Jamie's Blog

Jamie's  Blogs in PDF Format 15/06/09
Click on the relevent date to read them 22/06/09

The Biologist



First Week in new post, 15/06/09.



Welcome to my Blog,

First a little about myself my name is Jamie Urquhart I hail from the North of Scotland with family connections to sporting estates on banks of the Helmsdale, Haladale and Brora. During my youth I was surrounded by a variety of countryside management issues and firsthand knowledge, this established a thirst for knowledge in the environmental sector.  I chose to study Ecology at the University of Aberdeen and graduated with an Honours degree in 2004.  From May 2006, until this June I have been employed as the NE Scotland Water Vole Conservation Project Officer for the Local Biodiversity Action Group. Based at the University of Aberdeen and working with a variety of organisations, charities, landowners and tenants across the NE, I have come to develop a variety of skills, establish suitable contacts and expand my local knowledge. I’m thoroughly looking forward to establishing my role as trust biologist, but also furthering the potential of the River Don as a premier fishery in the NE of Scotland.

The aim of this blog is to keep you up to date on the general activities of the Trust and I. Posts will be about once a week, informing you of what I’ve been doing, opportunities for you to get involved with the trust either through workshops or surveys and provide you with first hand information about the river, catches, current conditions and any other gems that come to hand.

To date we have been establishing our new office, which is based on Cluny Estate, follow link below for Map.


Friends of the Don are most welcome to arrange a time to come and meet me and discuss issues of interest regarding the River Don and its Fisheries Management Plan. I will hopefully be holding various events later in the year, where friends of the Don will be invited to attend.

We have also been creating my work plan for the forthcoming year, responding to the Draft River Basin Management Plan Consultation, attending a presentation on a proposed lower Don regeneration development and discussing various projects with the Don District Salmon Fishery Board team of Jim, Martin and Steven.

So it has been a busy first week. This week I’ll be meeting with some of the Trustee’s to iron out the work plan, I’ll have a few days of preliminary surveys on the main river and its tributaries with special interest in areas affected by obstructions to fish migration and I’ll push on with the admin work.

Once again feel free to contact me to arrange a time that suits both if you want to pop by for a chat,

Cheers Jamie

Week Two, 22/06/09.



Welcome to my Blog,

Well that’s week two under my belt. The week started with some meetings, admin and discussions regarding surveys and the Fisheries Management Plan. On Tuesday I met with two environmental consultants who will be undertaking a comprehensive survey of the River Urie paying particular interest to non native invasive plant species, such as Giant Hogweed. The survey is due to start next year in conjunction with the Don District Salmon Fisheries Board programme of Giant Hogweed control, more on this in due course.

 For the remainder of the week I focused my efforts on enjoying the brilliant weather that we have had.  I therefore spent the last few days of the week, carrying out preliminary surveys on the Urie, Goval and Leochel Burns with particular interest in the obstructions to migrating fish which are present in each.

See image below of the Leochel weir.




Discussions with river Superintendant Jim Kerr on these various obstacles has revealed that both the Leochel and Urie obstacles can be passed by migratory fish in high water but only odd occasions.

That’s all for now, i’ll be meeting the Board team next week so will have some river updates for you, will have undertaken some invertebrate sampling, further habitat surveys and may have had an evening’s fishing myself.

Cheers Jamie





Week Three, 29/06/09.



Week three consisted of a mix of field work and office again.

Monday started with an interview from a MSc student who is writing a dissertation on SEPA’s River Basin Management Plan. The aim of his project is to identify shortcomings in the consultation process and encourage organisations like the RDT and others stakeholders to participate and accept ownership for various issues. I will be getting a detailed summary of his conclusions in due course.


 I was also speaking to a Mr Foster from the Yorkshire Esk Trust, with regards to the Archimedes Screw turbine in situ at Newe Weir on the Don and its impacts on salmonids. They were concerned that the proposed device on their system may negatively impact the salmonids present and were looking to us for some advice and examples of impacts. I referred him to the DDSFB and the River Superintendant Jim Kerr who has the most experience on this matter to date. We hope that they manage to resolve the issue and find a suitable solution which we can perhaps learn from for any future developments of this nature.

Tuesday consisted of primarily admin, and IT software addition to the laptop. My links with the University of Aberdeen from my old post and through a position as an honorary member of staff has enabled the RDT to access a number of IT facilities and resources which has not only saved the RDT a sum of money but has also sped up the process of establishing my position. In return for the honorary staff status I intend to provide suitable projects and opportunities for students to become involved with the RDT. The RDT’s Scientific Advisor Dr S.A.M. Martin, is a perfect example of interaction between the two organisations. I met with Sam to discuss future surveys and to establish suitable plans for forthcoming projects. I also met with Dr John Baird to discuss the invertebrate sampling sessions on the Don which I have initiated to provide a snapshot of the invertebrate structure of various tributaries.

Wednesday, i was to meet Dr John Baird and two of his students at the confluence of the Water of Buchat and the Don. From here we would drive up to the headwaters and start our sampling, taking a succession of samples at every 50m gradient decline from the starting altitude. The sampling was of a simple but effective nature using a standard kick sampling approach we were able to identify species presence and absence and a relative abundance of the species present. We also recorded pH and water temperature and any other factors which we thought may influence the invertebrate composition. See image below.

I hope to offer this type of sampling activity to the Friends of the Don as part of a workshop following this up with an identification session back in the office.  More details on this later.

I spent the whole of Thursday with River Superintendant Jim Kerr.  The day focussed on a familiarising me with the upper section of the Don catchment and the people and issues associated with the area. We looked at one of the obstructions to migratory fish on the Delnadamph estate the Alt Veannaich Dam (see pic) and also looked at some of the spawning habitat, invasive species present, the DDSFB Hatchery and Newe weir and the Archimedes Screw.  Overall i had a thoroughly interesting day and had a valuable insight from a very experienced point of view. I shall be having similar visits with the rest of the DDSFB team in the near future on the middle and lower Don.

During the morning on Friday I met with Mr Alpine of the Inverurie Angling Association, who had expressed an interest in controlling the invasive predator American Mink on their association waters. We set up a mink monitoring raft a device which is used initially to identify if mink are present in a system then secondly is used as a trapping platform. It provides a cost and time effective method of controlling mink compared to traditional trapping methods. For more info see link (www.watervolescotland.org)

 The RDT has established a working relationship with both the Cairngorms and the NE Water Vole Conservation Projects, these projects undertake and coordinate mink control across their respective areas to minimise the predation of water voles by the invasive species American Mink. This collaboration has enabled us to tackle issues of invasive control by sharing best practice and also resources to protect “at risk” species such as the water vole but also other prey items such as salmonids, wildfowl, game birds and small mammals.

This week i’ll be attending a Habitat Surveying course in with the Galloway Fisheries Trust, more on this in the next BLOG.

Cheers Jamie




Week Four, 06/07/09.

Week four was completely taken up by preparing for, travelling to/from and attending a Habitat Surveying course in Dumfries and Galloway.

An appropriately named pub on route to Galloway Fisheries Trust

The course is an essential requirement to validate the data collected for the RDT.  The completion and passing of this course gives you Scottish Fishery’s Coordination Centre (SFCC) accreditation in Habitat Surveying (HS), which is the standard and most detailed form of habitat survey currently in use effectively. There are other more limited surveys which are perhaps useful for specific aspects of habitat surveying due to the lesser volume of time and skills required to perform them effectively.  But by being accredited in this SFCC course it allows you to carry out a comprehensive survey if required or utilise some of the skills learned to perform a more limited type of survey.

The course was run through SFCC, but was hosted and led by The Galloway Fisheries Trust (GFT), based in Newton Stewart.  The GFT has been established for over a decade and have three full time biologists working form them along with a part time receptionist. The current biologist team led Jamie Ribbens, with Jackie Graham and Rowan Armstrong have over thirty years of experience in fisheries biology and host the course annually.  The course was split into field work, practical assessments, presentations and a written assessment at the end of the last day.

The other attendees of the course were in a similar situation to me having just joined a trust and requiring accreditation in habitat surveying.  This proved to be very useful and good contacts were established with members of the Outer Hebridean Trust and the Ness and Beauly Trust.

The course required that you were familiar with the manual and external sources of literature, which although familiar with most of the content refreshing myself with this still took up the majority of Monday.

The main criteria to be observed and recorded in the HS are as follows, figures were recorded either in metres where applicable or as a percentages of the total figure.

1.       General information (Location, date, surveyor, water level)

2.       Channel Data

·         Water Depth, Substrate Type, Channel Features, Flow, Canopy Cover

3.       Left and Right Bank Data recorded in separate sections.

·         Bankside fish cover, General bankside status, Riparian zone

4.       Pollution points

5.       Obstacles

6.       Channel/Bank modifications

7.       Spawning locations

After completing the data on the sheets for the site you would then continue to survey the rest of the river working using the same process. This can be very time consuming but will give the highest volume of information on the current status of the river and habitat at that time.

I thoroughly enjoyed the course and shall shortly be applying some of the skills learned on this course whilst carrying out some habitat surveys on the Don and its tributaries once the water level has dropped.

In other news there have been a few sea trout taken from the river in the past few weeks mainly to the lower waters including Grandholm, the ADAA and the Aberdeenshire Council waters, but there have been fish further up.  A few salmon have been caught in the upper reaches as well as those lower down, but due to the lack of fishing for salmon the numbers caught have been low.

Next week i’ll be meeting with the Chairman of the Rivers and Fisheries Trusts for Scotland (RAFTS) producing some grant applications and meeting with the bailiff team.

Cheers Jamie


Week Five, 13/07/09.

Week five started with a meeting with the Rivers and Fisheries Trusts for Scotland (RAFTS) Director, Callum Sinclair. I was joined by two other directors of the River Don Trust my line manager Dave Gordon and the scientific advisor Dr Sam Martin. Callum was kind enough to visit us at the new office, bring some visual aids with him to brighten up the bare office walls and inform visitors of issues such as the Salmon life cycle and Salmonid Identification chart.

With Callum we discussed the initial establishment of the Trust and our short term plan. He gave us a few pointers from the experiences which he gained over his career. Callum was originally a trust biologist for the Galloway Fisheries Trust, he then moved onto work with SEPA and was integral in their role in implementing the Water Framework Directive and developing SEPA’s River Basin Management Plans (RBMP).  We’ve recently been consulted on the NE (RBMP) with regards to the status of the River Don Catchment and the various actions due to be implemented to enhance catchment. The document is currently under review and will be produced next year.

Callum also provided information on RAFTS funding which is available to the Trust. The funding is part of a package of funding made available to Fisheries Trusts in Scotland through the Scottish Government. The funding a total of £1.2m over three years is distributed to the trusts through RAFTS. Each Fisheries Trust has an equal sum of money available to them no matter what scale they are or resources they already have. They then apply to RAFTS with project briefs for specific works and the funding is allocated accordingly. There are several projects areas outlined on the RAFTS site www.rafts.org.uk  The main themes at present are the establishment of Fisheries Management Plans, genetic sampling, obstacle removal, invasive species control and education.

We discussed various avenues for funding and potential projects. This gave us a great chance to bounce ideas of Callum and glean information on the application process. This would enable us to streamline the application process as much as possible. With enough information to fill ten pages of A4 and the transfer of some files via USB the time had come for Callum to start his 7 hour drive home. We would like to thank Callum once again for his help and advice.

The following day I was office bound, going through the notes i had made from the previous days meeting with Callum. Half way through the day I had the pleasure of being joined by the Cluny Castle estate gamekeeper Dave Meldrum. Dave had popped into discuss some Invasive American mink control on the Estate, on the Cluny/Ton burn in particular. The burn runs right past the office and has some good habitat on it for Salmon, although the majority of it is very trouty water. I have yet to survey the whole burn but this meeting enabled me to gain permission to a large area in one go. (More information on this in due course) Dave was very interested in monitoring and controlling Invasive American mink on the estate and we quickly established a plan. He intends on trapping on several rafts across the estate and complimenting this with traditional trapping methods, he is also keen to spread the word across the catchment to his colleagues and peers. It’s understood that mink have a devastating impact upon salmonid parr especially during the winter period where salmonids are in almost tauper like states in the freezing waters. Their impact upon other species should not be overlooked as well; the water vole is the most threatened mammal in the UK at present partially due to the American mink, and the more common ducks and moorhens obviously suffer great losses of chicks to these voracious alien predators.

Evidence! American Mink (female) caught in trap on mink monitoring raft, the mink left its prey (a small trout) outside before entering the cage trap.

The next day I met with one of the trust directors, Dr Sam Martin and the River Superintendent, Jim Kerr, to discuss the forthcoming genetic sampling plan. The meeting was very successful and resulted in plans being made for the collection of the samples from several sites and an appropriate procedure established to standardise the collection. Jim was a great source of information again, his insight and knowledge is vital to the outcomes of this and other projects.  We also discussed the current Electro Fishing programme. Electro Fishing is the best method of obtaining samples for the genetics project. It enables you to sample specific areas, access the different age classes and suspected runs of fish i.e. Spring/Autumn all by taking a small clip of a fry or parr’s fin then returning the fish alive.  The Don DSFB Electro Fishing programme is due to start in August, weather dependant (More on this in due course).

I finished the week with some office work and a meeting with University student Andrew Gauldie. This was the second stage of an interview regarding the roles of various organisations and groups involved with the aforementioned River Basin management Plan. Andrew is carrying out this work as part of and MSc in Environmental Management; he hopes to identify procedures to make process such as the RBMP consultation more effective by encouraging the government and other bodies to communicate their documents to a wider audience and producing a copy which is easily understood by all. (More on this in due course)

Next week I’ll be meeting with some members of the Inverurie Angling Association, following up on links with the Water Vole conservation and Mink Control Project and producing some outline grant proposals.

Cheers Jamie




Week Six, 20/07/09.

Week six started with a meeting with my old boss and project manager for the Cairngorms and NE water vole conservation and mink control projects Prof. Xavier Lambin. The aim of the meeting was to finalise the arrangements for my replacement and to establish the current situation of mink control across the Don catchment.  At present the Don catchment is very thinly covered in terms of mink control in comparison to its neighbours the Ythan and Dee. The Don is now targeted for the next phase of expansion under Prof Lambin’s mink control project. This is a great boost for the Trust as it not only offers resources and support from the project officer but it will enable the trust to quickly establish the extent of the problem and we will where possible assist in monitoring, controlling and spreading the word about mink.

The week was dominated by poor weather and as result very high water levels. This unfortunately is not good conditions for survey work and therefore I pushed on with office based work. Through the week I continued to work on the RAFTS project proposals, the Graphical Information System (GIS) database for the habitat and electro fishing surveys. I was also in discussion with the Biosecurity Officer from Rivers and Fisheries Trusts for Scotland (RAFTS) Dr Chris Horril, regarding the hosting of an Invasive Plant Identification Course by the River Don Trust. The course would be open to all Trusts and Fisheries Boards in Scotland and would be run free of charge.

As the week progressed it became clear that the Plant ID course organisation was going to take up more time than I anticipated. I spent the last days of the week on the phone to SEPA, Nigel Holmes (EA qualified instructor for this course) and various landowners, proprietors and farmers regarding suitable site locations, the access to these sites and the production of information for those travelling to the course for next week’s course.

Next Week I’ll be meeting with Chris Horril from RAFTS, Hosting and attending the Invasive Plant ID course on the Don and discussing the River Don trusts role in the Cairngorm National Parks Wetland Restoration programme.

Cheers Jamie




Week Seven, 27/07/09.

Week seven started with a meeting with Chris Horril from Rivers and Fisheries Trusts for Scotland (RAFTS). Chris is the newly appointed Biosecurity officer for RAFTS and has developed the forthcoming Biosecurity plan which is due to be rolled out across all Fisheries Trusts over the next two years. Chris has also developed a series of events for Trust and Board employees to attend where they can broaden their skill set with regards to issues of invasive species be this through identification, monitoring and control or providing advice to others.

One such event was the Invasive Plant Identification Course which is to be hosted by the River Don Trust on Tue and Wed of this week. Chris contacted me when I responded to the course as an interested participant, it was then that he inquired about the potential of the River Don Trust hosting the event. I was only too pleased to help and felt that this would be a great opportunity to meet other trust and boards employees whilst learning vital identification skills. We spent most of the day discussing the arrangements for the course and visiting the sites.  I had also enquired with the Ythan DSFB regarding access to the Ythan for potential sites and a positive response was given. The ADAA were also very helpful in the provision of access to two sites one on the Ythan at Ardlethen and the other at Parkhill fishery by the Don.


One of the first sights on the Lochter Burn, a tributary to the River Urie.

Tuesday was the first day of the course; we were to meet in the Tesco Car Park at Inverurie for 9.30am. After a lot of rushing around and last minute printing of information sheets for the course I arrived early to be greeted by over half of the other participants, they were either very keen to get started or the accommodation I had recommended to them was not up to much. The other participants included folk from the Cromarty Firth Trust, Spey board, Esk Trust, Argyll Trust, Clyde Trust, Dee Trust, West Sutherland Trust and me from the Don Trust. Overall there were 12 other individuals taking part in the course, which was run by the EA accredited Nigel Holmes. We spent the whole day on the Ythan catchment in the vain hope that the water would not be as high as it was on the Don. I had secured some off river sites (ponds and lakes) to ensure that we could still do some plant identification assuming high water conditions. We headed to Haddo lake with kind permission from the Aberdeenshire council but were unfortunate to find anything due to the large volume of geese which were grazing all the vegetation on the bottom of the shallow lake. We moved on down river and tried a few sites along the river getting our eye in on some aquatic and terrestrial plants. The most common plant by far was the Rannunculus or River Crowfoot a member of the butter cup family. We finished the Day at the ADAA Ardlethen beat on the Ythan and the adjacent Ardlethen Quarry Pond. On heading to the pond we were greeted with an amazing 5 minute display from two otters playing in the river in full view only meters from the bank. One group member was fortunate enough to get it on film whilst for some others it was their first sighting of an otter.

My cocker spaniel Jarvis against the Invasive Giant Hogweed plant as an indication of scale.

The smaller non invasive Burbean, can be mistaken for Giant Hogweed in it's earlier growth.

The Wednesday started a bit better but still the water was high and coloured, this made it difficult to find the aquatic plants which were to take up the bulk of the ID work. Again we tried a few spots on the main river and the Urie but the best location was the ADAA pond at Parkhill. The site was full of life and we covered most of the plant types you would expect to find in a still water environment and a few we didn’t expect. Some of the sedges we had seen on the previous day were present but interestingly some of their hybrids were also present along with a few garden varieties of the non invasive sort. Robert Dey one of the Trust Directors and Chariman of the ADAA joined us to give us the guided tour of the fishery. Bob located several species and also arranged access with the owners on behalf of the Trust, thanks for your help Bob. The pond had a high number of plant species present for its size an attribute later linked to the fact that it was spring fed. We finished up the day with a question and answer session in the fishery car park and went over the various plants gathered and used the keys to identify them. Folk departed from there to their various destinations, and we once again thanked Chris and Nigel for the providing and running the course. I felt the course was a great success, in terms of putting the River Don Trust on the map in relation to other trusts and boards and also from an educational point of view.

Going over the samples collected, in this case a small pondweed.

On Thursday I reproduced the information I collected during the course and also practiced the plant ID on some samples from the nearby Ton burn. See images below.

The weather had still not settled on Friday and I spent a day in the office, quite a change for this week. During the course of the day I was contacted by Justin Prigmore from the Cairngorm National Park Authority (CNPA). Justin is the CNPA’s environmental biodiversity officer, he’s responsible for developing and instigating plans to enhance and protect priority species and habitats across the park.  Justin used to work as my line manager in my old post before moving to work for the CNPA. He was in touch with me to discuss the possibility of the River Don trust becoming a partner in a new project which is due to be launched. The project aims to restore areas of historical wetlands within the CNP and several potential sites were identified on the Don. I intimated the Trust interest in the project but also its concern at the potential damage to salmonid habitat. Justin confirmed that he would produce a summary of the project for consultation by the Trust directors before we could commit to the project in any way. We have yet to hear back from Justin but given the time of year i can only assume that he is on holiday at present. I shall endeavour to provide you with a progress report on this ASAP.

Next week I’ll be on holiday. I’m heading away for a week’s holiday and hopefully some fishing.

I’ll update you of events upon my return during week nine.

Cheers Jamie




Week Eight, 03/08/09.

Was a weeks holiday for me.


Week Nine, 10/08/09.


Week Nine started after a week’s holiday. I had spent the week at my family home in Sutherland where I  managed to practice some of the plant ID skills learnt whilst doing some fishing, finishing off the week with a 2lb 5oz highland brownie on the dry fly made it all the more worthwhile.

My plans for Monday had been arranged the previous week and I met with Ben Dixon, local casting instructor, expert angler and columnist for the trout and salmon. Ben is a very enthusiastic fisherman and is especially passionate about brown trout. Ben is a member of the River Don Brown Trout Improvement Association board and is keen to dedicate some time to this statutory organisation established in light of the 1990 River Don Protection Order (see trust website). Ben is also responsible for the running of the Fish Don website (www.fishdon.org) A site which provides information fishing resources across the Don catchment and also sells fishing permits on behalf of the proprietors.

I was meeting Ben so that we could both meet a Mr John Riley from Heughhead in Strathdon. Mr Riley is the proprietor of the Semeil Fishing’s on the Don below the Newe weir and he also operates the Archimedes screw hydro turbine above the Newe weir. It was a very insightful morning learning about the screw and understanding how it worked. I spent some time assessing the inflow and outflow to the screw and the fish guards on each. The two guards were different the outflow having vertically placed bars with an 80mm and the inflow having horizontally placed bars with an 85mm gap between bars. The outflow also had a weighted system should there be any debris gathering behind the gate it would quickly tilt when the water pressure behind the gate became too much, clearing the debris and allowing the flow to resume to normal. The screw itself seemed fairly innocuous the only issue could be that fish may be damaged when passing through the screw. This has been tested by the company Mann Power who produces the turbine and also Mr Riley himself. Both have shown that fish passing through the device have come to no harm.

Intake of the Archimedies Screw at Newe Weir, Strahdon.

Tuesday was spent in the office catching up on paper work after last week’s holiday. On Wednesday I met with some members of the River Dee Team, Mark Bilsby and Dr Lorraine Hawkins. I had a chance to discuss various matters including forthcoming events and also forthcoming plans for next year to work on Sea Trout Post Smolts with Dee Trust. I had a tour of the offices and equipment that the trust and the board use and was introduced to a few of the bailiffs. Altogether it was a very constructive afternoon and I left knowing that the Dee Trust would be there to lend a hand with various issues should the need arise. Thursday was spent in the office working on the desktop plans for the Genetic sampling project, identifying areas of particular interest and selecting potential sites.

On Friday DR S.A.M. Martin joined me on the trip to Pitlochory to discuss and define the genetic sampling project with Marine Scotland. Sam had also arranged to stop of at the Fish traps on Deeside to have a look at them and explain a bit more about their purpose and the information gather over the past 20 years. He also arranged to meet with Dr Alan Youngson a good friend who works for Marine Scotland and has produced some very interesting work on salmonids over the years. We spent the morning with Alan and then met with Dr Eric Vespoor the coordinator of the genetics project and Dr Lucy Webster an old colleague of mine and now the project manager for the genetics project. Eric gave us the background on the project over lunch and we then spent the afternoon with Lucy going through the proposed sample sites and developing a revised edition. We collected our sample tubes from the Laboratory and then left heading back for Aberdeen.

Next week I’ll be helping out the Dee Trust team with some electro fishing and attending a Freshwater and Wetlands group meeting on behalf of the Trust for the Local Biodiversity Action Group.

Cheers Jamie


Week Ten, 17/08/09.


Week Ten started with a day’s electro fishing with the Dee team. Following our meeting the previous week it was agreed that I would be able to assist the team and glean valuable information from their experienced staff and should I require some assistance be able to request for some assistance of my own. I was to meet Adrian Hudson the trust Biologist at the Milton of Crathes where we were to complete some timed electro fishing sites. The purpose of these surveys was to establish the current distribution and abundance of juvenile salmon following the easing of the Crathes dam last year. We carried out three separate sites each with three passes across the location. The fish were stored in buckets moved to the bankside for identification, measuring and counting. Firstly the fish were anesthetised, this enable the fish to be handled much more effectively and reduces potential for any fish to be damaged. The fish are then measured and identified and this information is recorded for each site. We also found a few brook lampreys whilst surveying. See blurry image of one below.

We progressed around the tributary throughout the morning then moved up river in the afternoon to the Dinnet Burn to carry out some sampling across this catchment. The difference between these two tributaries could not be more marked in terms of juvenile salmon abundance. The Dinnet burn did offer a lot more suitable habitat and was also not impacted by any obstructions like the Crathes burn.  The day was very useful and allowed me to further my skills and also observe how Adrian and his team work.

Tuesday consisted of an office day working on the final drafts of the RAFTS applications and preparing for the Habitats and Species meeting tomorrow.

Wednesday started with a meeting at the Macaulay Land Research Institute in Aberdeen, where the NE Biodiversity Officer Estelle Gill is located. The meeting was the first meeting of the reformed freshwater and wetlands habitat group. The purpose of the group is to provide a steer for various projects within it remit, to establish action plans and priorities of work whilst providing guidance and promoting achievements made.  Within the group there are several specific action plans already established the most pertinent to the Trust are Rivers and Burns and Lochs and ponds. See link for further details.


The Trust can feed back into these action plans with the work it is doing and can also provide guidance on specific subjects. It’s important to remember that the work carried out by the Trust not only achieves our established targets but also that of the NE Local Biodiversity Action Plans, a subject which is very important with regards to future funding. At the meeting we also discuss the Cairngorm National Parks plans to restore and establish wetland areas across its extent, the Wetland Vision Project.  More in this in due course.

On Thursday Jim Kerr, Martin Webster and Sam Martin and I all met at the Trust Offices to discuss last week’s meeting with Lucy and Eric at Marine Scotland in Pitlochory, regarding the genetics project.  It was a chance to go over the plans with Jim and Martin, it’s easy to do a desktop plan but without the knowledge of these guys the survey plan may fall at the first hurdle. Jim and Martin pointed out a few problems with the proposed sites and we tweaked them accordingly. We then discussed the aims of the project with them and set out some dates for the first sites to survey.

On Friday I prepared the genetic sampling kit for next week’s surveys and also headed out into the field to establish permissions for the forthcoming habitat surveys.

Next week I’ll be meeting with the new project officer for the NE Water Vole Conservation and Mink Control Project and I’ll be carrying out some electro fishing and genetic sampling with the Don Bailiff’s

Cheers Jamie


Week Eleven, 24/08/09.


Week Eleven was due to start with a day’s electro fishing with the Dee team, but due to the river levels it was deemed too difficult to survey given the conditions. So I spent the morning in the office before heading into meet with Iain one of the Trust directors. Here we discussed the progress to date and discussed various plans of action over a nice cup of tea. After meeting with Ian I headed into the University of Aberdeen to meet with the new Water Vole Conservation and Mink Control Officer, Sarah Atkinson. The aim of the visit was to introduce her to my previous work with the project and to begin the handover phase. I spent the afternoon going over various aspects of the post and establishing plans for the forthcoming weeks.

Tuesday was the first day of electro fishing with the Don Bailiff team.  From our previous meetings we had outlined our survey plan and it was now time to put it into action. Sarah was to join me to meet the bailiff’s and also to provide an extra pair of hands. We headed up to meet the Jim and Martin at the hatchery at Strathdon, where we prepared the electro fishing kit and set off. The first site was on the Nochty Burn one of the more important tributaries upstream of the hatchery. We sampled at two locations on the burn carrying out Stock samples as well for the Don Board. It made sense to make the most of the extra bodies whilst in these locations. I was amazed at the number of fish found in very small sections of the burn. In general twice as many trout as salmon were found but we did cover a variety of habitats within a survey section. The density of the fry and parr was amazing, who said there are no fish in the Don, There were some rather chubby trout in the deeper pools and under the undercut banks which I suspect were feeding on the trout and salmon fry present.  These fish would soon be moving downstream to the main river; due to their size they just don’t have the cover to protect them from predators in the smaller shallower burns.

Jim was in control of the electro fishing backpack and Martin and I were responsible for catching the fish. We collected the stunned fish with scoop nets and placed them in buckets of water. Once a section was completed we left the water and worked on the bankside. Where we identified, measured and recorded the fish caught prior to taking a genetic sample. We only wanted to sample the salmon and so upon identifying returned the trout to another bucket to recover before releasing. The salmon were anesthetised, then measured, given an age class and a small section of tissue was clipped from their adipose fin. This sample was then placed into a labelled tube containing ethanol to preserve it. This procedure was then repeated at another location on the Nochty further downstream and at two further locations on the Buchat and Ernan Burns. The day was very interesting enabling me to get to know new sections of the upper catchment more intimately, whilst working with the Board to achieve not only our targets but the boards also.

Wednesday and Thursday were taken up with Sarah as part of her induction, introducing her to the volunteer base and raft network across the Ythan and Dee. 

Friday consisted of some office work in the morning followed by a site visit to the Goval Burn to carry out some habitat surveys. The afternoon was very interesting, I had first to gain permissions before surveying and after a period of survey work with permission from one landowner I reached a boundary which required a new permission. With the increasing inclement weather I decided I would be best securing permissions for the whole catchment in one go. Following some very interesting discussions with farmers and landowners the job was complete. Here is just one of the sites I went to see in the upper section of the Elrick burn. It seems that a bit of remedial work could be carried out in some areas along side any future improvements.

Image to follow

Next week I’ll be working with the Don Bailiff team on some genetic sampling again and also some habitat sampling and I’ll also be having a meeting with the Deveron Trust Biologist at the office here to discuss various issues relating to both Trusts and how we can share best practice and resources.

Cheers Jamie  



Week Twelve, 31/08/09.


Week twelve started in the office catching up on emails and paper week after last week’s field activities. I took the time to prepare some notes for a tomorrow’s meeting with the Deveron Trust here at Cluny. I took some time in the afternoon to introduce Sarah the new vole officer, to some volunteers in and around the Don catchment. We also set some traps for mink following some signs on various mink rafts.

On Tuesday morning I met with Martin a bailiff from the Don DSFB. Martin was going to help me with some habitat surveying of the Goval Burn. By working in pairs it makes this sort of surveying much more efficient. The habitat surveying method we are using is the ‘walk over’ method, where one surveyor walks a predefined stretch of the burn whilst the other drives the vehicle to the end of that stretch then parks the vehicle and begins surveying himself. When the original surveyor reaches the end of the stretch and the vehicle he then drives to the end of the next stretch and parks the vehicle and begins surveying and so on. Martin and i progressed well during the morning completing half of the area intended to be surveyed. We finished at lunch time as I had a meeting to attend.  Back in the office i met with Robin Vasey and Richie Millar from the Deveron, Isla and Bogie Trust, and Prof Xavier Lambin and Dr Matthew Oliver from the University of Aberdeen to discuss the research potential of Invasive control and in particular Biosecurity across two the NE catchments. The meeting was very successful and I’m sure will be the first of many between the three organisations.

Wednesday was scheduled for some electro fishing on the Leochel burn and Burnhervie Burns. We found that the conditions were not suitable on the Leochel burn with the smaller backpack electro fishing machine and so moved onto the Burnhervie burn location. This site yielded some good parr numbers for the genetic sampling and also the first Stoneloach I had seen.


 Thursday was scheduled for electro fishing as well but the weather conditions were not favourable so instead I chose to work with Sarah Atkinson with mink rafts on the Don.

On Friday I was invited to a site visit for a proposed hydro scheme installation on Lower Donside at the previous Donside Mill Location just upstream of Seaton Park. The aim of the day was to introduce various stake holders to the proposed site and plans for this development and to discuss and raise concerns and issues with the developer’s agent. The water was very high from the previous day’s heavy rain which made the site visit almost pointless given that most of the riparian features were obscured. However the meeting which followed and the information gathered during the day was invaluable. The Trust along with the Board and the Fisheries Electricity Committee all raised various issues with the proposed design and abstraction volume. SEPA were present and as the licensing body also intimated that further research would have to be carried out prior to consent. I will keep you posted on this issue as it develops.

Next week I’ll be working with the Don Bailiff team on some electro fishing again and also with some Salmon in the Classroom topics. I’ll also meet Lizzie Bacon who has established the Salmon in the Classroom programme in the Donside catchment.

Cheers Jamie 




Week Thirteen, 7/09/09.


Week thirteen started in the office catching up on emails and paper week after last week’s field activities. Dave Gordon and Iain Morrison also stopped in for a chat and discussion about various topics related to the trust. In the late afternoon I headed into town in the afternoon to pick up a pair of waders. I took the time to introduce myself to the angling tackle shops in Aberdeen and had a few interesting chats with some of the shop keepers, always a wealth of knowledge these guys.

On Tuesday I was to meet with Jim and Martin at the office with the Electro fishing stuff and my new waders to assist them with some electro fishing on a small burn on Castle Forbes Estate, by Keig. Today were going to be joined by the pupils from Keig primary school whom had taken part in the Salmon in the classroom programme. They had reared their salmon from eggs in tanks in the school then released them and we were now following up on their progress by electro fishing for them at their release site. The site was well prepared for the pupils and we quickly had a few fish for them to identify. Lizzie Bacon the coordinator for last year’s Salmon in the Classroom programme was present to help explain the life cycle and answer any questions, whilst Jim Kerr showed the pupils the salmons distinguishing features and illustrated the Don DSFB’s role in managing and protecting migratory fish.

On Wednesday I met with Stephen the Bailiff for the lower Don, he was to help me with some habitat surveying on the Goval Burn. We were following on from the previous work with Martin last week and aiming to complete the burn today. The weather held out and we got things finished on time even after having a few problems finding the truck at one point. Lots of impediments to migratory fish were identified along with areas for potential habitat improvement.

Goval Obstacles

Debris obstacle

Potential Obstacle, notice perched pipes on either side.

On Thursday morning I met with Iain Morrison, Lizzie Bacon and Jim Kerr, to discuss the Salmon in the Classroom Programme. We talked about various topics from the curriculum to costings to participating schools and had a very successful meeting. It was decided that due to my appointment it would be a very suitable programme for the trust to develop further and after consultation with the other directors it was agreed that the programme was to be coordinated by the biologist this year with external input from Lizzie Bacon and assistance from the Board and the Inverurie angling association.

Friday was a day off.

Next week i’ll be attending a few meetings and continuing with some electro fishing.

Cheers Jamie



Week Fourteen, 14/09/09.


Week fourteen started in the field for a change. I met with Jim, Martin and Steven to electro fish to collect some genetic samples again. This time the weather was more favourable and we completed the samples on the Leochel Burn with relative ease. We also witnessed a farmer replacing fencing on a heavily poached section of the bankside. I’m not sure if it was coincidence or if it was because we had parked the River Don Trust vehicle next to the field, either way it was refreshing to see some action being taken without any request. You never know that section of the burn might just hold a few spawning fish later this year and as a result of that action the chances of any redd’s becoming silted has been dramatically reduced.

Electro Fishing

The result

On Tuesday I attend the Rivers and Fisheries Trust for Scotland general committee meeting down in Birnam, Perthshire with the one of the Trust Directors Bob Dey. We travelled down in the morning to the event which was attended by over ¾ of the other Trusts. Various topics we discussed at the meeting such as hydro schemes RAFTS response to the Sea Lice and Fish Farming debate. It was a very valuable day where I met with and spoke to several other Biologists, including those from the Nith, the Annan and Wester Ross.

Wednesday was another interesting day again down in Perthshire; I headed off early in the morning to attend a SNH conference on Small Scale Hydro Schemes. The event was focused at expanding people’s knowledge on this burgeoning subject with specific topics on the impacts on fisheries. Leading representatives were present from SNH, SEPA the EA and various hydro power developers. The morning was a series of presentations on recent developments and policy. The afternoon was a more interactive session where a series of workshops were held, one of which focussed on the impacts of hydro schemes on fish movements and another allowed us to discuss current case studies with those involved in the development, i.e. fisheries trusts, DSF Boards, SEPA, Developers agents. In all the session was very useful given the current situation on the Don catchment with the Donside Mills proposal and the existing applications in upper Donside.

Thursday was another day’s electro fishing this time on the River Urie to collect further genetic samples. Unfortunately after arriving on site and preparing all the equipment the electro fishing backpack broke down on the first shock of the morning. All was not lost as fortunately Sarah had joined us and we took the chance to maintain the mink rafts on the Urie catchment for the rest of the day.

On Friday morning I worked in the office in the morning and then took the Electro fishing Kit up to Inverness to get it serviced en route to my parents for the weekend.

Next week I’ll be attending the Trust Committee Meeting, meeting with one of the directors Alistair Wallace and a close friend of his and assisting the Dee biologists with Radio Tagging Salmon.

Cheers Jamie




Week Fifteen, 21/09/09.


Monday started with a visit to some raft locations on the Don and Ythan catchment, to further Sarah Atkinson’s training on the subject. We set some traps at sites where we had positive signs for mink presence and will check these over the next few days. I made it back into the office in the afternoon and caught up with some emails and paper work.  

On Tuesday joined Sarah in the early morning to check some traps and assist with her first humane dispatch of an American Mink, the first of many I hope. I then headed into the office to prepare for the evenings meeting with the Trustees. The meeting agenda discussed several topics including the biologist’s update, salmon in the classroom, next year’s open day, water quality issues, and updates on the interaction with the Board, River Don brown Trout Improvement Association and the University of Aberdeen. It was a very successful meeting with all topics carefully considered and discussed with comments from most trustees on each section. Plans for the future were established and timelines set, look out for some amendments to the Fisheries Management Plan over the next few months and some publication of the open day in due course.

On Wednesday I was focussed in the office in the afternoon after assisting with mink trap checking in the morning.

On Thursday morning I waited for the Board team to come and collect me for some electro fishing. I had dropped the truck of for its MOT at Torphins the night before and was waiting for a call from them later in the day to collect it. We headed out to the Urie, using the larger generator this time due to the deeper water and the fact that the backpack kit was still getting repaired. We set of for Old Rayne on the Urie just below the confluence with the Shevock Burn. Here we had access to the burn with the generator and the bankside electro fishing equipment.  We set the kit up and started fishing, it wasn’t long before we had some decent sized trout, a good few to the half pound which were then scale sampled, measured and released. The water was deeper here but the larger kit dealt with the situation with ease having more power to draw fish from further afield, the deeper section of the stream bed and reaching further under the undercut bank sides than the backpack kit. With all the samples for the genetics collected we packed up the kit and returned to the office, I was then given a lift to collect the Trust vehicle after it had passed its MOT.

On Friday I joined the Dee biologists, Adrian and Lorraine to assist with their radio tagging programme. It was an excellent opportunity for me to learn more about this technique. Whilst familiar with radio tracking on terrestrial and semi aquatic mammals, tagging fish was method I was not familiar with. The process also showed how effective and efficient Adrian and Lorraine were when it came to handling the animal, measuring, floy and radio tagging and releasing the fish all unharmed within the space of a few minutes. The information these fish will give the Dee trust will be invaluable in the evaluation of their season extension. More information can be found at the website www.riverdee.org

Radio Tagging

and release

In the evening I met with Alistair Wallace and Phillip Wood a friend of Alistairs whom regularly fishes the Don for Salmon in Sept/Oct and is a director of the River Wye Trust in England. We discussed several topics of interest to both parties and shared experiences. We spoke in detail about the issue of Rannunculus weed and its impacts on fish, angling and how it could be managed. The discussion was very successful as was the weeks fishing with Alistair’s friend’s party of 6 rods having caught and returned all of their 19 fish so far that week, 6 falling to his own rod.

Next week I’ll be assisting Mike Beach a fish pass consultant with the assessment of several obstacles to migration on the Don catchment. I’ll also be meeting with Justin Prigmore from the Cairngorms National Park to discuss his new project entitled the Wetland Vision.

Cheers Jamie



Week Sixteen, 28/09/09.


This week started a couple of days early with some weekend work. I joined Mike Beach an independent Fish Pass Consultant, with over 40 years experience with the Environment Agency and its previous forms to assess the level of obstruction of several weirs on the River Don and propose solutions to reduce their impact. On Saturday we headed out to a weir on the Goval Burn and to a site on the River Urie above Pitcaple. Mike took various engineers measurements at each location, photographed and drew the site and asked for anecdotal references to the water level which were to be corroborated at a later date with data from SEPA. He also suggested several options for passing the obstruction from low to high cost and low to high impact of construction. Mike will produce a report of these individual sites for us which will be available early next year. From this information we will be able to decide the best method to alleviate the obstruction and enhance the catchment upstream.

Goval measurements

On Monday I joined Mike again to look at the two remaining sites one on the Leochel burn and one at the very top of the system Allt Vannich at Delnadamph. En route we stopped in at the Newe Weir and carried out a quick assessment of the existing fish pass at the weir. Again this day was very successful and many thanks go to Jim Kerr and his team for their assistance and also to Mike beach for his expertise over the couple of days. We are looking forward to the reports in February. Then we can really get to grips with the obstacle removal programme.

Delnadamph Dam

On Tuesday I was joined by the Board team again to complete the last of the genetic sampling. We were heading down to the main river at Kintore. The area by the golf course is often very shallow and is a good spot for anglers to cross. In turn it’s also a good location for parr and fry and offered suitable ease of access with the large electro fishing kit and the generator. It was soon apparent that this stretch of the river had an abundant juvenile population and also mixture of other species. The areas of weed provided cover and food for these fish and we had the last of the genetic samples in no time at all. We also found a few other species which was nice to see, those included, Stone loach, Lamprey, Eels, Minnow and Gudgeon. It’s believed that the Gudgeon were introduced as a bait fish initially and have since established a population in the Don. 

Gudgeon and Salmon parr

On Wednesday I headed into the fishing tackle shops in and around Aberdeen to drop off some scale sample packets and scale deposit boxes. I had asked several shops if they would partake in the Trust’s Scale sampling project. They all agreed to distribute scale packets to anglers and also have a deposit box on their premises for anglers to return the samples to. The intention is to have a couple of training days during the winter at the hatchery to illustrate how to remove scales from the fish, without harming them. It is hoped that the anglers will then participate in this programme during the remainder of this season and next to collect information on the fish stocks present in the rod catch of the River Don fisheries. See projects page for more details.

On Thursday I was due to join the Dee team again to assist with the radio tagging programme in the morning but due to the water conditions it was unlikely that they were to catch anything and therefore I used my time more efficiently in the office. In the afternoon I met with Justin Prigmore and several members of the Freshwater and Wetlands group to discuss the Cairngorm National Park Wetland Vision Project. The aim of the project in conjunction with SEPA was to pilot the reconstruction of wetland areas within the National Park. This would be achieved by firstly identifying suitable areas using a GIS programme, then ascertaining suitability and impacts of reconstruction, ascertaining acceptability of the of the proposal by the public and landowners and then sourcing funding and managing any project should they go ahead. The project although in its early stages has been very successful in outlining suitable areas and identifying the impacts. The Wetland Vision Project now faces the hurdle of addressing the landowners and public and effectively working with these stakeholders to reach an agreement. At present this project is a few years away from any actual physical works, but I have stressed that the River Don Trust is involved throughout the process to ensure that the catchment benefits from any potential habitat changes.

I had a day off on Friday

Next week I’ll be attending a conference on micro hydro schemes in Birnam, and electro fishing on the Goval Burn.  

Cheers Jamie




Week Seventeen, 05/10/09.


Following a wedding over the weekend I returned to work on Tuesday, where I spent the whole day in the office catching up on emails and admin.

On Wednesday I was joined by Iain Morrison, Jim Kerr and Martin Webster, as we headed down to Birnam in Perthshire, to attend a conference on micro hydro schemes. The course was hosted by the Rivers and Fisheries Trust for Scotland (RAFTS) and was very well attended. It provided the opportunity to meet several experts on the subject, Bob Morgan a previous FRS Marine Scotland employee and Alan Butterworth a previous Environment Agency employee both of whom have now set up independently to name just a few. They have both offered to provide advice on the impact of any potential hydro schemes on the Don catchment. We were presented to by representatives from SEPA, RAFTS and the British Hydro Board, which gave an invaluable insight from each perspective.

On Thursday I was joined by Steven Murphy one of the Bailiffs and Iain Morrison to undertake some qualitative electro fishing surveys on the Goval Burn. The aim of these surveys was to ascertain if there was any juvenile salmon upstream of the Goval Weir. If there were any it would be safe to assume then that adult fish have passed the weir and spawned upstream of this obstruction. Given the size of the weir it is safe to say that not all fish will pass even in the most suitable water conditions and therefore it’s still and obstruction to most migratory fish. The electro fished for a ten minute period at each site with three sites per Km of water way. We used the information gathered from our habitat surveys to identify the most suitable sites for salmonids and targeted these to ensure the best chance of encountering juvenile salmon. We sampled above and below the main obstruction the Goval weir. Below the weir we found relative high numbers of juvenile salmon and about half that number of trout. We also found Minnows, Gudgeon, Eels, 3 Spined Stickleback all in small numbers at each of the three survey site. We then surveyed above the weir and in the first site 100m upstream from the weir we found one juvenile salmon and a decent number of trout. In the site thereafter we found no more juvenile salmon but plenty of trout and some of very good size for such a small water. We also found some Lamprey; although not able to distinguish if they were Brook or River lamprey it was still very interesting to have found them. A more detailed report on this tributary will be completed shortly.

Minnow and Salmon parr

Lamprey and Salmon parr

On Friday I spent the morning in the office due to the inclement weather I then headed into town to Meet Stuart Fleming, the ADAA Maintanance consultant. Stuart had been contacted by a club angler who had access to a micro fiche machine and some office furniture. I met with Stuart at the ADAA Bothy and we headed off to meet, Graeme Maycock. Graeme was ready with a couple of filling cabinets, some chairs, and the micro fiche reader, which was just what we needed, thanks once again to Graeme for his generosity in return he has now become an Friend of the Don free of charge. Stuart was very kind and also moved the items out to the office with the aid of his trailer so thanks once again for your help Stuart.

Next week I’ll be attending a training course on the Invasive Species Signal Crayfish in Stirling at the University’s Aquaculture department.  

Cheers Jamie



Week Eighteen 12/10/09.


Monday was again the usual start in the office, catching up on emails and preparing for the week ahead.

On Tuesday I was joined by Stephen Murphy again to finish the remaining sites on the Goval burn. For the qualitative surveys we were carrying out to assess the impact of the Goval weir obstruction.  We surveyed further upstream in the tributary and we found more of the same species trout, stickleback and lamprey, but no salmon in these higher sites. What were apparent were the further impediments to migration in this tributary. We had already recognised these during our habitat surveys and they could easily be preventing any further upstream migration. These minor obstructions could easily be tackled ‘in house’ with the assistance of the Board team.

On Wednesday I attended a pre proposal meeting and site visit at the Goval Burn to look at the potential plans for the installation of a Micro Hydro Scheme on the existing mill lade from the Goval Weir to the Pumping Station at Goval Farm. Given the volume of work carried out on this catchment over the past few weeks and the previous attendance at hydro conferences, the Trust was in a very good position to comment fully on the impacts of this proposed scheme. Our concerns lay with the depleted reach a stretch of 1.2km downstream of the Goval weir and the volume of water to be abstracted. Present at the meeting was a representative from SNH, the developer’s agents Highland Eco Design, Nick Bedding from SEPA, Jim Kerr and Martin Webster from the Don DSFB, Bob Dey Chairman of the ADAA and myself. We spent about one hour assessing the site at several locations and asking questions then headed back to the SEPA offices in Torry to discuss the proposal. It became clear that the level of Environmental Impact Assessment was an issue along with the volume of flow abstracted at the site. It was decided that SEPA would clarify the requirements for this site and consult its own research team to measure the impact that the proposed flow regime may have prior to any further progress. At the meeting we also discussed the proposed site at Craigpot opposite the Castle Forbes Estate Beat. This site was to again use an existing mill lade and use an Archimedes screw turbine (similar to that at Newe, Strathdon) to generate the power. The impact of this hydro was discussed and site visits were to be arranged to see the location of the turbine and the tailrace. More info and images on this shortly.

On Thursday and Friday I was in attendance at a Signal Crayfish (SC) training course in Stirling. The course was held in the Aquaculture department at the university and was co hosted by RAFTS, SNH and the University of Stirling. The event was attended by Trust Biologists from the Annan, Dee, Deveron, Ness & Beauly and the Nith, along with SNH area officers, SEPA officials and Police Wildlife Liaison Officers. The course was designed to inform participants of the current status of SC in Scotland, the policy and legislation behind SC, current research, control methods and aid in the preparation of action plans for SC. The event held over two days was split into morning and afternoon sessions with practical session held in the afternoon focussing on the identification and methods for surveying. This topic was of great interest to me having previously worked with invasive species, but it was also very alarming given that there are several locations nearby the Don catchment with SC present and also the potential routes of transit being much more open than I originally interoperated. I will be writing a short report on this workshop for the directors and also formulating an action plan for the Don catchment. These will be posted shortly for your information.

Next week I’ll be at the Hatchery with the Board team to assist in catching brood stock, I’ll also be meeting with Caro Middlemas from Marine Scotland, Pitlochory, who is working on the impacts of ground water on Sea trout egg survival on a tributary of the Don.  

Cheers Jamie




Week Nineteen 19/10/09.


I started the week working from home as the truck was in for a service, the usual stuff catching up on emails and preparing for the week ahead.

On Tuesday I joined Martin and Stephen the Bailiffs to assist them with the catching of brood stock for the hatchery. Upon arrival at the Hatchery we readied the equipment for transporting any fish caught back to the hatchery. Once the equipment was ready we headed over the Newe weir to being the process of catching the brood stock. Firstly we opened the sluice gates on the side channel to create a separate attraction flow and encourage fish to enter the sluice channel and pool. After ten minutes of backbreaking work on the sluice screws we left the channel open and returned to the hatchery to wait. After 45mins we returned to the weir and dropped the rear gate on the pool. This effectively traps all the fish in the sluice channel and pool. Then we turned the sluice screws and closed the channel down leaving the water at knee depth in the pool. It is then the job of getting in and scooping the fish out with a net. When the fish are caught they are quickly transferred to the transport tank. After 10 to 15mins all the fish are caught and the back gate is opened and the whole process is repeated.


Stephen and Martin opening the sluice gates


Stephen closing the back gate on the sluice pool and trapping the fish.


Stephen searching for fish in the sluice pool


A Salmon being netted from the sluice pool by Jim.

On the occasion that we opened the sluice gate on Tuesday we did not have any fish trapped in the sluice channel due to the low water levels up to that point and the lack of fish at the Weir. I would also like to thank the Don DSFB Team of Jim, Martin and Stephen for being so helpful, offering words of advice and encouragement and assisting me with various tasks over the past few months. I am very grateful for their help.

On Wednesday I was due to meet Caro Middlemass from Marine Scotland who is working on a project looking egg survival in one of the tributaries of the Don. Unfortunately given the worsening weather conditions I was not able to meet her on this occasion. But I did go along to the site and have a look at the equipment that they set up ready for their experiment.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday were all terrible days with extreme weather conditions the river rose dramatically over this period eventually stopping at 9ft higher than its average. During these days it was still possible to work at the Weir catching brood stock especially now that plenty of fish were present. Over these three days we carried out the same process of working the sluices catching the fish and recording their measurements and taking samples etc. In all we had over 80 cock salmon, 40 hens, 20 brown trout and 15 sea trout. Given the dramatic conditions it was a very successful few days. The Board team of Jim, Martin and Stephen are still up there working with the fish until they have adequate numbers of brood stock ready for stripping. Then the next stage of the hatchery work will begin, but that’s another weeks Blog.

Next week, I’ll be having a Health and Safety meeting with the Edwin Third river operations manager from the Dee, I’ll also be out and about at the first of the schools involved with the Salmon in the Classroom project.                                          

Cheers Jamie


Week Twenty 26/10/09.
As usual I started the week working in the office, the usual stuff catching up on emails and preparing for the week ahead. The only difference this week was the obvious mess left in the river after the massive flooding the week before. Here is an image of the fish pass (or not) at Newe Weir in Strathdon.
At present we suspect that it’s impassable to the fish but once the water drops and it’s safe to work the obstructions will be removed.

On Tuesday I met with Dave and Ian from the Trust and Headed over to the Dee offices to update our current risk assessments and health and safety policies. We spent most of the morning establishing the various risks involved in the task associated with job and highlighted the areas where we can revise and update our current documents.

I also returned the Electro Fishing kit which was kindly on loan from the River Dee Trust team as our kit is still in for repair. I checked everything over with Adrian to ensure that the kit was working properly in the burn by the offices and thanks him once again for the loan of the equipment. The River Don Trust will shortly be purchasing our own electro fishing kit for next season.

I spent some time racking the brains of Adrian, Edwin, Luke and Blair over a cup of tea and as a result chatted about obstructions, redd counting, hatchery work and invasive species to name just a few of the subjects we spoke about. I would like to say that the whole of the River Dee team have been very helpful and supportive over the past few months, I feel very lucky to have such a helpful group on the neighbouring catchment, thanks Jamie.

On Wednesday I met the first participants in the Salmon in the Classroom Project, the Monymusk Primary School. Miss McGuigan and her P5, 6 &7 pupils were to be taking part I the project this year and so I stopped in to make arrangements for the presentation and hatchery visit. After arriving back at the office I continued to work on the presentation for the Salmon in the Classroom project. Having prepared the presentation previously it was just a matter of fine tuning to get it correct. I popped into Aberdeen to speak with Dr Sam Martin one of the Trust directors who had previously carried out this project for with other schools.

On Thursday I met Miss McGuigan and her P5, 6 &7 pupils at Monymusk School. The presentation went well and was received well by the pupils with interest from other staff members as well. The pupils were very excited about the forthcoming visit to the hatchery and the salmon eggs that they are to rear up to fry. I spoke to some of the kids about the salmon’s life cycle, the problems faced by salmon in the river and about food chains associated with the river. I had some very interesting questions with a few of the kids already knowing the score when it came to salmon and the river itself. Two of the kids spoke about the salmon ladder they had seen at Pitlochory and the ascending fish they had seen in the observation chamber, whilst other spoke of seeing otters eating fish in the river.

On Thursday evening I attended the Don DSFB AGM held at Lochter Fishing and Adventure Centre, Oldmeldrum. The event was well attended with over 30 representatives from proprietors, committee members, staff, Trust directors and anglers. The Chairman’s report for Alistair Wallace gave a very informative account of the actions of the Board over the past year. Jim Kerr River Superintendant also gave a very descriptive account of the Board staff’s activities over the past year. The session was finished with a guest speaker, on this occasion it was Trust chairman Dave Gordon. Dave gave an excellent presentation describing the objectives of the River Don Trust, its relationship with the Don DSFB and the River Don Brown Trout Improvement Association and the Trusts activities across the catchment. The presentation was well received with questions taken by Dave and I afterwards. In all the evening was very successful and I would like to thank the Board for accommodating us and being very helpful over the past few months.

On Friday I met with Mrs Shepherd and the pupils from Midmar Primary School. Midmar is another of the schools participating in the Salmon in the Classroom project. This school lies on the boundary between the Don and the Dee catchments and I clarified with the Dee Trust that any work carried out with the project would be on the Don catchment, in line with responsible catchment management.


Some pupils from Midmar Primary School listening to the Salmon in the Classroom presentation.

Next week I’ll be presenting to more schools, hopefully weather permitting starting some redd counting and meeting with SEPA regarding the assessment of hydro schemes in the upper Don.

Cheers Jamie



Find out about the development of this website with Evisk