Thursday, 28 January 2010

High Noon & High Tide for Nairn

After nearly 9 months since hatching the Nairn cygnets are about to get expelled from the river.

The parents have been exemplary until the last few days, and have now turned on their beloved offspring as nature intended. It is time for them to make their own way in the world and join flocks of other young swans where they will pick partners in a couple of years time.

Meanwhile I hope the parents don't push them away until this coming bad spell of weather has passed. Strong winds are very dangerous to young inexperienced cygnets and can result in serious injury or death . It's obvious the parents think springs on it's way regardless of the current weather situation. I think the cygnets are healthy and strong, and have probably enough reserves to get them through the remainder of the winter. They have almost stripped the harbour walls bare of seaweed, and I have been feeding them 6 lbs of carrots and 2 loaves daily for the past few months. Many other people I know have been feeding them as well. I feel privileged to have witnessed their lives over the past 9 months, it has been a joy.
While it will be High Noon for the cygnets, it will be the highest tides of the year this Sunday to Tuesday. With strong northerly winds and the river in spate, it has the potential for flooding in fishertown. Freezing temperatures would hold back any big melt of snow.

The Pen today was particularly aggressive to the youngsters, (see vid).

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Big Garden Bird Watch

This coming weekend is the RSPB's annual big garden birdwatch. Everyone is invited to observe and record for 1 hour the highest number of each species you see at any one time in your garden or local park. You can participate using the RSPB website online form. . This can be done anytime over the 30-31 Jan and provides a useful snapshot of the state of the country's birdlife.

This year will be particularly interesting because of the harshest winter for decades, and a drop in the number of small birds is expected due to the severe cold over the past month ! The results will be released in march on the RSPB website.

I joined the RSPB a few years ago and have done the garden birdwatch before, I find observing birds enjoyable anyway. What I have noticed in my own garden is the lack of coal tits and blue tits this year, I fear they are such small birds they have suffered badly with the cold icy conditions. On the other hand I have about a dozen chaffinch which are regular visitors this year. I have been doing my bit along the river by putting down mixed birdseed and crushed peanuts at strategic locations. It seems to have helped since a variety of birds turn up daily for their food.
On the subject of food, the Cygnets enjoyed a dessert of Spinach today, this was after their usual carrots and wholemeal bread. (see vid )

Friday, 22 January 2010

River Action

The Cygnets are honing their fighting skills and frequently raise their hackles towards each other. The other day they had a play fighting session. The parents are increasingly distancing themselves from their offspring, partly to get on with the business of protecting the territory against intruders, and I suspect getting the youngsters used to separation ! Other action on the river this week included a Blackback gull feasting on a spent salmon, and our damaged duck bill having a dip. It sure is true the saying "Water off a ducks back ", it was like watching mercury running on a glass table !

Monday, 18 January 2010

Nairn Swans Go Global

After my Library displays over the past couple of years, I was asked by several people if I could produce postcards and calendars of the Beautiful Nairn Swans. Reluctantly I gave it a go since I now have a vast library of Swan Photo's on my computer. In spite of the cost of producing a few hundred, I am pleased they have been well received and with a bit of luck I might break even. I want to thank all those people who have bought them and who have sent them abroad to relatives etc. It's nice to know that the Nairn Swans have gone global, as far afield as Australia, the US , Canada Switzerland France etc. I am sure it will have a positive effect on the Nairn wildlife and tourism.

Thursday, 14 January 2010


HAITI UPDATE: It is now estimated that up to 200,000 could have died, and 3 million affected, made homeless etc. Put into context, that's like more than half the population of Scotland killed injured and made homeless in a matter of minutes . Mind blowing stuff !

This iconic image from AP shows the power of the still photo is alive and well, and one can feel the joy from the childs face as he sees his Mother !

Sometimes the usual things that occupy our time have to be put to one side, and other more important things brought to the fore. Today I feel compelled to mention the Catastrophe that hit Haiti the other day. We live in a country and part of the world that thankfully does not have to worry too much about devastating earthquakes. Many people will be moved by the plight of these poor souls who have lost everything, and the suffering of those who are trapped and injured as I pen this blog. Feeling helpless in such a situation is normal, but for us we can contribute by making a donation to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). Their web address is as follows : It is easy to make a donation on their site, or alternatively you can make a donation by phoning their number: 0370 60 60 900 .

All you smokers out there could send them the price of a packet of fags - £5.

This is the only way we can dig deep in this situation, DO IT NOW !

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Swans High Drama !

Since the Cygnets have stayed with the parents all winter I have been asked umpteen times why haven't they gone yet ? My answer has always been that the parents have been keeping them around as insurance, to help ward off the intruder male Swan (Cob) that tried to take over the place last January. My hunch has today been vindicated with the return of the Same Cob into the river.

He was quickly ejected by our resident pair, who homed in on him like a couple of US drones !

The cygnets were all cheeping excitedly and adopting the same raised wing mode as the parents. The intruder at first tested the resolve of our pair by swimming upstream, but was quickly turned round and escorted towards the piers. I note that the intruder turned up last year on the 24th January and was finally ejected on the 8th Feb, he is 2 weeks earlier this year, perhaps this indicates an earlier spring or just desperation on his part . I dont fancy his chances at ousting our pair and 8 cygnets though ! I feel kinda sorry for him, his territory is probably frozen over and he might just be looking for food ! A few nights ago a single swan was spotted on the football field at the links, I think it came down in the dark thinking it was landing on water when in fact it was the reflection of the ice !

Enclosed sequence of photos of the High Drama this afternoon .

Friday, 8 January 2010

Keep Feeding the Birds !

With the Big freeze continuing into next week and maybe beyond, this looks like a new record on the cards. I remember the winter of 1981-2 the temperature locally fell to about -18, however this was short lived and did not last anymore than a few days. The river is now freezing all over except the areas of fast flowing water. In some ways this is a blessing for the Swans and ducks for they are not entirely trapped by the ice, and the Swans can still get at some of the seaweed that is growing on the rocks ! Many other wildfowl will be suffering badly with their ponds and lochs frozen solid. I noticed the duck with the damaged bill is still on the go, she and her mates were walking on the ice earlier today. Garden birds are going through food as if it was going out of fashion, and the word seems to be getting around. I have a dozen or so Chaffinches joining the sparrows, blackies, robins, pigeons starlings etc etc. I also have to put out water daily, for it freezes solid every night. I prepare a mixture of chopped peanuts with wild bird seed, and any old cheese that I grate, along with biscuit and cake crumbs. I urge everyone to do what they can to help the birds through the worst weather for a generation !

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

History Repeating

It was 50 years ago this week when I started my first job on a farm in the Clyde valley. I was 15 and remember clearly having to get up at 5am to catch a bus at 6, to get to the farm by 7.30am.

Trudging through the snowy fields to get to the farm, my wellies were full of snow with balls of ice formed on the home made knitted wool socks. For £2-14-2d (That's £2-70p) for a 5 and half day week ! I was allowed to keep the 14 shillings and the rest went to my parents for my keep. I recall that during the 50s and 60s deep snowy winters were a regular occurrence, and as kids we used to seek out the deep snowdrifts built up on embankments to dive into them ! This winter looks like it will be a record breaker, maybe the start of a mini ice age ? Who knows !

Today I went down to feed the Swans as usual and was damn near blown off the bailey bridge by a ferocious northern blizzard, it was bitter ! The Swans were bobbing around like corks as the waves travelled right up under the road bridge. We have a little grebe visiting, and of course the tufted ducks as well.
Can I remind readers yet again to put out food and water for the birds, this weather is lethal to them!
I recently invested in a mini slicer/processor for £16 from very useful for chopping up peanuts which most garden birds relish, especially when mixed with wild bird seeds !