Thursday, 30 September 2010

Nairn Harbour Otter

Rare treat for me this morning when I checked on the injured cygnet down in the harbour.

The Swans were very edgy and the injured one gave a call which alerted the others. I looked around but couldn't see anything, until I saw a trail of bubbles along the harbour wall then the cob started hissing and led the others away.
An otter was fishing along the wall and rose occasionally for air, and to crunch the odd flounder ! It seemed completely unconcerned although it was mid day and sun shining, with low tide it was diving and catching lots of flounders in the harbour silt. This is the best view I've ever had of an Otter doing it's own thing. The 3rd pic shows it finishing a flounder ! The short video's are purely because it only surfaced for seconds at a time, It was a treat for me. Yet another tourist attraction !

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Steven's Bid for Freedom

Steven the Seagull is gaining in strength and confidence, but his repaired wing is still not quite up to the job. Even though living in the confines of the garden, he is still doing what seagulls do and pecks around with the occasional bit of hunting ! Last week he managed to catch and eat a sparrow, probably the one that got too close before. I found a small scattering of feathers and the following day the regurgitated bones and feathers of the poor sparrow! All the instinctive reactions are there, he spotted a Hawk at high altitude the other day and made himself smaller as he headed for the doorway of the house ! He now wants to join all the seagulls that head for the shore at dusk. Tonight he tried hard to fly over the gate but couldn't quite get the lift. I am delighted to have gotten such a result, the day he makes it over the gate is when I'll probably take him to the beach !

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Cygnet Hooked and Injured

UPDATE: Was told today by some Aberdeen holidaymakers that they saw the cygnet struggling and neck twisted backwards in the harbour yesterday. It appears it was hooked on the neck and underneath around the leg.
Today I gave it some Anti inflammatory to ease the leg, but it still can't walk on it.

Just back from the Island moat where I noticed a piece of fishing line protruding from the neck of one of the cygnets. With some close feeding I managed to grab the cygnet and take the hook out. After I put it back in the water it swam to the island and could barely get out of the water, it appeared to have a damaged left leg and was reluctant to put it's weight on it. They all appeared ok yesterday, but if anyone knows or saw what happened I would be grateful if you could contact me. I am concerned that it has maybe swallowed a fish hook, and perhaps someone has struggled with it trying to free it. You can see the ruffled area behind the head where I removed the hook, and the injured left leg. It sat on the island for a while before struggling to join the others in the water.

Friday, 24 September 2010

September Flood Heralds Winter

Heavy persistent rain brought a big spate on the river, from the Swans perspective it heralds the start of winter. The reason - most of the river weed food supply will have gone with the Spate. Huge trees washed down, scour the riverbed and shift thousands of tons of shingle and the weed that clings to it. This is bad news for the Swans because the seafront is now covered with sand as well, so even estuary seaweed is also in short supply. Last winter they virtually cleaned the harbour walls of seaweed such was the demand of 10 Swans. It remains to be seen whether this years cygnets will be allowed to stay over this winter . Two large trees are currently laying across the moat entrance, but with higher tides expected over the coming days hopefully they will shift.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Axe Grinders Attack Swans Island....and Me !

Our Local newspaper the Nairnshire Telegraph has published a piece with some very hostile and misleading comments by some local people. Some of these people quoted in the piece have personal axes to grind, and have seen fit to try and justify their personal grievances by attacking me and the Swans island. To put the record straight I will publish some quote's from the Nairnshire piece on here and let the People of Nairn draw their own conclusions. For the full story check the Nairnshire Telegraph.

This piece stems from the fact that I asked for a few signs to be put up around the lower river asking people to please keep their dogs under control around the wildlife. This request was prompted by the horrendous attack on our resident Pen Swan.

If you read the piece you will see that Councillor Marsden stated That "The Island had been built without approval and highland councils local members had not given permission." WRONG ! The Local councillor and provost at that time was Councillor Liz mc Donald and she did not have a problem with the plan. In addition I sought approval from The Nairn River Community Council which was granted. Also Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH ) which were fully supportive of the plan. Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) were consulted and gave me guidelines which were followed. The Planning officer for Nairn Mr A. Mc Cracken, who consulted with Eddie Grant, who thought there might be a possible contamination problem because of the old Gasworks site. This led to The Highland regional council contamination unit being brought in to check the site, before final approval was given by Nairn planning dept on the 17th July 2007.

As for Mr Alan Barron's comments regarding "the island has become higher", this is untrue and is purely because the vegetation is exceptionally high this year. The lower part of the island with grass has been there for the last 8 years that I can remember. He alleges "the presence of the island and Mr Telfer's regular feeding of the Swans has altered their natural nesting pattern.. etc etc." Mr Barron might know a lot about the towns buildings and history, but he knows little about our Swans. Perhaps I could enlighten him about the history of our swans over the past 8 years.

The current Swans have been coming to the river since 6th May 2005 when I first saw them. Since this was the middle of the nesting time for all swans, we can presume that they were newly paired Swans with no offspring - approx 4 years old. They were in fact looking for a home and nesting site. The usual resident Swans at that time were nesting out at Kingsteps as they had done each year before that. Within days of their young hatching, they would bring them through the golf course and caravan site into the river. (not when they were mature as Mr Barron stated). Since they were out nesting at Kingsteps for approx 10 weeks every spring, on their return each year they had always to drive out any Swans that had moved into the river. In 2006 the current pair tried to nest in the long river grass close to the harbour toilets. This of course got submerged when the tide came in (they were young and inexperienced and were not used to tidal waters.) After losing 2 eggs to the tide, they learned and moved upstream to the island at the roadbridge seeking higher ground to nest. The pen laid another 4 eggs and seemed that it was going to be a success. One Sunday night or early monday morning something drastic happened, and the pen would not sit on the nest. It was either vandalised or attacked by something, and the pen abandoned the nest. Towards the end of May the resident pair returned from Kingsteps and drove them both away.

In 2007 the same pattern again and the current Swans returned to nest, this time laying eggs in the Harbour, again being swamped by the highest tide and eggs submerged day after day until they eventually gave up trying to salvage them, for me It was sad to watch. The residents returned again from Kingsteps into the harbour with their tiny cygnets. This time a battle to the death ensued, because the residents had in effect invaded the swans nesting site in the harbour ! It was a ferocious battle and the Kingsteps Swans lost - all the cygnets were killed and the current swans were victorious.

The Kingsteps swans retreated up river for a week and came back downstream during a spate and drove the victors out. This was when the tragedy got worse, because the Kingsteps swans went back to their nest site and the Cob swan hit a power line at Kingsteps carpark !

This whole tragedy affected me so much I realised the only safe way to avoid such a future tragedy was to have a nesting site on the river. My motivation was to build the Island for the Swan that lost her mate, I knew her for 4 years and hoped she would get another partner. The island was built by mid August 2007 but she was still calling for her lost mate, and one day in late September she left . In October 2007 the current pair arrived back and have been here ever since. So Mr Barron now you know, the natural nesting pattern for our current swans has always been the Island, it was the previous pair that nested at Kingsteps not the current pair. (Since the tragedy no Swans have nested at Kingsteps . Had I not built the island, we would have had no cygnets gracing the river.) The Island has been 100% successful and has produced cygnets every year since built. It was built in the safest place possible and the moat is designed as a deterrent, it can also be seen by the police CCTV camera on the Seaman's hall.

As for the question of feeding them, It does not stop them eating the natural weed in the river and the seaweed in the sea. Although the movement of the sand bar along the seafront has now deprived them of some natural feeding . This year has been a poor year for river weed, due to the lack of sunlight which would usually boost growth. The infill of shingle from up river has not helped either, because the flow of water is shallower and faster which inhibits weed growth.

I do not believe they are overly dependent on me for food. As for the Island being responsible for the build up of sand and gravel, if you look at the river in low tide you will see that the build up is well ahead of the area that I had raised - and is not responsible for it. This build up has been gradual over many years before the island was built.

As for Des Scholes and Ian Wilson's point that I may be making the wild birds dependent on food and the encouragement of vermin. I refute this because the food I give them is consumed immediately in the water and with 125 ducks and 6 swans I don't have that much food available to make them dependent.
The People of Nairn will realise these attacks on me are thinly disguised, and born out of personal animosity.

Regarding the wildlife being an asset to the Town, I think this is irrefutable and something the Town as a whole enjoys.

For the final word on the subject, I asked the Swans what they thought of the Axe grinder's comments , and they gave me their reply in the above photo. ..Nuf said . (See also the offending Island Video below).

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Record Year for Ducks

After last years near total wipeout of the seasons ducklings, this year has been a record breaker ! I had a count of our Ducks earlier in the week and counted approx 125. Tonight what a beautiful sight around the island and lower river, the ducks and swans on a mirror like surface -it was magical ! The previous record a few years ago saw 36 surviving. This year we had at least 50 survivors , the contrast from last years 6 couldn't be greater in spite of the usual predators. Speaking to a Fishertown Nairnite Lady last week, she recalled how years ago there were no ducks on the river at all. She graciously thanked me for all the work I've done with the island and promoting the wildlife on the river, I was very
touched. We also appear to have 4 resident goosanders that often sit amongst the ducks. The Swans have started flight training and were seen flapping up the river earlier in the week. Today they were out to sea and probably flying before I got down there. The pen chooses the best time, usually flat calm seas for safe take offs and landings !

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Eyeing up the Island

Still waiting on the Pen to start flying lessons with the cygnets, but she seems in no hurry at all this year. Perhaps they plan to keep them over the winter like last year, and a possible reason might be the visit of two Swans looking for a new home last week ! Swans nesting territory is always at a premium, and the lower river is always attractive to young swans. Keeping the cygnets until spring is a useful insurance against squatters, as was proved by last years brood.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Trying Hard

It's coming up for 6 weeks since I first brought Steven the seagull into the garden. His wing has healed and he has grown a couple of new main flight feathers. He is trying hard to take to the air, but I fear he might never be able to. It is sad watching him looking at other gulls wheeling across the sky, as he instinctively tries to join them. I wont give up and continue to give him a bit of physiotherapy, he has managed to get a few feet into the air but cant use his right wing fully.The new flight feathers have still a little more to grow and maybe that will make all the difference. I think if he was in an open space with a strong headwind he would manage to get airborne, but I would be afraid of him coming down somewhere where he couldn't escape or I couldn't safely retrieve him.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Pen Chases Mink

The Pen showed her mettle tonight by seeing off the Harbour Mink. Both Swan parents hissed and chased the Mink along the harbour wall, but the pen in particular was the most courageous.

I could not get the mink on video (see below ) because it was beneath the harbour wall, but I think you will get the message if you turn up the sound. After the chase the mink climbed up to it's lair within the harbour walls where I got a pic, but it was so dark and the flash is poor at distance.

The pen is looking good and her new coat of feathers is almost complete, flying lessons should start almost anyday now.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Love Lessons

It's that time of year again when the cygnets are starting to peck at one another like restless teenagers. The Cob and Pen decided it was time they had some love etiquette lessons, and showed them the formal way to do it. They made the close up chest to chest heart shape, but not to suit the camera ! Much squeeking, nodding and chatter went on amongst the group.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Dogs and Swans

I see on the Scottish SPCA website another Swan attacked and killed by a dog, Click on this link for full story: yet another reminder for people to keep control of their dogs when near wildlife !

Shearer Generosity

After the recent moat clear out, I was expecting the bill to drop through the door any day now.

What a pleasant surprise this morning when I opened the mail, to discover that Gordon Shearer plant, had donated his time effort and plant for the benefit of the Swans Island ! On behalf of the Wildlife that use the moat and island, I'm sure they would all say " A Gordon for Me ! "
Thanks for your generous donation Gordon.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Deerie Me

Looks like the lower river is getting popular among all the wildlife, with the appearance of a Deer at merryton bridge shortly before dark ! Probably came in from the golf course.
With approx 125 ducks, a family of Swans and Mink, not to mention the other species, it's beginning to resemble a nature reserve !

Sunday, 5 September 2010

On the Mend

Great pleasure for me today when Steven the young Seagull started to do some serious fly / jumping.
This is the sort of thing he would have been doing a month ago if he hadn't been injured. I am overjoyed that his broken wing has mended and he is almost capable of flight. The daily physio is working, and I think by the time his new wing feathers have matured he is likely to take off. ( see vids below.)

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Here's to the Mothers

We've all had one, and nothing would exist without them....Mothers,- what special beings they are ! Enclosed are some pics of special Mothers in our area.
Their contribution to our Town and river enhances all our lives.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Swans under Threat

I get regular reminders about the threat to the Swans, with loose dogs still being walked past the wildlife area. The Pen is still not flying and I think her wing tips were badly damaged by the recent dog attack. I am hoping that the damage is not permanent and that the new feather growth will eventually come good. Some threats are natural ones that the Swans have to live with, like crows blackback gulls, mink, foxes, etc. The other day I picked up a string of mackerel hooks that were laying along the slipway amongst the weed, this could have proved lethal to one of the swans or cygnets if ingested. Man made threats are also a danger, and I would appreciate if people can keep a look out for the Swans. They are Nairns swans and are legally protected, but it falls to all of us to look out for them. We all get pleasure from their existence and they are an asset to the Town.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Nairn Abandoned

With the departure of a cruise ship from the firth today, I couldn't resist the urge to take a shot or two ! Maybe the headline should read - " The entire population of Nairn departed on a shopping trip today, since they have been abandoned by the Co-op and every other supermarket chain in the country. The cruise liner was filled to capacity with joyful Nairnites glad to escape from the million pound high street mayhem, and drooling at the thought of shopping in Tesco's or Asda. Only three hardy Nairnites could be seen left on the pier fishing for their supper."