Every year, a team of volunteers join the staff at WDC’s Scottish Dolphin Centre in Spey Bay in the Moray Firth to gain valuable experience in conservation, education and public outreach. One of this year’s group, Emma Steel, gives an insight into her time at the Centre so far…
It has been almost five months since I arrived in Spey Bay, and reflecting back on the first half of my internship here I can honestly say it has been one of the best experiences of my life so far. From the stunning setting we find ourselves living in, to the incredibly friendly café and office staff, and the amazing (& crazy) volunteers I share a house with – I am having a whale of a time (excuse the pun)!
We hadn’t been here long before we spotted our first bottlenose dolphins of the season, and once we had our Shorewatch training with Katie, we were all super keen to look out at sea for our finned friends. In five short months I have now spotted seven different species of cetacean (bottlenose, harbour porpoise, minke whale, sperm whale, orca, Risso’s and Atlantic white-sided dolphins)!
Over the months, the bottlenose dolphin population of the Moray Firth have treated us to an array of stunning displays, behaviours and activity across a range of sites along the coast. Even when dolphins doing backflips became a common sight, every single opportunity I had to witness this was as magical and as mesmerising as the last.
Being an intern, it hasn’t been all work and no play – We’ve spent the last few months having the best adventures. On days off and in the evenings we’ve been on many a bike ride, where we’ve spotted otter and seals on the River Spey. We have watched some spectacular sunsets, camped out overnight in our hammocks in the woods, and we’ve had many campfires with attempts to cook dinner on them (usually unsuccessfully). We’ve ventured further afield, to the Boat of Garten Osprey Centre, Glenfiddich Distillery, the Findhorn Village Ice House, Bow Fiddle Rock, Trouphead, Lossiemouth beach, Burghead Visitor Centre, Cullen Bay … the list goes on! Even when the weather hasn’t been so kind, I’ve found myself gazing out the living room window spotting Osprey fishing in the river!!
As I help with the Shorewatch programme, I have been lucky enough to visit many sites across Scotland. Including all the sites on the Moray coast, I’ve ventured further afield to Aberdeen, Wick, St Johns Point, Scrabster Lighthouse, Strathy Point and Rhue Lighthouse. It has been a fantastic experience to have met many wonderful and dedicated Shorewatch volunteers along the way.
We are learning and absorbing new and fascinating information constantly, from working in the shop, having debates in the house, and through exploring the local area with our reserve trainer Martin Cook. I have learned so much about the birdlife and wild flowers of Britain. We are continually keeping up to date on the issues surrounding the protection of cetaceans’ worldwide by reading news articles, papers and watching documentaries. These plant/bird ID skills and our knowledge on current issues, are a great asset when attempting to educate and engage members of the public. I am proud to say that I am an advocate for change, and we here at Spey Bay feel like we are making a difference – no matter how large or small.
Spey Bay is a very special place, and I am so excited for the next three months here! I feel very very lucky to be able to call this incredible place home!