Atlantic salmons (Salmo Salar) come in numbers to spawn there and the river has for a very long time been one of the favourite fishing areas in the UK.
The Atlantic lamprey (Petromyzon Marinus) also colonises the river over a long distance for spawning purposes. The river also features large colonies of freshwater pearl mussels.