Friday, 23 August 2019


No one alive today can ignore the plight of the Planet, from Climate Change to the burning of the Amazon Rainforests, the evidence is clear for all to see. When I started this Blog over 10 Years ago, I was extremely conscious of the damage that Humans were doing to the Planet, and the very first words I wrote on the heading of the blog has been borne out time and time again.

                         I am not on Facebook or Twitter or any similar social media, and can only voice my concerns on this Blog to the wider world. As a member of the WWF, I have been asked to help bring the Amazon Rainforest fires to  your attention to be spread on social media and around the world to stop this Madness. Followers of my blog will have heard me point out before, that Rivers are the arteries and veins of the Planet and have to be protected. Likewise the trees are the Lungs of the Planet, and also have to be protected. We are dealing with life and death on a massive scale and as the one species that are most responsible, we must make our voices heard.
Please do what you can by visiting the WWF website  HERE and at the very least sign their petition.

On behalf of all the creatures and species that are being burned alive right now, THANK YOU.    

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

New Plumage

Penny and Duke have about another week before their new plumage has fully grown in, giving them the ability to fly once more. 

The dog scare last Friday still hangs over them, now avoiding the Moat area. 

Meanwhile the mother duck with 5 ducklings is still keeping a close watch and they are growing.

One of them was feeling the cold and decided getting on top was the answer !

Friday, 16 August 2019

Dangerous Dog Attack

Today was nearly a fatal disaster for the birds at the Swans island. This morning I was feeding the Swans and ducks in the moat area in front of the island when a large Boxer dog came bounding past and dashed headlong into the moat after Penny and Duke, it was pandemonium as all the birds scattered in every direction. The dog was similar to the one shown here.

Penny and Duke fled down towards the end of the moat pursued by the dog swimming frantically to catch them. They dashed over the stones desperately trying to reach the river and the dog was inches away from grabbing them as they ploughed into the river. 

The dog came back to chase the ducks that were still on the island and in the moat, especially the mother duck with the 5 little ones,  she was in the water against the bank and I jumped in front of the dog to stop it jumping in after them. The dog owner was on the path calling the dog, which was totally ineffectual, it was hyper and still looking for something to grab. Eventually a Trust member walking her dogs, was able to confront the dog and the owner finally got a lead on it.
Penny and Duke had a very narrow escape and took refuge in the harbour where they are still  currently sited.  

Penny in particular will be scared, as she was attacked and badly injured nine years ago when she was moulting. 
Dog owners should be aware that 95% of the river birds are moulting right now and unable to fly, this makes them very vulnerable. 
I found out where the Dog owner stays on the riverside and he apologized and assured me he will keep the dog on a lead from now on. I will not report the incident this time, but hold the owner responsible from now on.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Westbury Ducklings Released

With a short break in the weather and river levels lower, it was time to release the last remaining rescued ducklings.

All of them are capable of flight and have been given a head start at survival. They quickly joined the resident ducks nearby.

Disco and I can now get a break, after four and half months caring and rearing 36 ducklings this season !  Short clip of release below.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Five Alive

Surviving on the river is no easy feat for a duckling, predators like Crows, Gulls, Heron, Otters, Cats and dogs, all aiming to make a meal out of them. 

Having a good Mother is essential to watch for dangers and see off any potential threats. 

She will do her best to conceal them and hide them in plain sight as required.

About 3 weeks ago this mother turned up with 9 and has since lost 4 of them, the last was about a week ago. 

They are so slow to grow to a safe size, but I'm hoping these ones will make it, as they are now approaching the safety size. The Mother has done a fantastic job, and passing on her skills to the offspring.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Follow The Leader

Good news on the injured duck I have been treating. She appears to be using the injured leg much more easily now. 

She comes off the nest once a day for food, a quick wash and preen, and her usage of the injured leg is normal in the water. I finished the antibiotic course a few days ago and it seems to have done the job. 

Ready to tackle any drakes that come close !

Meanwhile most of the ducks are moulting as well as Penny and Duke, who led a procession down the moat for their usual feed. The weather has turned much cooler and insect life has disappeared for the moment.  

Friday, 9 August 2019

Ducklings Release Postponed

Climate change once again effects our part of the world with unseasonal conditions, more like Autumn than Summer. The River has been high for some time now and likely to continue for a while yet. I was planning to release the last rescued ducklings this weekend, but High water conditions could result in a disaster for them. 

Being released into a new environment will take them a couple of days to get used to it, before integrating with the resident ducks. 

They are on the verge of flight, but could easily be washed downstream and fall prey to the Black backed gulls at the river mouth. I will have to wait until the river drops and conditions are more favourable to their survival.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Injured Duck Nesting

For over a month I have been treating an injured duck with a bad right leg. 

She first came to my attention by flying onto the grass bank area on the harbour street side of the river, looking for food.

She had her mate with her but was unable to stand on two legs and lay down on the grass. She was only able to hop for a foot or two before laying down again. Treating an injured wild bird in the open is very difficult, as they are free to fly away and nigh on impossible to catch.

Getting an accurate diagnosis of the problem is the first hurdle, and I use the camera and observations based on my knowledge of the subject. Occasionally the duck would put the right leg down but reluctant to put weight on it, she did sometimes scratch her face with it showing the ability to flex her foot. Seemed to me that it was not an obvious broken bone,  maybe a muscle or tendon sprain was the problem.
She flew to me once a day at some point knowing I would feed her, so I decided to give her an anti inflammatory to see if this would do the trick. After 5 or 6 days she appeared to improve and would start to use the leg sparingly, but at least using it. I continued the treatment for a further two weeks, but this did not appear to advance her recovery any more.  

Taking some more photos of the leg I noticed a slight swelling at the ankle just over a week ago. After further consultations and research, I came to the conclusion that she might have an infection, and a course of antibiotics would be required. 

Six days ago I started giving her the oral antibiotics once a day as this was the only way of administering it - twice a day would have been better but impossible to do in the wild. During this time I watched her improve day by day, using the leg more and more. 

To make matters even more satisfying I watched her return to a nest site each day after treatment and feeding. I have one more dose to give her and hoping this will finally fix the problem. The big advantage of her sitting on eggs now, is the fact that the leg will get the rest required to heal whatever ails her. My observations and patience does have it's rewards. Sequence of pics to date.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Rescued Ducklings At Home

Regular viewers may recall the rescue of 8 ducklings in early May by teenagers Haley and Alex from Queenspark. The Mother duck had been killed and the 8 ducklings were only a couple of days old at the time. 

After 9 weeks with me and Disco the foster Mum, they were returned to the river with 15 others a few weeks ago.

Tonight I was heartened to see the 8 flying towards me at the Swans island, landing in the moat looking for a feed.  It was only 30 yards from where they were first picked up as 2 day old ducklings. 

Great to see them healthy, flying and thriving, back home where their Mother brought them in early May, she may have died but her offspring all survived !

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Silted River

The River today was in a sorry condition, heavily silted in spate.  There must have been a heavy downpour up river somewhere, but the volume of silt was something else. 

This is the second time this has happened in as many weeks. Speaking to one fisherman who has phoned SEPA about the volume of silt, probably from Daviot quarry. Will no doubt have a detrimental effect on the Salmon run this year. The waterbirds too, unable to feed due to the heavy contamination. Short clip below showing the colour.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Wistful Penny

What turned out to be a beautiful evening had an extra golden touch for me. 

As the Sun sunk low over the Swans island, a mother duck escorted her brood along the waters edge watched by a very wistful looking Penny. 

She was only a few feet away and had a long lingering look at the tiny ducklings, I wondered what thoughts may have passed through her mind ?

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Missing Cygnets

Summer heat finally arrives in this part of the world, while much of the northern hemisphere swelters with record temperatures. 

Climate change is accelerating, will the powers that be take action ?

Meanwhile Penny and Duke idle away the days with no cygnets to care for. I get the impression that Penny misses the patter of tiny webbed feet.

Monday, 22 July 2019


Based on the previous demand for the Trust Calendar, orders can now be taken for the New 12 page  2020 Calendar Year. All the profits are used for the welfare and benefit of the River Nairn Water birds. 

This Calendar makes a very nice inexpensive Christmas gift at £7-50 for Trust members plus postage. Non trust members £8 plus postage. Can be purchased online using the donate Button.  

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Ducklings Dip

The Westbury road rescued ducklings are now a month old, along with Ray the older one from the beach. Surprisingly Disco has singled Ray out and knows he is not part of the Family of 5, even though they were all introduced as the one family to her. She often keeps him away from the others that she considers her own.

They are now losing their downy hair and starting feather growth, should be ready for release in a about a months time. 

Meanwhile they are enjoying the joys of a summers day, with a dip in the pool and eating my newly mown grass. Short vid clip below.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019


Having no cygnets on the river this year is a bit of a downer. 

Fortunately I have a pictorial record of the Nairn Swans since the building of the Island nest site in 2007. 

Penny our current Female Pen first arrived in the river in May 2005 with her mate Popeye, they tried to nest twice in the harbour and the river but were swamped each time by the spring tides.

Their only chance of success was the creation of an Island nest site that would withstand the spring tides. I was happy to organise and fund the project.

This was started in July 2007 and  completed in the following 2 months, although I was still planting grasses and reeds after that. 

Popeye and Penny took possession that autumn / winter and almost immediately started preparing a nesting spot. As it was new there was no nesting material available, so I provided straw scattered around for them to utilise, this they did early in the new year of 2008. I was overjoyed to see them eagerly preparing to nest during February - March. 

Their eagerness almost cost them the clutch as they mated and laid eggs about a month before normal, and the nest was partially flooded by the exceptional March spring tide. Penny had already laid 6 eggs at this point and she laid another 4 which was just as well, as these were the only ones to hatch on the 19th April 2008. 

Later I learned from the swan convention down south, that these were the earliest hatch in the UK that year. So Nairn had the accolade of the first Swans ever to hatch on the river Nairn, and also the first to hatch in the UK.   I was chuffed that my Island idea had paid off, and would be an asset for the Swans and people of Nairn for future generations.

The following year they had a hatch of 9, one of which was killed by the crows, but the other 8 reached maturity. 

Every year after that until 2016 they produced an average of 7 until Popeye died from renal failure in September 2016. 

Penny was alone for a short while until Duke flew in October 2016, this seemed fortuitous at the time but proved to be not that easy. 

Duke was ill and not eating so I had him taken to the SPCA National wildlife centre for veterinary treatment. He had parasites and was given anti parasitic drugs and antibiotics, made a partial recovery and returned after two weeks. He was still weak and unable to compete with a rival pair of swans that tried to take over the Island site. Penny had no intention of giving up her successful home of nearly 10 years, fought hard and backed up Duke to drive the intruders out. All seemed well and they prepared to nest for spring 2017, Penny laid 8 eggs but these proved to be infertile.

Last year 2018 we had a complete reversal and she hatched 7 out of 8 eggs laid.
This takes us to the current year which again is a complete failure, reason as yet unknown. Eggs again infertile, and she is now about 18 years old. However she is a remarkable Swan having laid over 80 eggs in her time, 70 of which survived to fledge.  There were many adventures during these years and I was privileged to observe and sometimes participate. During the 15 years I have removed fishing hooks, line and tackle from the swans 11 times, once at the cost of a cracked rib ! 
They lost only 2 cygnets to the Crows and one to the Black backed gull, another was injured by the Crows but survived. Whichever way you look at it, a success rate of 9 out of 10, or 10 out of 12 seasons is excellent for any Swan. Their offspring are no doubt well established throughout the Moray Firth and possibly beyond. The photos show each year posted, and we should all be grateful for the joy she has given to thousands in the last decade.