Work Experience with the Trust, 21st Sep 2012
Hello, I’m Daniel Green, a fourth year pupil from Aboyne Academy. I have just finished my week of work experience at the River Dee Trust. On my first day I met most of the River Dee team. They were all very welcoming and I knew I was going to enjoy my week there. Lorraine Hawkins, my supervisor first took me to see a fish pass just outside of Aboyne. By making small steps up a steep bit of river, fish were able to get up the pass and get further up the river to spawn. I found this very interesting as I had never seen one before. On Tuesday I went to help out with electro fishing on the Balmoral estate. Although I wasn’t allowed to actually fish, I helped by measuring the fish the team caught. I enjoyed this. I felt that I was contributing the Trust’s research and that made me feel happy. I also learnt how to read Salmon scales using a microscope. We read the scales because the can tell us how old the fish is. On the next day I did more Salmon scale reading on my own which felt very satisfying and enjoyed. Then in the afternoon I got to see how invasive plant species along rivers banks were dealt with. I really didn’t know how many invasive plants there were along Scottish rivers but learning about it was really interesting. Thursday was my favourite day as we went out electro fishing for the whole day. Again, I felt like I was helping the team with their research. Thursday was a very long tiring day but was confident that I had done something useful and was pleased with this. The week was now coming to an end and on Friday I mapped a river survey on GIS which I had never even heard of before.This was a nice quiet task for my last day and I enjoyed that too! Overall my week with the River Dee Trust was great. Everybody was really friendly and I thought I learnt a lot during my week there. Lastly, I think that the work that everybody does at the River Dee Trust is fantastic. I have had a great work experience week and If anybody were to ask me where they think they should go for their work experience, I would definitely recommend the River Dee Trust.
(pic: 5'10" and swamped by Japanese knotweed!)
A Day in the Life, 18th July 2011
By Geordie (electrofishing assistant)
My day starts with a rude awakening at eight in the morning, a cup of tea and some toast, soon followed by the short journey to the river Dee office for 9AM. Walking through the door, i am kindly greeted by Adrian Hudson, my boss, the unlucky man who has to carry the electro fishing unit all day! We load up the back of the jeep with all the kit we need for the day: Nets, buckets, waders, clipboards, spare batteries for the electrofishing equipment, and a variety of other bits and pieces!
After this process is complete, we then drive to our site, gear up, and enter the water! Once in the water, Adrian activates the electrical current and thoroughly sweeps the water, the electrical pulse stuns the fish and causes them to move towards the origin of the electrical field, allowing us to scoop them up with hand nets and deposit into a bucket for measuring later on! Once we have fully swept an area and caught as many fish as we can, we anaesthetise them with clove oil, a non toxic anaesthetic. Once the fish are sedate, they are measured on a measuring board and recorded! After this the fish are released back into the river, and a habitat survey is taken, which involves measuring river width’s, lengths, vegetation types, water conductivity and temperature etc! In a normal day (weather permitting) we will usually repeat this process four times at different designated sites. The day is rounded off with the (usually!) short journey home.
Electrofishing starts, 5th July 2011
Last week was the start of the electrofishing season for the Trust. This year we have a 10-week programme devoted to investigating juvenile salmon and trout stocks in the catchment. We started our surveys on the Crynoch burn (a tributary of the Lower Dee) to determine whether installation of a fish pass on a redundant weir (see photo) had enabled spawning adult fish to migrate upstream of it. We found juvenile salmon (both 1 and 2 year old fish) above the weir, showing that the fish pass has been a success.
Towards the end of last week we moved on to the Coy burn, where we fitted a fish pass to an impassable weir back in 2008. Salmon and sea trout have made it through the fish pass in every spawning season since so we are following their re-colonisation of the burn (after 250 years!) and hope to see it reach its full potential for fish production in a few years time.
Education marathon, 14th June 2011
The RDT attended Dunecht Estate Open Day on Sunday 12th June, where we ran an information tent about the River. The event was open to the public and saw more than 5,000 people pass through the gates. We spoke to lots of people who visited us and enthused many children with our finds from a pond dipping excersise.
The following day was an event organised by the Royal Northern Countryside Initiative to introduce secondary schoold children in NE Scotland to different rural sectors, including forestry, game keeping, farming and river management. In a whistle-stop tour for the groups of children who rotated between the different sectors, we spoke to over 300 children about the river. Exhausting!
Adrian is busy with more educational visits this week; firstly taking Durris primary school children to Raemoir fishery (who welcome the school groups at no charge) on tuesday to learn through pond dipping and try their hand at fly fishing. On friday, a class from Aboyne primary school will be visiting the Aboyne Castle fishing beat to see electrofishing demonstrated and learn more about the river.
TV filming on Deeside, 29th March 2011
I received a telephone call from my friend Chris Webster last week enquiring what the prospects were like for fishing the following week on Deeside. I was pleased to advise that conditions were looking favourable as the weather and river levels had settled from the previous few weeks dramatic fluctuations. He was delighted to advise that he had been commissioned to produce the third series of Thuras A Bhadrain for BBC ALBA and mentioned that it was in the running for a broadcasters award next month. I was really pleased to hear he and his team were receiving recognition for their efforts in producing two really entertaining series of programmes about the Salmon's Journey. He mentioned he hoped to have a novice angler and a camera crew available to perhaps come and do some filming.
Chris called the following day to advise that a crew was ready to travel north to Deeside to commence filming a programme for the third series, and arrangements were made with the helpful Park Estate where Chris had some fishing booked. Lorraine Hawkins from the River Dee Trust and myself travelled to meet the team at Park and we were delighted to participate with their filming. It is quite nerve wracking being filmed for such a good quality team however they made us very comfortable, and we thoroughly enjoyed being part of the programme they intend to broadcast. Lorraine talked about the local schools involvement with the radio tagging, radio tracking programme and website www.riverdeetracking.com, River Dee habitat restoration work and other aspects of the River Dee Trust's work. I was able to discuss my role as Fisheries Development Officer covering aspects such as encouraging newcomers to angling and the IntroDee programme, the FishDee website and marketing of the river to a global audience, developing the infrastructure that supports angling, and novel fundraising activities.
We were also given the opportunity to do some fishing with Rhoda, who is the lady angler fishing for salmon for the first time. Rhoda was a very enthusiastic learner, and a good listener who was assisted by Park Estates Head Ghillie Keith Cromar who provided tuition, and Rhoda took to fishing like the proverbial duck to water. We would love to report the capture of a whopper but we couldn't complain as we did manage to land a very well mended kelt, and the team got footage of another 5 fish being landed, including some fresh run spring salmon. Rhoda was going for casting lessons today with Willie Banks from Tilbouries, a member fo the River Dee Board. Willie is a very fine casting instructor and has the highest coaching qualifications available, so Rhoda couldn't be in better hands.Both Lorraine and I wish them all the best with their production through the summer and we look forward eagerly to seeing the programmes when they are broadcast on television.
Harsh winter conditions, 26th February 2010
By Ken Reid
This winter has been widely reported as one of the coldest since records began and may turn out to be the coldest ever if conditions persist in the same vein. That remains to be seen, however we can say that the conditions have been harsh and have hampered access to the river by anglers and River Dee staff. The last fortnight has seen temperatures struggle to reach 1 degree Celsius with over night lows reaching -19 regulary at Braemar ! These prevailing conditions have ensured the scenery looks spectacular.
We have had regular nightly frosts since mid November and snow lying more or less since mid December which has made many comment that it appears to have been a really long winter. It does present real problems in the river valley with road conditions extremely difficult necessitating heavy gritting by the roads department. This will ultimately disperse on the land and river.
The effects of the winter have curtailed some of the radio tracking activities, however we are still monitoring the bankside data from the fixed stations. There has been less coppicing work as a result of the prevailing conditions nor have we been able to carry out Lamprey surveys. It has allowed the River Dee Trust staff to work on reports including bio security and season extension monitoring. The bailiffs have continued to carry out patrols by day and night to ensure the river security is maintained. There has been regular work required by all the staff shovelling the snow away from the River Office tracks and car park. The rod effort has been curtailed by visiting anglers and this has been reflected in the catches. In the interests of safety anglers need to ensure they fish with a companion as there is a danger when wading they could be knocked over by dislodged ice floes drifting silently downstream. It is so important to wear life vests this time of year as a heavy immersion could be fatal to an unwary angler with the river temperature at freezing point. I am sure when Spring arrives it will be quite spectacular-lets hope it arrives with the main spring salmon run.
A Fine day Redd counting, 11th November 2009
By Ken Reid
It was a crisp cold morning when Ed, Mark, Danny and I met at the Dinnet office to go on a Redd count in the upper Dee catchment. A Redd is a "nest" that a female salmon excavates to deposit her eggs that are fertilised at the moment of release by a male salmon. The female then swims slightly upstream and turns on her side and beats gravel and stones, which are carried by the current and cover the newly fertilised eggs. This is the culmination of its life journey that has taken the salmon from that area where it was born 5 years earlier, on an epic migration to the seas off the Faeroes, or perhaps even further to the west coast of Greenland to feed and grow. It then is seized by an instinct to return to the river of its birth to produce another generation of offspring. The journey back to the river is something that salmon must do as they cannot spawn in salt water.
We travelled to an upper tributary of the River Dee and arranged to cover 15 kilometres of water and record salmon redds that were identifiable. We split into teams of two and left vehicles at the middle and lower points of the survey areas. We set off on our surveys walking carefully along wild riverbanks where there were no paths with the ground conditions being very frosty. There had been a very hard frost over night bringing temperatures down to -8 degrees providing glorious views but tricky walking conditions. There were tremendous numbers of Red Deer grazing on the hill sides with the good numbers of Buzzards, Grouse and Dippers. There had been recent high water that left a debris line some 5 foot above the river level. This recent high flow would have levelled out a good number of redds as you normally want to see a depression excavated with a mound of gravel just behind it. There have been 2 periods of really high water levels in the last month.
River Staff ready to start the count
In a tributary with a width of 10 metres you would want to see 2 redds per kilometre of river length, which will give a minimum fry density to sustain a natural population for that area. The more redds there are provides a higher density of fry, with a greater increase in competition for food ensuring only the strongest survive. The returning salmon are highly selective in choosing the gravels that they will spawn in, where the gravel and water flow have to provide optimum conditions for this process. If the gravel is too firm or too loose to use then the fish will not utilise this. There whole life culminates in getting this process right and the salmon will spend a considerable period of time choosing the exact spot that will ensure the best survival of the fry produced. The area we were surveying had excellent nursery areas for the juvenile offspring with plenty of cover provided by rocks and stones. Over the fifteen kilometres we surveyed we counted 123 identifiable redds and we discounted others where we couldn't guarantee 100 % that they were redds. This was a good count with ideal conditions for carrying out the survey. We also spotted 69 salmon in the river and 8 fish that had been taken by otters. The fish in the river were in excellent condition with very little Saprolegnia skin disease apparent, which in cold water conditions can be a common occurrence with salmon that some confuse with UDN.
As we carried out the survey we were able to look out for signs of pollution, bank erosion and poaching activity which are all detrimental to the production of juvenile salmon. The river was in first class condition with no visible signs of any major problems to affect the salmon spawning in the survey area. The water was flowing crystal clear with the river bed in excellent condition showing no signs of pollution or silt that could harm the salmon redds. These surveys are carried out annually during the month of November when the spawning activity peaks in the upper catchment providing river levels are low enough to allow counts to be made accurately.
It was a very enjoyable survey in an excellent area for producing juvenile salmon. There were good numbers of salmon on the gravels with some ready to spawn and some really quite fresh and not ready to spawn. There was a good mix of sizes present from grilse to large MSW salmon. This is an important activity that is carried out throughout the whole catchment throughout November through December. This allows you to keep a record of findings on computer GIS software where you can see maps and the survey results highlighted on a year to year basis. All salmon and redds found are mapped out carefully to ensure you have an accurate picture of what is going on and enables you to monitor the spawning activity on an annual basis.
River Dee Floods, 29th October 2009
By Ken Reid
On Thursday 21st October there was a significant level of rainfall that fell on Deeside and the Ballogie weather station recorded 59 mm's for the day. This is as much as was recorded for the month of February this year. As a result of this deluge, onto already wet ground, there was a dramatic run off the land into the catchment with the River Feugh rising 10 feet above normal summer level. This led to real problems on the roads, with the road at Strachan being washed away and diversions being put in place. The conditions have been excellent for allowing an upstream migration of salmon and sea trout to the spawning gravels where spawning will be happening soon. Here are a selection of photographs and video footage that I was able to collect the following day when I visited the Falls of Feugh and other locations in the lower catchment.
The view upstream from the Falls of Feugh Bridge - the sound was deafening
The Coy Fish Pass getting a good test following recent maintenance
Popular Meeting spot at Park