Sunday, 25 April 2010

Cob for the Job & other Flights

Today the cob saw off another pair of swans and escorted them up over the roadbridge before peeling off and returning to base, top gun couldn't have done a better job ! The Cob takes his role in life very seriously and guards the territory well. He hangs around the river mouth at low tide, and closer to the nest site when the tide is in, ready to chase any would be squatters.

At last a little bit of warmth, and the Swallows and Sand Martins are skirting the river feeding up for the nesting season. It is generally around the 23rd of April when the Swallows appear in numbers, and the approximate departure date of the Geese too.
I was surprised to see a Swallow resting on a bush briefly, something you dont see very often.
I managed to get a few shots of the Swallows and Sand Martins feeding, best I could do with the available camera.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Goosanders Fishing

The Seagull that was attacked by the Hoodies survived until the next day, and eventually took off from the shingle when the tide came in - I haven't seen it since.

The four female goosanders and the one male, are still fishing on the lower river with some success. The recent warmer weather encouraged a hatching of flies, and this suited fish and birds alike. The sand martins are nesting along the river wall and old pipes, and I managed to get a shot of one the other day, neither the camera or my eye are good enough to shoot a sand martin in flight with any real clarity.

However, the goosander obliged by fishing in the moat area, and catching a few tiddlers by way of sticklebacks. They have certainly taken to the island along with oyster catchers and a variety of other species.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Hoodies Attack !

This afternoon I witnessed a concerted attack by two Hoodie Crows on an injured Gull. The Gull appeared to have either two broken legs or was paralysed and unable to use either of it's legs, it was pitiful. The Hoodies were grabbing at it's wings, and one was on the gulls back at one stage.

The poor gull could do nothing except screech and show it's beak, occasionally flapping it's wings.
Finally it managed to get airborne for a few feet to the edge of the river, and the hoodies gave up when it drifted a few feet from the side. It was unable to paddle to the shore and flapped feebly until it dragged itself onto the shingle. This was close to the swans nest site, and the thought crossed my mind that it was probably the same two crows that killed the cygnet last year. No wonder the ducklings wont last long with this pair stalking everything on the river !
The sequence of shots tells the story .

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Sleeping with Jemima & ....Fly Fishing

After 3 days of spring sunshine it's nice to see butterflies, bees and blooms bursting out all over.

The forecasters are already hinting that it wont last, but at least spring has inevitably sprung !

Meanwhile the ducks are busily nesting along with most other birds - all except Jemima and one or two others. I caught her soaking up the rays with her mate, who was blissfully asleep beside her. The other young blondie with the broken toe, was taking full advantage of a hatch of flies that presented a tasty protein and/ or vitamin boost. It was catching flies left right and centre, and lovely to watch a welcome natural scene.
The sand and house martins were doing the same but moving upstream out of the chilly sea breeze.

Monday, 12 April 2010


Maybe this photo will convince the sceptics about Vermin / Rats being attracted to the dumping of vegetables or excess bread along the riverside. Rats will attract cats and dogs, which are a threat to the Swans and ducks. PLEASE STOP DOING IT !

Saturday, 10 April 2010

The Last Post

Sorry to say folks this will be my last posting until the person who keeps throwing heaps of vegetable peelings at the Swans -STOPS DOING IT !

I have come to the conclusion that divulging all the information about the Swans lives and what I feed them etc, is now bad news for the swans. On the basis that a little knowledge is dangerous, someone thinks that dumping inedible pieces of vegetation in front of the Swans island is doing them a favour. Nothing could be further from the truth , it merely passes the wrong impression to others and encourages vermin to the area.

I have done my best to educate the public about the Swans and their habits etc, and even now the museum has my photo exhibition running throughout the summer.

Some people just dont listen or understand, or dont want to.

If any of you out there know who's dumping their peelings, do the Swans a favour and ask them to stop. I collected about 3 lbs of peelings tonight and put them in the bin where they belong.

The Swans will be sitting on eggs for the next 5 weeks and virtually dont eat during this time. THEY DO NOT EAT TURNIP, PARSNIP, POTATO, CARROT OR ANY OTHER VEGETABLE THAT IS HARD, THEY ALSO DONT EAT CABBAGE OR ICEBERG LETTUCE OR BROCCOLI.

So my friends no more photo's, news or posts, until the culprit stops turning the riverside into a dump, and destroying that which is precious to all of us.
This is the last post !

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Swans Saltire Symphony

As promised, some of the mating session shots I was fortunate enough to witness the other day. I took a total sequence of 37 shots in all , and may publish more in future. Enjoy !

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Testy Drake

Testosterone is still running high with the drakes, and fights are still breaking out around the few females that are still not nesting. Jemima's two mates have now broken the truce and are fighting for dominance and her favours ! The Testy big fellow having seen off previous competition and lost most of his neck feathers in the process - has done it again . For creatures that have no teeth, they can certainly get a good grip !

I see on the Nairn birder site that he said the river only had one Goosander previously. Not so, the photo here - I took in 2008 and you can see there are 6 females, and that was in one spot between Whinnieknowe and the granites.

Over the past 7 years I have always seen more than one Goosander between firhall and the sea.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Spring Is In The Air

Spring is trying hard to get started up here and the daffodils are finally blooming, but still lacking warmth and sunshine. The river is rising with snow melt and some familiar birds are starting to return . The swan kept a wary eye on the heron who landed close by looking for nesting material, and the redshanks stood by the riverside while the goosanders drifted by.

The deformed duck is still on the go and looking OK but still with the swallowing problem, annoyingly another duck is now injured with a broken toe at the merryton bridge. By the look of it probably caught under the basket wire at the bridge whilst being pursued by Drakes !

She is limping badly and is only 2 years old and one of the offspring of blondie. I have emailed a pic to the vet and will hear what they have to say regarding any potential action.

I was very lucky today and got a complete sequence of close shots of the Swans mating ritual, the egg laying is in full swing and spring is certainly in the air for them. I will publish some of the mating shots later on.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Duck Deception

Nature is truly amazing, and the more I observe it the more amazed I become. Take the mallard duck and her brown run of the mill colouring, pretty boring really and not a patch on the colourful mallard drake. Nature has of course made them both those colours for a good reason , and when you see first hand how great the female is at camouflage, then you truly appreciate how well equipped she is for survival of her species.
A friend showed me a ducks nest the other day and what a fantastic piece of camouflage and workmanship it was. Take a look at the photo and spot the deceptive duck !

There are only about 5 ducks on the lower river not already sitting on eggs, this includes jemima who is still putting on the fat and flanked by her two escorts !

As for that deformed drake I mentioned in a previous post, his swallowing problem seemed to have eased a little but not gone. I fashioned a piece of netting with fishing line the other day, and went down during that horrendous gale , he was looking for food but everytime he got close enough and saw me reach for the netting he was off ! I will keep a close eye on him and maybe try again later. With the deformity, he is highly skilled at avoiding confrontation and capture !

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Well Meaning Mistakes

The Pen is now laying, and the cob is on full housekeeping and guard duties. She will be laying for the next week or so, before sitting permanently to incubate the eggs. I would like to explain to everyone the importance of letting them get on with it, and do not attempt to force food on them when they are trying to lay eggs ! They have been feasting for the past 2 months in order to prepare for the nesting season, what the pen requires we cannot give her. She is eating algae, river weed, and grass roots with silt and minerals, this is all her requirements at this point in time.

I ask those well intentioned people not to inundate the swans or ducks with heaps of bread and vegetables which they cannot and wont eat ! Since last sunday I have seen heaps of floating bread, and today piles of vegetables which are far too large and hard for either the Swans or ducks to tackle .

The carrots I fed the Swans were sliced about 1 to 2 mm thick, so that they bend easily for the Swans consumption, they live on soft vegetation like river weed and grasses. They will not eat anything that is hard, and certainly not anything that is too big to fit into their bill !

Most of the ducks are now away nesting, and the few that remain dont need the amount of food being offered.

Even at the best of times swans are not greedy creatures and will usually only eat maybe a couple of fresh slices of wholemeal bread at any one time.

Heaps of floating bread will only encourage the seagulls rats, and other predators to frequent the area, this puts the swans and ducks at risk ! Please dont do it !

The right time to feed them is during the hard winter months, when it was freezing with ice and snow.