Tuesday, 30 June 2009

twa can play sometimes silly etc.

Anyone can make a comment on the content of my blog if they wish. Most of my blog will consist of photos , experiences and personal opinion on things that matter to me, that's the whole idea of having a weblog. I wont be drawn into third party attacks on me or my blog through the likes of the gurn from nurn.

I also dislike anonymouse < (not a mistake) comments, it might suit the way the Gurn operates but i prefer the Scots way of doing things.

Twa gurn roving reporters waiting to interview the hoodies - whilst contemplating if Sainsburys have a big flat roof and plenty of cheap white bread as advertised.
Young gull chicks feeling the heat.

This time last year was cold and wet!

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Annus Horribilis for the Ducks

By the end of June i was hoping to report a bumper year for Ducklings on the River.

Sadly it has been a truly awful year, with carnage on a massive scale!
With around 100 having hatched to date, only 6 below the road bridge have survived so far.
The enclosed pic of the last survivor with it's incredibly brave mother is typical of the survival rate in this part of the river. I called the Mother duck brave because she has fought time and again to keep her brood safe. I have seen her fly at one of the Swans that was threatening to grab her offspring. A couple of visitors were visibly upset when they saw a black backed gull attack and take one of the last two chicks, the mother grabbed the gull by the wing and quacked furiously but the gull escaped with the chick.
I have occasionally heard that ducks are poor mothers, but on the evidence i have seen i think not.

The Balance between predators and prey has now tipped firmly in favour of the predators.

The evidence can be seen on the figures for the past few years, in 2007 out of 68 observed hatching's 32 survived the season. In 2008 about 75 hatched and 23 survived, followed by 6 survivors out of 100 this year!

As well as the ducklings, 2 adult mothers were killed by human hands, one of which was probably sitting on eggs. Another 2 mothers have damaged wings.

The Creek between the merryton and bailey bridges is now a valley of death for young ducklings. Hoodie Crows have established a nest in the spruce trees directly opposite the Swans island and have systematically targeted all ducklings in this area. The two herons have taken many chicks, so too the black back and herring gulls.

I have warned for some time about the dangers of feeding the gulls in this area, and those gulls that have successfully taken ducklings will continue to do so for years to come.

Even people feeding young black backs that stand innocently on the river path, are in effect encouraging them to came back to the area in future when they are much more deadly to other birds. We now have a colony of gulls at merryton and many people are unaware that gulls are predators and eat other small birds!

It is obvious the Duck population will decline if the predators continue killing at their present level.

When i first heard about the plan to cut down the spruce trees on the lower river, i was vehemently against it. However my gut reaction has now changed in favour of the idea.

It would deprive the hoodie crows nesting ability on this stretch of the river, in addition it would open up the river view to passers by, which in turn would keep the herons on the move at the island hotspot. Planting deciduous species, and various bushes and shrubs, like gorse, broom , honeysuckle for fragrance and colour etc, would be much more attractive and beneficial to other bird species.

The spruce trees might add a bit of contrast in the winter, but nesting for the crows is too damaging to the ducks and other species. They also killed one of the cygnets which weighed about a pound and a half at the time!

Hoodies on top of the spruce overlooking the creek. The nest is in the one on the right about 5 feet from the top.

This hoodie is a water specialist !

Having a tree as a landmark would be better placed away from the riverbank, and should also be a native species.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

To a Feather

Today reminded me of a hot summers day in London, in the 1960's when i was sunbathing on Hampstead heath. A light breeze was blowing and a small shimmering feather came tumbling across the grass towards me, stopping just inches from my face.

Through the bright sunshine i studied the sheen and ribs of the delicate structures, and thought of the everyday things in our world that we ignore and take for granted.

Returning to my bedsit that night i penned the following verse.

In the past you've had you're use, for weapons of war and for signing the truce.

A delicate part with a lovely sheen your natural purpose no one can deny, indeed man thought how else can one fly ?

Through the years he conquered that, and now i write your epitaph, but wait your life has not gone yet, you can help the angler fill his net.

No frontier can bar your way, i doubt if man will see that day.

Unlike us you need not apply, for passports or visa's but, just take off and fly.

Your value to man is unlike lead but he forgets where he rests his head, from mankind your thanks is due, I'll remember that - when i rest on you !

The photo is of a feather from the Pen (female Swan) which i picked up the other day. She has now moulted and will be flightless for the next 6 weeks. The Cob ( male Swan ) is now more aggressive than usual because he has the responsibilty of the 8 cygnets and also a flightless Pen to guard as well !

He will always place himself between any threat and his family, so beware !

Nature and evolution has worked wonders, so that the Pen and Cob lose their flight feathers at different times in order that one of them can always fly to defend their young. When the Pen is flying again the Cob will shed his old flight feathers in about 6 weeks time.

The feather above was the type of writing tool used for over a thousand years until about 1810.

Hence the name Quill Pen.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Saving the Planet

I note with interest that the Scottish Government agreed a 42% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, is this true 20x20 vision?


We are a small country but Scotland has always punched above it's weight, and I hope others will follow.
The one good thing about getting older is that you have an abundance of hindsight, and hopefully a little bit of accrued wisdom as well.
I'm only in my sixties but when i was a kid, our milk still got delivered by horse and cart, there were very few cars, no plastics, no TV, no phones for the masses, gas street lighting, no central heating, no running hot water, outside toilets, rationing for everything, and peoples dustbins only contained dust ! Nothing was thrown away, because people had nothing to throw away !
It's hard to get the younger people to realise just how hard life was, just surviving was an achievement in itself.
I can scarcely believe how much the world has changed in the last 50 years, and this is not a long time believe me!
I have no doubt whatsoever that the human race is over consuming, to such an extent that we need 3 planets to sustain the way we live our lives. As you all know we only have one Planet and have no alternative but to start living within our means. This is an absolute truth, both individually and collectively.
The whole reason we are in this global economic recession is precisely because we have not been living within our means.
Understanding the human condition is the first step in recognising where we have all gone wrong.
In my experience i believe that human beings have a built in self destruct button, even if they don't realise it. That self destruct button is quite simply the desire for MORE, it might manifest itself in more money, more power, more clothes, more shoes, more recognition, more fame , more control, more drink, more drugs - you name it, we want more of it !
On this basis, collectively the world is pushing the self destruct button, this has to stop !
We need internationally binding agreements written in stone.
A radical rethink of what we are and where we should be going is needed. All of us should be asking ourselves relevant questions about how we live - like, do i really need 2 or 3 hundred horsepower to go a mile down the road ?
Maybe a whole new strategy of national pedestrianisation should be introduced in all seaside towns and holiday resorts ? This could solve a lot of problems, reduce greenhouse emissions, boost trade, improve peoples health, reduce noise and many other benefits.
Having come from an age without cars believe me we can survive happily without them !
In addition to all the other actions we can take on fuel efficiency, better green homes etc, we do have to change our outlook and attitide to ourselves and all other species that share this planet with us.
With our MORE culture, we are the most destructive species on the planet.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

It' s-warm in Harbour st !

I saw an increasingly rare sight in Harbour street around mid - day. A swarm of honey bees decided to join the dolphin pod at the top of harbour st. These vital and increasingly threatened species obviously found an ideal spot to swarm, and as i watched they formed a large hanging mass in a few minutes.

I wonder if these have been displaced from the links by the bushwhackers mentioned on the gurn?

Saturday, 20 June 2009

History of current Swans

From a distance one Swan looks like another, even to an observer like myself. However given time and close study, it is possible to distinguish one swan from another. The great thing about digital cameras and computers, mean that pictorial records can be made and studied in close detail.

The above series of photos show our current Swans, from when i first spotted them in May 2005. In the first pic i reckon they must have been about 4 years old and looking for a territory. The second pic shows the pen being made to clear out of the river by our previous cob when it returned from Kingsteps.

The third pic shows their attempt in 2006 at nesting on the island just below the road bridge, which failed due to some sort of attack on the nest. The 4th pic shows the distraught pen in the harbour having abandoned the bridge nest site.

The following year they again tried to lay eggs firstly on the river bank, which was flooded at high tide. Then again in the harbour with the same result.

You can see the vain attempt to salvage the nest and eggs laid in the harbour.

Swans do have markings which may be very slight, such as spots and colour differences on their legs and feet. The reason i know this is the same pair since 2005, is the facial markings on the pen. Instead of a neat straight black join between the bill and face, there is a slight pointed area about mid way on what should be a straight section, It is unique to her. The previous Pen had particularly spotty legs and white bony feet, with a particularly large spot halfway up her right leg.

These are the ways i study which swans are which!

I am heartened by the fact that all their persistence and egg laying failures are at an end. They are worthy occupants of the purpose built island, and have rewarded all of us with beautiful cygnets for the past 2 years.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Super Cygnet Highlights

Thanks to Iain from VisitNairn.com for this short video clip showing this years Superb Swans enjoying a feed in Nairn harbour.

New Swan species ?

Sunday, 14 June 2009


For those of you wondering why we have little or no ducklings this year, take a look at some of our river predators in action !

The Hoodie crows and Herons have been the biggest duckling killers this year, both are intelligent and skilled.

Many people dont realise that seagulls eat young birds, and this is why i ask people not to feed the gulls.
Once you create a feeding scenario the gulls will take anything thats floating in the water, including ducklings!

Some individuals throw bread to the gulls to divert them away from the ducks they are trying to feed. This is as logical as throwing a lamb chop to a pride of lions to divert them from a flock of sheep ! PLEASE DONT DO IT.

Other tips for avoiding the seagulls, dont carry a white carrier bag this is akin to waving a flag saying " come and get it ". Be discreet and get the ducks to come close to the river wall before dropping any bread to them, which should be small bits that can be consumed instantly. Dont throw large handfuls of bread that will float around for the gulls. Standing in the middle of a bridge throwing bread is also an invitation to the gulls !

Saturday, 13 June 2009


This years Cygnets are now one month old, and now exceed the size of a mallard. Not surprising, since they have to leave home in 4 months time and able to fend for themselves !

Not to miss out on the Nairn book and arts festival, i thought this one rather apt !

Spotted on my daily river walk, 2 roe deer in mid afternoon walking through the crops.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

100 out for a duck !

Duck Disaster !

You will find that i am not only concerned exclusively with the Swans and cygnets.

Over the past few weeks we have lost in the region of 100 ducklings on the lower part of the river. This is far worse than last year and is mainly due to the large amount of resident predators.

Hoodie crows have established a nest on a spruce tree overlooking the swans island, from where they have total dominance and take ducklings almost at will.

In addition the 2 herons are also dab hands at exploiting the young, along with the blackback and herring gulls which have a colony just below the footbridge.

Local cats and dogs are also to blame. Only today i was told of an incident recently where a dog was allowed to attack and kill a duck close to the island.
The dog owner was approached and remarked that there were "heaps of ducks".

Again i appeal to residents to avoid throwing bread to newly hatched ducklings as they will be taken by gulls during a feeding frenzy.

Recently two of the saddest sights i witnessed was a drake standing over his mate who had been stoned to death, probably by a catapult. He was trying to pull her up from the water and was probably there for several days. She was one of the best mother ducks on the river, and also the friendliest, many residents will remember her standing on the pathway with her mate.

This sort of wildlife crime is wicked, because it was killed not to be eaten but just because it was there.

In addition the sister of this duck was also killed the same way, but not before suffering with a shattered wing. She was also a beautiful and trusting character, and had tried for 2 years to raise a brood but both years all her chicks were killed.

If anyone knows who is responsible for these crimes, contact the Nairn police on 452222 or email me at, jayteescot1@hotmail.com

Over the years i have learned much about ducks and admired their behaviour, they are real characters, and deserve our kindness and appreciation .

Enclosed pics , of our two lovely ducks and some of their past offspring which they will never ever produce again.

A few pics and some highlights of the earliest hatched swans in the UK for 2008 ! Pics will enlarge. The pic with the rig in the background was the last shot i took of the cygnets before they left the river, 22nd sept 2008.


Saltire Cygnets !

Who needs the sound of music with a pic like this ?

Wag - tails !