Friday, 30 December 2011

Cygnet Rescue

One of our cygnets had a narrow escape after clipping a bridge and crash landing this morning. I was alerted by Council workers who came to my door to tell me a cygnet was on the road on the Town brae. I asked them to either bring the cygnet to me or keep the traffic from hitting it until I got down there. Thanks to the Council workmen they brought the Cygnet to me and I put it in the garden to check it out. It had blood on it's foot from a small skin cut and a grazed leg joint, other than that it seemed OK. I checked each wing and they were OK, and was walking around the garden trying to find a way out. The injuries appeared superficial and It was anxious to get back to the family, so I called my friend with a car and took it back down to the river. After release the family joined it in the harbour, with the parents harassing it - this caused the accident in the first place when they chased it up river over the bridge ! However when I left them a short while ago, all had calmed down and they were leaving it in peace. This is a dangerous time for cygnets when it's time for them to leave home, the parents chase them until they take flight, but they are still inexperienced flyers and sometimes hit wires or bridges ! My thanks to the Council workmen who did the right thing by our swans, well done !

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Some Swan Favourites

Having taken hundreds of cygnet pics this year, and with this brood about to leave soon. I thought this would be a good time to show you a few of this years personal favourites.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011


The Swan parents are turning up the heat on the cygnets, but still not serious about getting them out of the river...yet ! The incomer has now been in the river for 5 days but not so intimidated that he stays away. I watched today as the cob flexed his wings, and some of the Cygnets had a bonding session. I think it was Lefty who was the star attraction, and even went up to the nest site for maybe a last look around. It crossed my mind that maybe somewhere in it's genes/DNA, it was embedding a reference point for the future....who knows ?

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Nairn Swans 2011 Review

Last January started with a swan family of 4 surviving Cygnets still with us, the parents kept them as insurance keeping other squatters out of their territory. It was a much harder winter than we've had so far this year, with frost and snow last November. The parents finally decided to chase the cygnets out prior to the spring arriving and made their final move on the 12th January. The cygnets did try to return on the 15th but were escorted back to sea, lovely to see them in flight, .The Cygnets stayed close to home for the next 3 weeks along the west beach feeding on seaweed at low tide and were in excellent condition due to the good feeding I provided over the winter. The first week of February, three of the cygnets disappeared and left the young pen that had previously been injured by fishing tackle earlier in the year. She stayed around the west beach for another couple of weeks alone, and I started to feed her again because the tide did not suit her feeding from the rocks. She was a beautiful bird just like her Mum and trusted me greatly, and I knew she would probably join the first group of Cygnets that passed by. Sure enough a group of six or so passed overhead heading towards Ardersier and the young pen eagerly took off and joined them on life's great journey.

Meanwhile life on the river carried on with the tufted ducks in abundance last winter, and beautiful they were too! Steven my pet seagull friend was living outdoors throughout the winter and he withstood bone chilling nights at -12 degrees. With the Cygnets gone the Cob and pen settled down to a normal life again, and Incredibly started mating towards the end of January. This was the earliest I have ever seen them canoodling. The January court case of the guy who pushed me into the river was again put back, because his mate did not show up. The court handling of the case was abysmal, and when due again in March, the same thing again - only this time the Sheriff ended the case by letting him off without any hearing whatsoever ! The Police did a great job but the criminals it seems are allowed to dictate whether a case goes ahead or not - simply by not turning up and ignoring the courts ! I still have the option of a civil action for damages . . February saw a bit more Mating from the swans, and a Sparrow hawk strike on a pigeon in the Harbour ! . March saw final pairing of the Mallards and many dispersing up river to mate and nest, While the Swans were at it again in the harbour, Nesting began in earnest, and April was one of the warmest on record, we all thought, Wow what a summer it's going to be !

Sometimes I get the chance to play the hero and rescue some birds - a mother duck lost 3 of her ducklings in the harbour, by the time I got my rescue gear, one had been taken by a gull. I managed to catch and return the others to a grateful Mum.

Steven was now with me for 9 months and I had all but given up on him ever being able to fly. .

Ducklings started to appear and one mother had nested just a few feet from the swans nest,I think they watched each other for a month before the duck took 14 ducklings to the moat. .

A mink eradiction program started and I contacted the water Bailiff for some traps to be put on the lower river. A mink had established itself within the harbour and was killing everything it could catch! .
At last the big day arrived for the Cygnets to hatch, I had predicted a minimum of 7 with a max of 9. What joy when 9 took to the water with Mum !

There were a few narrow escapes whe a hoodie crow nearly got one of the cygnets, then another occasion when one of the tiny cygnets could not battle against the current and was washed downstream. On this occasion I happened to be on hand and watched over the wee one until mum and the family came to the rescue ! .

I received many positive comments on the success of the river wildlife, particularly from some Nairnites who recalled how there were no ducks on the river when they were young, and how great it was to see them flourishing now. . June saw yet more poor weather, and another near disaster with two cygnets getting caught up in fishing line.

 Alerted by the public I again came to the rescue, but got a wing beating for my efforts ! I resolved to get some signs erected at the harbour entrance to lessen the chances of the swans being injured. After some minor arguments the Council finally erected 3 signs, one of which I paid for as a token of goodwill. Many ducklings were being killed by the Mink and I was delighted when finally the culprit was caught. .

July saw the cygnets thriving but one of them was starting to worry me a bit due to a distortion of the left wing. I started to suspect it was a condition called "angel wing", where due to rapid growth of the flight feathers the wing tissue is not strong enough to support the weight, and the wing starts to tilt outwards. This can lead to deformity that can deprive the cygnet of eventual flight. After consulting my avian Adviser and a vet, they agreed that it was developing angel wing. I decided to treat it at home since there was no other way of doing it safely. I bandaged the wing into the correct position being careful not to cut off the blood supply, provided a paddling pool in the garden and hoped for the best ! . After 4 days I removed the bandage and was delighted to see the wing growing in the correct position, a geat result ! . My big fear was for the parents to reject the cygnet after a five day absence, It was unfounded for it was welcomed back to the fold with jubilation !

 .Meanwhile the summer just got worse and worse, the rain washed out the golf competition and all the weed in the river, depriving the Swans of their food supply and contaminating the usual areas ! . Steps are supposedly being taken to rectify this problem, we'll see.

The last July duck brood on the lower river hatched and were all killed within a few days, which was heartbreaking - some were hybrids from previous mixed broods. . August was full of action and lots going on. Overall duck numbers were down in spite of initial good broods appearing, many adults that had gone up river never returned and I suspect foul play was the cause. . This was also the month when Steven my Seagull friend of 13 months finally flew over the garden gate and landed on the road, the time had come to let him go! I took him to the central beach on a windy day and watched as he took his first real flight into the wind. I was a bit choked to walk away and leave him heading for the flock of gulls on the shoreline. Two days later he turned up in the river, I am hoping he has survived but I know he at least had 13 months of life with me and my dog ! . The council nearly caused a disaster by cutting riverside vegetation that allowed the cygnets close to the riverside path. If someone had come along with a loose dog it could have spelt death for one or more of the cygnets ! It also deprived the small birds of bramble bush cover that was also cut down.

 . I had a spat with our local vets too, after taking in a seagull with a broken leg to be fixed, with express instructions not to have it put to sleep ! They did in fact put it to sleep with no reference to me at all....I was Livid ! I had some success this year by saving several injured birds, but sadly some I could not save, especially a young puffin I thought was an Auk - which was a rarity to this shoreline. . September is the main learning- to - fly month, and I got the occasional shot of them flying up river.

We also had a few new visitors this year like the Pintail Drake, Wigeon, and Canada geese. . November brought a misty scene to the river and I caught a few interesting shots. . It also brought one of the biggest November tides, due to extreme low pressure north of us. . There are nearly 180 other postings on my blog this year, too many to mention here so I would suggest you trawl back and feast your eyes on some of my pics at your leisure. The current situation regarding our Swans, looks like they are on the verge of chasing the cygnets away a little earlier than last year, due to the milder weather I reckon. I tried my hand at movie making and a compilation film of the Nairn Swans can be viewed here,

I have been a member of Action for Happiness for a year now, and hope that my blog has given some of you a little happiness too. If you can manage, why not get along to the Nairn Community and Arts centre on Friday January the 13th at 7-30pm and see happy the film - It's inspirational , so I'm told. Have a Happy New Year !

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Getting the Wind Up

The young cob incomer is still hanging in there, and remains in the river for a third day running. Our resident adults escort it above the Merryton bridge and then leave it alone....until it comes below the bridge line ! The process of chasing all the cygnets out has definitely begun, and will increase in intensity over the coming days. They are getting the wind up now and always looking over their shoulders to see what mood the parents are in. Looks like the incomer wont be alone for long, if it does get chased out first.