One of my favourite canoe journeys is the river Spey in Scotland. Wildway runs this canoe expedition every May
Travelling from Loch Insh to Spey Bay on the East Coast, this five-day journey will provide ample opportunity to encounter some of Scotland’s resident birds and beasts. Here’s just some of the wildlife you might bump into on a Wildway expedition;
Renowned for its fishing, the River Spey is the ultimate destination for many returning Atlantic Salmon.
Hatching from eggs in the cool tributaries of the highlands, the juvenile Salmon known as ‘parr’ then travel downstream to the coast. The growing fish ttypically spend one to four years at sea, often travelling to an area just off West Greenland in search of food. On reaching maturity, the Salmon will then return to their river of origin to spawn. Unlike certain Pacific species, Atlantic Salmon do not routinely die after breeding, meaning that some fish may undertake multiple migrations in their lifetime.
As you paddle your way down the Spey, you might be fortunate enough to spot the agile Osprey in action. Returning from their overwintering grounds in southern Europe and North Africa, these striking black and white birds are specialist fish-eaters, plunging talon-first into the water to capture their prey. Reaching a metre and a half wingspan, Ospreys hold Amber Status on the RSPB’s Red List, making them a rare but beautiful sight on UK rivers.
Take a walk along the riverbank during one of our wild camps and you might spot signs of one of the UK’s most elusive animals, the Eurasian Otter.
Persecuted almost to extinction in England, Scotland has long been a stronghold for these enchanting animals. Feeding predominantly on fish, Otters are strongly territorial, coming together only during the mating season. Cubs remain with their mother until 13 months old, learning the skills necessary to go it alone in the waterways of Scotland.
Drawing closer to the estuary of the River Spey, you’re likely to come under the scrutiny of the local Grey Seals. Equally comfortable in salt and brackish water, Grey Seals are the UK’s largest carnivore, weighing up to 310kg. Though bulls can occasionally be aggressive, most seals are cautiously inquisitive, with some friendly enough to attempt a lift on passing kayaks!
As you near the end of your canoe bushcraft adventure, you’ll reach the coast at Spey Bay, home to the world’s largest Bottlenose Dolphins.
Attracted by the Spey’s wealth of Atlantic Salmon, Bottlenose Dolphins are gregarious and intelligent, living in family pods of up to thirty individuals. The most common oceanic dolphin species, the Spey Bay pod are well known for showing off their acrobatic skills.
Should you wish to learn more about these remarkable animals, the Scottish Dolphin Centre at Spey Bay offers talks, tours and a unique audio-visual installation (www.wdcs.org).
Interested in encountering wild Scotland by Canoe? Find more details of our River Spey Canoe Bushcraft Expedition here; If you need to know what we take away with us on these trips check this post out.