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).


Bill said...

Please keep up the good work and ignore the naysayers :)

jayteescot1 said...

Thanks for the support Bill. Wild horses wont stop me from keeping an eye out for the wildlife and our river environment. Rivers are the life blood of our Planet, yet taken for granted by so many!

The Nairn Birder said...

The island is a haven for wildlife; well done Joe!

Iain said...

I can't comment for the VisitNairn group but it is a fact that the Swans have created an additional interest for tourists and locals alike. The island has provided a close-up insight into the lives of swans that is available to few other communities. So well done Joe.

I am perplexed that a number of well-respected individuals chose to make critical comment when they were so obviously unaware of the facts. It would seem that personal animosity has clouded their judgement. That is a matter for concern.

Then there are those who trot out such nonsense as "interfering with nature". There are numerous instances where we work alongside nature to manage situations that enhance our experience and understanding of wildlife, eg. otters, osprey, etc. Why should swans be any different?

As for feeding birds creating a dependency...! If you followed that to a logical conclusion there would be a ban on the sale of fat balls and peanuts.

I note there has been no comeback since the article in the Nairnshire so perhaps, now having the facts, those who were negative realise that they were being foolish about some of the issues they raised.

Debra Allan said...

I have not been on here in a few weeks and I've had a look today admiring all the lovely photo's, then I read the lead article. I think it's unbelievable what has been said and I whole heartedly agree with Iain and the other positive comments on here, keep it up Joe, you have more fans than naysayers!!

(I loved reading about the history of the swans though. :-))