In the early days of human settlement, the high land from Burghead to the lighthouse at Covesea, and the Stotfield area of Lossiemouth were islands in the Moray Firth. Although the gaps through to the sea silted up over the centuries, by the early middle ages it was still possible to sail from the mouth of the River Lossie to Spynie Palace. This earlier ‘Laich of Moray’ was drained ultimately in the mid-19th century by the Spynie Canal, designed by Thomas Telford, to reveal the flat and fertile farmland which makes up part of Pitgaveny Farms.
Today’s Spynie Loch is much smaller than the original Laich of Moray. The eastern shore at Scarffbanks is the surviving original shoreline, but the north and western banks were constructed in the middle of the 19th century and Spynie Loch, as we now know it, was created for fishing and wildfowling.
Shooting at the Loch ceased in the mid-1980s, and it is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for birds, wildlife and plants. Sadly the thousands of geese that once used the loch for their winter stopover have moved elsewhere in recent years, although they haven’t disappeared altogether.
Birds that can be seen at the loch include several pairs of terns, a breeding colony of black-headed gulls, coots, whooper swans, water rails and occasionally marsh harriers. Red squirrels and otters are regular visitors near the hide.
Pitgaveny has recently entered into a long term management agreement with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (Scotland) to jointly manage the site, assisted by the Loch Spynie Advisory Group.
Photo cc Elizabeth Oliver