Sunday, 30 May 2010

Millie Begs For It

Our little lost duckling has made quite an impact on Millie. She is besotted with the duckling and is convinced it's the best squeeky toy she has ever heard ! A few more Awwww pics, and short video of Millie begging for it ! Enjoy.

Friday, 28 May 2010

The Heron - Natural Born Killer

Like Silent sentinels standing motionless with infinite patience, this is the classic view we all have of the Nairn riverside Heron. They are admired by many and feared by most riverside birds, including the ducks and even the mighty Swans. A close look at that bill shows a long evolutionary honing in the art of catching and killing. Having seen another eel being dispatched today, I thought I would give you a selection of shots that I have taken over the years !

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Thw Awwwww Post

The river ducklings are doing well and I noticed yet another large brood of 11 last night. This brings the total surviving so far to 49. This is quite a turnaround from last year and down to several factors. The ducks have cottoned on to the using the island and moat as a place of safety, the gulls are all nesting at the moment, and people have heeded the warnings about trying to feed tiny ducklings during these vital months, all credit to them!

Within a few short weeks the ducklings should be big enough to avoid being taken by predators.

I still have the duckling that was lost and given to me, and it has settled in nicely. I could not resist taking a few shots of the little beauty with Millie my dog - what a fantastic natured dog she is, proof that predators and prey can be managed to co - exist !

I am sure she would love to pick up the duckling but is strictly verboten !

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Another Cygnet Killed

It appears another Cygnet was killed early this morning in the harbour. The Harbour master found the remains at the north end side, close to where the parents were sitting. Last night I saw them in the harbour about 9pm and they were all feeding happily, this was in spite of provocation from some kayaks. This however may have prevented them from leaving the harbour to go to the nest site. We are now down to 4 cygnets from a total of 8 eggs laid within the first week ! I hope we have no more casualties. This spot in the harbour is very dangerous, because it's directly below a large refuse bin which is constantly surveyed by crows and seagulls.
The local newspaper the Nairnshire Telegraph, has a photo showing the cygnets under attack from a crow only a few days ago at this exact spot ! The reason for that attack was because a woman threw large pieces of bread on top of the cygnets. This is extremely foolish when swans are out of the water, they are slow and cumbersome and are unable to protect from a quick Aeriel attack. PLEASE DONT DO IT !

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Remedial Work and New Ducks.

Taking advantage of the glorious weather, I took a spade and wellies down to the Swans Island and did a bit of remedial work. The low river conditions means that the moat water level is so low that the cygnets have a job trying to get out of the water onto the bank. I cut some sods and placed them at the likely spots used by the swans, also filling some holes on the pathway to the nest. I finished off by cutting out some giant hog weed that sprouted on the island - river is getting infested with the stuff !

I noticed a new brood of 13 ducklings arrived yesterday, and have headed to the island to join the 3 other broods there.

The new brood I think are missing one duckling which seemed to have got lost in harbour street ! Someone gave me the duckling yesterday, but I could not reunite it with the brood because they had gone to the opposite side of the island and the tide was in. I had no choice but to take it home and settle it into a brooding box. I will either try and get it back to the brood, or keep it for 6 weeks or so until it is able to safely fend for itself.

The duck population is better this year, so far we have 35 surviving but these will not be fully safe for another 3weeks.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

It's a Jungle out There !

The 5 cygnets appear to be okay, but the weakest one tends to get onto Mum's back as often as allowed. It is getting stronger and more able to tackle the arduous journey through the jungle terrain to and from the nest site. Enclosed pictorial journey from nest site yesterday. Also a short video for those of you who haven't yet seen the wee beauties.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Luck be a Lady !

I would like to thank the lady who saved one of the cygnets by her common sense actions this morning. Apparently a Lady walking her dog about 9am this morning, saw a hoodie crow holding one of the cygnets by the neck - she shouted and threw a stone towards it and the crow dropped the cygnet which then clambered up the slope to the nest!

I suspect it is the same cygnet that I had to help onto the island yesterday, because it could not get onto the steep island bank. This cygnet may just be inherently weak, or it may have been accidently trodden on by one of the adult swans. Whatever, it deserves the chance to survive and it appears the pen thinks the same. Today having been told that the crows had taken another cygnet and there were only 4 left I was somewhat depressed. This seemed the case when I saw the parents coming up the river into the harbour with only 4 cygnets in tow. Even this afternoon when the pen got off the nest and took the cygnets to the water only 4 were seen swimming and feeding. I was overjoyed when a 5th cygnet popped out of her back and took to the water ! The Pen was obviously nursing the weak cygnet !

I am delighted because yesterday I was obliged to help the weak one onto the island grass bank, watched by the parents who knew I was not a threat.

This morning after consulting with Swan experts down south, I removed the 2 remaining eggs which had been abandoned by the pen early this morning. Sure enough the smell was obvious that these were not going to hatch ! The pen can now get on with the business of rearing the fabulous 5 !

For those of you who have asked "how big is a Swans egg?" The answer is in the photo, a tennis ball lies between the two eggs !

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

5 Cygnets Left

The pen is still sitting on two unhatched eggs, she laid 8 in all, only 6 hatched . She is still calling the cygnet killed by the hoodie crows. They obviously did'nt see the killing take place, but if they did they were reluctant to leave the nest and the other 5 survivors.

One of the cygnets is weak and had great difficulty climbing up to the nest today, they really need to get into the water on a permanent basis and start eating otherwise they will all be at risk.

If the two remaining eggs dont hatch by tomorrow then I will have to remove them, to stop the Pen having to keep sitting on them.

After 4 days since the initial hatching it is unlikely that they will now produce any life.

A Short video showing todays brief dip in the moat, you can hear the pen calling the lost cygnet.

Hoodies Kill Cygnet

What should have been a perfect day to complete the cygnets hatching turned out to be a tragedy. Tueday I watched the nest site and newly hatched cygnets for several hours, 6 at the last count about 4.30 in the afternoon. The pen was still sitting but decided it was time for the 6 to get to the water for the first time. She led them down but turned back because one cygnet would not leave the nest. The cob took charge over the 5 down by the waterside and the pen sat back on the nest beside the reluctant cygnet. After a few minutes the cob led them back up to the opposite side of the nest, which is higher. The cygnets would not climb up to the nest, so sat down beside the cob a few feet away. All seemed under control so I headed home for dinner.

When I returned at 7pm, I was told by two residents who overlook the nest site of the tragedy.

Apparently minutes after I left the cob took the cygnets down to the moat for a dip, after a few minutes he climbed back up the steep slope to the nest followed by 4 of the cygnets but two remained swimming in the moat trying to find a way out of the water. One of them went to the end of the moat out of sight of the swans and was pounced on by 3 hoodie crows who tore the cygnet to pieces!

After 7 weeks sitting incubating those eggs and hatched for a matter of hours, to end up being torn to pieces by crows is to my mind unacceptable.

I cant tell you how angry I was when told of this news !

These hoodies have built a nest right above the swans nest site and have to go ! They are causing carnage on this part of the river and the situation will only get worse if allowed to !

The pressure is on the swans to get the cygnets into the water to feed, because the yolk sac that has sustained them until now will have been used up. The dilemma is caused because not all the eggs have yet hatched, so the pen is reluctant to leave them but must allow the new cygnets to survive by getting them to the water. Tomorrow will be crunch time and any eggs remaining will either hatch or probably be abandoned to save the hatched cygnets.

I have enclosed a photo showing the fluffy remains of the hoodies attack, as well as some shots of what should have been a perfect day.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Cygnets Arrive !

After a long incubation the Cygnets have finally started to hatch, 4 today as far as I could tell but no doubt more tomorrow. The weather is perfect for the new arrivals, and the cob is keen to get them into the water, probably later today.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Marvellous Mallards

Warmest sunniest day so far this year, long may it continue ! Conditions are benign for the river wildlife, and not a moment too soon for all the new life thats appearing.

I am amazed at the Mallard ducks ability to look after so many ducklings, especially the mother with 19, although I think she may have lost a couple earlier tonight after going upstream to the merryton bridge. The mother ducks are getting smart though, and using the island and moat as a sanctuary at night and haven during the day. They are also getting wise to the hoodies, and wont tolerate them any where near the ducklings. Today I saw the mother of 19 react instantly to a hoodie crow that landed about 10 metres from her brood - by running to the attack. The other mother with the 4 eldest ducklings gave me a fantastic display of awareness and attacking ability when she jumped out of the water and grabbed a blackheaded gull by the rear end ! It got too close to the ducklings and was unable to escape the ducks grasp , it screeched and flapped and only escaped minus several feathers around it's rear end. The funniest thing was the duck trying to spit out the feathers, it was a truly unforgetable moment which would have been great to capture on camera !

I think the cygnets hatching are imminent, and I fancy a similar number to equal last years !

Friday, 14 May 2010

19 Quackers

Yesterdays post was looking good for ducklings appearing on the lower river. Today surpasses that with a brood of 19, it was in fact twenty this morning - but a hoodie crow took one at the merryton bridge about 11.30. I think this brood is actually the mother with 11 in yesterdays post that has taken on another smaller brood, this sometimes happens as a sort of kindergarten for ducks !

The confirmed count today was 19 plus 7 plus 4 = 30 surviving so far. Losses that I know about are 6 + 7 + 3 + 2 = 18. This ratio will almost certainly change in the crows favour !

The herons have a steady supply of salmon parr at the moment, which are heading downstream in their thousands.

It will be at least another 4 weeks before the ducklings I saw today are safe from predators. With the favourable tides and weather we could well see several new broods over the coming weeks.

The Ducks appear to be making full use of the swans and island, for protection from the likes of the Heron and crows. This protection should continue for some time yet since the cygnets have not yet hatched.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Magnificent Eleven

What a lovely sight today to see 11 new ducklings take to the water. The weather is hardly benign though, with warmth non existent reducing the amount of insects available.
The mother duck with 11 new ones was warily looking out for any dangers.

Our other duck Mother, has still managed to hang onto 4 ducklings from her original 11 and today fended off a surprise attack by a hoodie crow.