Thursday, 28 April 2011

Nooks and Crannies

Spring is well under way on the river, and the warm sunshine has allowed the Pen to get off the nest for the occasional 5 minute break. There have been several hatchings of ducklings, the main one being the 14 that hatched a week past on Tuesday. Up until this monday she had not lost a single one, but on Tuesday morning she had only nine. I suspect this has been caused by someone throwing bread at them and bringing the gulls down to take the ducklings. The Mother duck that I returned the 2 ducklings to, has lost one more and is now down to 5 from the ten she started with. I know of another duck sitting on nine eggs which was flooded for 3 hours at the last spring tide, I doubt they will survive that flooding, but will wait and see. The first Miracle duckling must have been taken, for I have seen the mother several times without the duckling. Other species are also busily nesting in every nook and cranny they can find. A Starling down at a house in the moorings, has found a handy cooker vent to nest in. The house occupants have been considerate enough, not to use the cooker hood during this time ! The Sand martins are also using old pipeworks and holes in the river walls to nest in. In addition to the bluetit using one nesting box, the sparrows have made use of another one ! Having been providing seed along the wall all winter, a very friendly wood pigeon takes full advantage, along with a very laid back Jackdaw !

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Sometimes being an observer on the river can be really upsetting, like when you see a tiny day old duckling being taken by a predator. Only one day of existence, then snuffed out before experiencing the joy of life. Being a keen observer can also bring it's rewards, all the joy of life you see when watching a brood of ducklings diving and splashing for the first time. I think the human race has lost much of it's ability to observe and take in the joy of life that's all around us every day. Today I was privileged to experience guaranteed satisfaction, on what turned out to be a golden day for me. This morning I spotted 3 tiny ducklings flitting about in the harbour, with no mother to be seen at all, I looked around but knew they had probably been lost by accident. It crossed my mind that they probably belonged to a mother duck that hatched 10 ducklings the day before. I walked up river and sure enough I spotted her with only 4 ducklings in tow ! I decided to try and rescue the ducklings before the seagulls or cold had them. I borrowed a landing net with a taped up broken shaft, managed to get the net under the ducklings but the shaft broke as I lifted it. I had no alternative but to head home and get my own net and bag. On my return I could only see two ducklings and was told that a seagull had one when I was away. After some messing about on the harbour pontoons I managed to net one duckling, and then the other. Finding the mother was now the priority, for she had disappeared up river. As evening approached I spotted her up near the Merryton bridge but heading down towards the Swans island. I crossed onto the head of the island and beckoned her over, knowing the ducks has it's advantages ! She started to head towards me and I seized the chance to release the ducklings to her. What followed was pure magic and so heartwarming, mother and ducklings made instant recognition and I could honestly feel the joy. I took out the camera to record the event and I think the pics say it all. The mother gave me an unforgettable look on receiving her ducklings - this was a golden day, with satisfaction guaranteed for me !

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Steven Seagael

Been 9 months since Steven the Seagull has lived with me, and It looks like it'll be permanent. I think a proper name is now in order, reflecting his status, attitude and origin. From henceforth he will be called Steven Seagael ! Although unable to fly, he has a good quality of life as far as I can tell. His taste in food is of the upper class variety, his favourite is raw alaskan pollock, closely followed by scots mince, cheese, raw chicken and boiled egg. He will eat Chappie dog food and poultry pellets but prefers the former. I have learned a lot about herring gulls, aptly named for being able to swallow a whole herring easily. Steven is like the others and is very territorial and currently on a takeover bid for my house ! See video clips below of him dominating Millie and me, and sharing dinner!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Ignorance Kills !

Today I was delighted to see a Mother duck with 14 ducklings descend from the Swans Island. I Knew she had a nest very close to the Swans nest, and worried that the Swans would maybe step on it or not allow her to sit on it. For over 5 weeks the Swans have allowed the duck to lay and incubate her eggs just feet from their nest. Peaceful co-existence prevailed and the pen must have heard the ducklings hatch, maybe being an expectant mother herself had a bearing on the outcome. The duck could not have picked a better nesting spot, using the protection of the Swans nesting site. I only hope they survive the perils that await them in the form of Hoodie crows, herring gulls, and worst of all - people ! For it is people throwing bread at ducklings that can get them wiped out in minutes, I have seen it before. Throwing bread, particularly large pieces brings down the gulls and they will take everything in the water - including ducklings ! I appreciate it is holiday time and parents like to entertain their kids by feeding the ducks. The problem is that most of the female ducks are nesting just now, and they don't need the food at this time of year! PLEASE DON'T ATTEMPT TO FEED DUCKLINGS DURING APRIL MAY AND JUNE ! By all means watch and enjoy them but dont get them killed through ignorance.

The photo above I took a few years ago, I warned the woman who was feeding the ducks and gulls what would happen - she chose to ignore my warning and the result shocked her.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Dangerous Times

With The Pen nesting and the Cob on Patrol it can be dangerous times for any other Swans that venture into the river. Many young swans are flying along the coastline at this time of year for the annual flocking, these flocks can get quite large. This is the opportunity for immature Swans to get gregarious, and some 3 year olds will find new partners to bond with. They will then seek out a new territory of their own to inhabit and nest on. The cobs primary role is protection of the territory, and he will take on all comers when the need arises. Last week he fulfilled his role to the letter by chasing off 5 young swans in one go, two aborted a landing and another three got shown the skies pretty quick !

There are other dangers too, like lethal litter in the form of a folding bicycle which I hauled out of the island moat, potentially with the folded wheels a swan could get it's head stuck in the spokes and drown.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Fergus on the Case

I'm not one for blatant electioneering, But today I got a very positive response from Fergus Ewing which deserves a mention. Those of you following my blog will remember the Incredible court fiasco when the Sheriff judged my assailant "not guilty"after a non trial, and viewing no evidence. I am so aggrieved and continue to dwell on this miscarriage of justice so much, I wrote to Fergus Ewing asking if he would look into the case. He read the long Procurators explanation and found several things which needed answers. Without publishing Fergus's letter here in full, I will give you an extract or two which goes to the core of the case:

"If re-elected I am determined to pursue your case and can if you wish in the interim write a letter to the Procurator Fiscal and thereafter to the Lord Advocate. The letter to the Fiscal is designed to ascertain more about why the Sheriff granted the not guilty verdict “ex proprio motu” – i.e. off his own bat as it were. I note in the third last paragraph of page one of the letter it was stated that “we did not have an execution of personal service and this meant we could not seek a warrant for the witness...” I think it is not unreasonable to ask if this was a failure on the part of the Fiscals service and whether this failure led the Sheriff to make the decision that he did. I think it is also relevant to question the Lord Advocate as to whether there should in fact be a Right of Appeal in these circumstances.

Please let me assure you that I believe your case raises very important points of principal which must be pursued. is our duty to make sure that the law is right and the law does not allow situations to arise where there are miscarriages of justice."

I am very impressed by Fergus's attitude and in depth look at this case, also his prompt response in view of the impending election ( the government is currently dissolved ).

The above SNP photo might be a good omen , since the Sheriff court is in the background !

He will certainly be getting my it happens he would have anyway, because I believe the SNP have done a reasonable job in the past few years. As an old CND man, I am of the opinion Scotland should reject Nuclear options too. I think the recent Japanese nuclear experience should open a few eyes that may have been closed as well.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

First Miracle Duckling

For some weeks now I have been watching with trepidation a duck sitting on a nest which was swamped by the last big spate. I knew she had a nest in the long white reeds close to the wildlife panel because she had been coming to me for food several weeks beforehand. It was only when the nest was washed out and I saw some eggs floating in the area that I knew exactly where it was. When the spate and tide receded the duck started gathering grass where the nest used to be, she sat on the newly constructed empty nest for more than a week and I felt really sorry for her. The penny finally dropped when I realised she had in fact built a nest over some eggs that were resting under the nest ! When she got off and came over for food there were no eggs in the nest. I thought there was no way any of the eggs would hatch since they were under water for several hours and then laying on the ground too. Anyway last time there was a 4.1 tide, the water reached under the new nest and must have re floated the eggs enough for the duck to lift them into the new nest , this was incredible - I had never seen the like. What persistence, but so exposed close to the river path and all those dogs and cats passing daily, I thought she would be killed for sure. I even gathered some dead leaves and grass and threw it around her when she sat on the nest, she made use of it too. On the morning of the 8Th I watched her move to the side a little and a duckling stuck it's head out from under her wing, I was dumbfounded and delighted at the same time. Later that day I returned to find the nest with 4 eggs and the duck just ready to climb onto it again, for a moment I could not see the duckling and was filled with dread - then spotted it near the riverside, lost and trying to find direction back to the nest.

It started heading back to the water so I quickly retrieved it and took it close enough to the nest to find it's way to Mum, all was well. That night I wondered what would happen to the duckling if the mother continued to sit on eggs that were dead, would the duckling survive ? Normally all the ducklings would hatch within 24 hours or so and then taken to the water to eat and drink. I resolved that if the eggs had not hatched by the following day then I would remove them and let the mother and duckling get away to the river. The following day I found the mother and duckling gone, and 4 eggs sitting in the nest, this was my chance to check the eggs for any signs of life. The eggs were translucent and I could see water washing around, there were no sounds of life either, so I disposed of them in the nearby bin. I have not seen either the duck or the duckling since, so my joy has disappeared since I was hoping to see it in the vicinity, it may have moved up river to a safer place - I certainly hope so.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Steven Seagull Film Test

What a glorious summers day, frankly I'll be happy if we get this sort of weather in the summer !

The beaches were busy, as was the harbour and caravan site too. I am fully expecting ducklings to be seen on the river later this week. They are lovely to see, but can I remind people not to attempt throwing bread at them since the seagulls will make short work of ducklings !

Meanwhile after the kind comment by Debra, on Steven the seagulls last posting. Below is a short clip for you Debra.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Martins are Back

Looks like the wind direction has brought the Martins back early this year. Yesterday I saw 4 of them winging up the river at merryton bridge, normally don't spot them until about the 3 rd week in April. The warmer weather has brought a mini explosion in vegetation and insect life, great news for the wildlife with natural feeding on the menu again. Two pair of goosanders have been mating , the first time I've actually seen them at it, I suspect they will be nesting fairly close by. Saw an otter in the harbour a few days ago, it was nearly dark so couldn't tell if it was last years male. Also witnessed a titanic struggle between a Mink and eel nearly 3 feet long last week under the bailey bridge - the Mink won ! I got a few pics but quality is poor because of the action, distance and background.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Duck Killed

This afternoon I was told about a sad sight on the riverside. Two mallard drakes were sitting beside their dead mate trying to get her to move. I went to investigate and sure enough I found both Drakes huddled beside the duck. If ever anyone doubted that birds have feelings this is something they should have seen. Beside the duck was a short stick covered in dog bites, and the duck itself looked as though it had been grabbed by a dog, crushed and shaken. It had not been eaten , so would not have been a mink or other predator that killed it. I really wish people would follow the outdoor access code for responsible dog walking ! .

This duck was found on the Maggot side of the river opposite the Swans island. She was one of the good duckling providers and I only hope she was not nesting, but she probably was. Over the past week I have seen two people walking a pack of 5 collies some of which were dashing along the banks where the ducks are nesting. Other dog owners are also in the habit of walking their uncontrolled dogs along the riverside at this important time of year when birds are sitting on eggs.

I have seen several ducks that have been killed over the last few years - the feeling of pathos I get on seeing their mates standing over their dead partners sometimes for days on end - I find quite distressing.

I did hope the powers that be would have seen the sense in having a few responsible signs around the lower riverside to protect the waterbirds. It seems lack of common sense, compassion, and selfish garnering of local votes is more important to them.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Stuck with Steven Seagull

After 8 months I decided to contact the SSPCA about a home for Steven the Seagull. It appears they do not have any permanent sanctuary facilities for poor Steven. Ideally what is required is someone with a pond who would be prepared to feed and care for him. I tried my best to get him to fly but his mended wing is just not up to the job. I have kept him outdoors throughout the 8 months, so he is pretty robust. I have thought of putting him in the river for the summer and bringing him back for the winter. He appears to be able to look after himself ok, but I would worry that he would be attacked and killed. Meanwhile he is pushing his weight around and starting to enter the house when looking for something to do ! I try to keep him entertained with a variety of objects, and he has plenty of bird company as well. Millie is cowed by him and is wary of that beak ! (See vids below.) I may end up stuck with him though !