Thursday, 11 August 2022

Sue Hulbert - The Swan Saver

Twelve years ago, after Penny our resident swan was attacked by a dog on the riverside. I had the good fortune to contact Sue Hulbert. 

 An internet search led me to Fairford Swan Aid, who gave me Sue's number. I had been told that she was an expert on swans injuries and phoned her right away. 

 This was the start of a friendship that endures today, and she is thankfully still the River Nairn Swans and waterfowl Trustee, and  Avian adviser. 

That first phone call and her expert advice helped save Penny's life who went on to rear 70 cygnets until 2020 when she retired and left the river.

 Over the years I have called Sue many times for advice on how to treat injured birds.

 Sue has a swan Sanctuary of her own down in Wiltshire and has over 30 years experience dealing with injured Wildlife.

 As a council ranger has been called on by the RSPCA and Police to rescue Swans , often in dangerous locations like motorways and lakes.

 All the more impressive as she is barely over 5 foot and weighs only 7 stone! 

Time marches on, and like myself, Sue is now in her 70s and semi - retired from wildlife rescues due to health issues, something I can well understand. Over the years she has rescued hundreds of swans and all sorts of other birds and animals seen here. 

Talking  recently , I told her that if there's an animal heaven...she will surely be there ! People like Sue are rare, few and far between, they make the world a better place for all of us. With compassion to educate the rest of us, to see the world as it should be seen. 

Only last year she had a dozen hedgehogs. 6 cats, a parrot, 2 disabled ducks and several pigeons. She will continue to care for them, but the big rescues are now over. I used to joke with her about being the crazy cat lady, but genuinely she is the Swan Saver Lady. 

She paid us a visit in 2013 and is welcome to come again anytime, thankfully she will remain our trusted avian adviser.

Monday, 8 August 2022

Successful Release By DUV...Duck Utility Vehicle

Conditions for the release of the recovered Duck and her brood were ideal today. 

Had to improvise the transport and do the job myself, using the DUV... duck utility vehicle! 

                    It's amazing what a mobility scooter can carry, 8 ducks and myself !  

The mother duck has recovered well from her head injury, and the ducklings are on the verge of flight, as she led them into the river. 

They were accompanied by Disco's daughter who returned to the Trust care home twice. Short video below showing their last bath in the care of the Trust.

Friday, 29 July 2022

Summer Swans

Summer at it's peak, with low water conditions and maximum vegetation growth, makes for easy living for the waterbirds.

 Sue has moulted and Slim will soon follow. 

Meanwhile he is the prime mover and has to take the lead showing the cygnets how to exercise their wings....

                  after a good feed of course!  Short videos below.

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Not All Doom And Gloom

After yesterdays sad news, it's not all doom and gloom here, it was nice to see the injured mother duck and her ducklings dashing around the garden pond. 

Pleased to report that she has made a full recovery and her eyesight does not appear to have been permanently damaged. 

She has just started moulting and they will all be ready for release around the middle of August. Short video below.

Monday, 25 July 2022

Sad News - The Best Laid Plans...

This mornings dreich weather only got worse when I looked into the blind ducklings box. The poor wee thing was laying dead on it's back in the feed tray! 

It was a gut wrenching moment as I tried to work out what had happened. The only possible explanation appears that it had fallen on it's back and was unable to get back on it's feet. I have seen ducklings in the past fall on their back when trying to climb up , then struggle to right themselves, usually successfully. The difference here, was that there was nothing to get purchase on like grass or stones. Unforeseen tragedy and a case of "The best laid plans of Mice and men..."

Although it avoids me having to make a future life or death decision, I have a deep feeling of sadness today. Dealing with wildlife can be rewarding... but also gut wrenching.

Sunday, 24 July 2022

Blind Orientation

There is a great deal of irony coming into possession of a blind duckling, for I am now losing my own sight to a degree with Macula degeneration. The big difference is I am getting old and the wee duckling has only just begun life. It has no idea it is blind and no feelings of fear, it does not know what is up or down but still has it's other senses. 

Having put it into a wash basin for a swim, it started swimming in ever decreasing circles, to the point of dizziness.  It's feet were not on terra - firma and it had no orientation. I have tried to organise things so it can orientate the world around it. A large shoebox within the brooding box, with a food tray at one end and warm bed at the other. 

Heat lamp above the bed area at a suitable height to provide comfort. I whistle and talk to it to provide an interest and communication, lifting it out for a change of scene, which it can only feel and sense through the warmth of my hands.

 The feed tray has to be shallow enough and liquidised in suspension, so it gets food with every dip. The old adage, you don't miss what you have never had, comes to mind.

 Seems happy enough for the moment. Two Short videos below.

Friday, 22 July 2022

Born Blind Duckling

Yesterday saw another brood of 10 ducklings take to the river from a house in Harbour street. All seemed well until it was time for them to head to the riverside the mother duck in the lead, but one duckling did not follow. 

Thinking that maybe it had a leg problem, I decided to take it home for further examination. Seemed perfectly healthy preening and standing upright, but thought the eyes were shut all the time. On closer inspection I could not detect any eyes at all, took it to the Vet and she confirmed it had no eyes ! This is the first time I had ever come across a blind duckling. 

Currently I have it in care until I decide what is the best option for the poor wee thing. Short videos below showing the mother trying to encourage ducklings to jump, and my communication with the blind duckling in care.

Monday, 18 July 2022

Ducklings - Mother Knows Best

Have had several calls for advice on ducklings. Some people are concerned when seeing them in Town far from water trying to make their way back to the river. My experience tells me that Mother Duck knows best , and we should assist only when they are in mortal danger. Some useful things to know about ducks and their behaviour. 

The females often choose a nice quiet garden with shrubs and bushes to nest under, it might be half a mile from water. Her mate or mates will usually hang around the area for a while until she has laid all her eggs , which takes about 2 weeks, then she sits on them to incubate for 4 weeks until they hatch. The mates usually have cleared off before then, and leave her to get on with it in peace. 

With so many dogs around nowadays, secluded gardens are safer than the river banks. The nest area is spotted from the air and ducks have panoramic vision, so they know how to walk back to the river or any other nearby watercourse. When you spot a duck with a brood of ducklings walking through the streets, do not try to make them change direction... they know where they are heading. Helping them get there can be done by walking about 4 metres behind and stopping traffic when crossing a busy road. I have often successfully escorted mother and ducklings across town from the west end to the river by doing the above. 

Remember , don't walk in front or try to lead them, they know the way they want to go. Female ducks by the way are the only ones who Quack, the males don't. If they have chosen a walled or enclosed  garden  to nest, and cant get their ducklings out, they do tend to make a lot of noise and fuss in desperation, that's when you can open a gate or catch the ducklings and let the mother lead them to the riverside. They rarely leave or abandon them, so let them do their thing. 

Newly hatched ducklings do not need food for the first day, as they are living on their yolk sac , do not throw bread to them this will only attract predatory Crows and Gulls. 

If you are lucky enough to have ducklings in your garden, just make sure they have access to drinking water. Short video below.

Sunday, 10 July 2022

White Settlers Settle In

Now one week since Saffron and her brood were released to the river. 

Delighted to report that they have all integrated and settled in with no losses. 

They have drawn many comments and questions as to where they came from etc. I can tell you they are not Albino's, not domestic breeds, but white Mallards, and a likely  throwback from  white Campbells. 

                   It's noticeable that some of them have a few black feathers close to the tail, again another indicator from a bygone time when Black ducks were bred from mallards in the 1940s.

White Campbells and Khaki Campbells were bred for their exceptional  egg laying abilities and are bigger and heavier than ordinary Mallards. 

Saffron and her brood are ordinary sized Mallards. Their habits and attitude are the same as wild Mallards I'm happy to report. Short video below.


Thursday, 7 July 2022

10 Years Of Trust - New 2023 Calendar

 The new Trust Calendar for 2023 is now available.

                  It's the 10th year since the founding of the River Nairn Swans and Waterfowl Trust. I have put together some of my personal favourite images over the years, along with some of this years moments. The Trust spends over £3000 a year on the care and welfare of the river Nairn birds. Recently there has been a sharp rise in the cost of wheat grain, which is the main source of supplementary feed for the birds.  

Trust members can purchase this quality 12 page Calendar discounted at £8 + postage, all profits go to the care of the birds. Can also be purchased at the Nairn Bookshop, and Strachans in Nairn. Print is limited so let me know ASAP if you would like to order, Email 

Monday, 4 July 2022

Independence Day For White Settlers !

After almost a year since Saffron was rescued, during this time she has reared her own brood of ducklings. 

Three of them lovely white ducks like herself are now returned to the wild. 

This was always my hope and  intention , to create more diversity on the river.

 For nearly 15 years I have seen tiny yellow ducklings occasionally hatched by wild Mallards, only to be taken by the Crows and Gulls within hours. 

Now at last they have a chance to survive and procreate , at least for a while.

 Saffron has proved herself to be feisty and protective of her brood, and I expect them to integrate well with the wild ducks on the river. Thanks to Trust members Martin and Ian, It's independence day for the new white settlers !😊 Short release video below.