Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Cost of Success

Watching the rise and rise of the waterbirds on the river, is a source of great pleasure to me and no doubt many others too. A couple from Arizona yesterday were delighted to see a pair of Mute Swans with 9 cygnets, something they considered quite rare and will continue to follow on my blog. Another young local woman recently told me how as a child, she was taken to Forres to see the ducks since there were no ducks in the river Nairn. This situation has not come about by accident, but by active promotion and encouragement of the local water birds. Most locals know that in addition to having the swans island built, that I feed the swans and ducks daily - 365 days a year regardless of the weather ! This has drawn criticism from some who thought the island would be washed away at the first flood - how disappointing for them. Then they turned their attention to smear tactics and ridicule. Then comments about making the wildlife dependent and it not being natural etc etc. Many of these people had no interest in the river or the wildlife until I took the time and effort to bring it to the fore, they took no interest when the river had sewerage leaking into the river on a daily basis, although they walked the river daily for years.

I make no apology for promoting a clean river environment and feeding the wildlife. It may interest people to know that I spend around £700 a year on feeding the birds, Wheat, poultry pellets, carrots and wholemeal bread. This does not include the time and effort preparing the feeding, I consider all this a labour of love! I think the results of this years swans hatching is my reward ! My thanks to those who support what I do, and those who watch out for the Birds when I'm not around. The cygnets are thriving as the pics show.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Lost....and Found !

Yesterday saw another drama with one of the cygnets almost being lost. Again the horrendous May weather with blustery gale force winds being the main problem. The Family were trying to get back into the harbour at low tide, but the wind and current proved too strong for one of the cygnets. After several minutes paddling to stand still, it tired and got washed downstream, the rest of the family made it into the harbour. I ran across the bailey bridge and down river across from the cygnet, trying to make sure no black backed gulls would get it. Unaware of the missing cygnet I drew the family's attention to it, eventually the entire family came to the cygnets rescue. They later all made it back to the harbour. Thankfully there were no black backs or hoodies in the vicinity.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Cob Shares the Load...Just

After 4 years rearing cygnets, the Cob seems to have finally given in to sharing the load. This afternoon I saw for the first time ever, the Cob allowing a cygnet onto his back. He has always avoided this like the plague, and the long suffering pen has had to do all the work. I'm sure all the women viewers can empathise with the pen, she still has the biggest load !

Meanwhile I got a chance to check out superduck and 20 ducklings still in tow. She is a remarkable duck and constantly gives out vocal instructions. ( See video clip below.)

Friday, 27 May 2011

Dog Danger !

Yet again the Swans were today under attack by a black labrador, this time in the harbour. Will the lady with the helmet who rides her bike with the dog running alongside, please keep the dog under control and out of the harbour! The Swans have enough to do trying to raise the cygnets and keep them safe from other predators. Remember what happened to the pen last year, see photo above : http://simplysuperbswans.blogspot.com/2010/07/dog-attacks-swans.html we don't want a repeat ! It is the dog owners who are responsible for their dogs, please spare a thought for the local birdlife that are nesting or looking after their young. During the summer many birds will be moulting and unable to fly, so please keep your dogs under control when passing the waterbirds. Can I also remind people NOT to encourage the Swans to leave the water or feed them on land, this puts them at risk from dog attacks ! UPDATE: This afternoon I could hardly believe my eyes when another Black labrador ran into the harbour - fortunately the swans were in the water but were quickly alarmed by the dog. It transpired that it was the same labrador and Lady that shocked the swans this morning ! As it happens I know the woman and dog and was assured that she will keep it on lead when in the vicinity of the river birds ! Like I explained to her - it might be fun for the dog but could be life and death for the Swans .

Thursday, 26 May 2011

All Aboard

The Nairn Swans must be the most photographed attraction in the town right now. I think I saw at least a dozen people today taking shots of them, the new fashionable phones with cameras ensure that people of all ages are taking snaps. What could be more appealing than cygnets riding on the mothers back ?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

River Drama

Yesterday morning I witnessed the pen in a desperate struggle to get her cygnets to safety. Contrary to the weather being less severe today, there were gusts in excess of 50mph blowing down the river. The overnight rain had raised the river level and the combination meant that the entrance to the harbour was like a Mill race. The cygnets could not make headway against the current, the pen realising this attempted to rescue them on her back. She edged them into an eddy but could not get anymore than 5 on her back so abandoned the attempt, and led them downstream to a backwater against the west pier. They had to wait until the tide rose before getting to the safety of the harbour in the afternoon. This evening, all 9 cygnets were safely with their Mum !

Monday, 23 May 2011

Batten Down The Hatch

Today was a case of literally Batten down the hatch! Horrendous gusts of wind sweeping across the north as I type. The Swans have taken to the island for shelter, and the cygnets are under the pens wings. One week old and thriving so far, every day increases their chances of survival .

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Simply Superb Swans

With the persistent blustery cold wind, the cygnets seek the comfort of a big warm Mum ! In the harbour last night I saw the brood piling onto the pen's back, 7 managed for a short while until one fell off ! It's hard to believe that the TLC shown in these pics, will be replaced with rejection in as little as 5 months time. One watching townie remarked, " I never knew they carried the young on their back." It's amazing how little people know about some of our most common wildlife, maybe it shows how their lives are ruled by consumerism and modern living? I was also informed by an eye witness, of a Mink on the swans island during the hatching ! It was apparently about 15 feet away and the pen was agitated - I'm not surprised! Should be some action soon on the mink front. Another short cygnet vid below, taken a few days ago when Sun shone briefly.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Triumph and Tragedy

In a week that saw the triumphant hatching of the cygnets, there was also a few tragedies along the river too. Yesterday I found the remains of a heron which appeared to have been gnawed to the bone by possibly a Mink. Whether it was dead beforehand or caught by the mink, who knows ? Another worrying development was the discovery of a wounded seagull on the rivers edge near the island moat. It was brought to my attention by a local resident, and on inspection It appeared to have been shot by an airgun ! I took it to the vets but it died a few hours later, it had a pellet sized hole in the upper right thigh and damage to the wing. For all we know the same fate could have befallen the heron, shooting birds especially during the breeding season is criminal, if anyone knows the perpetrator they should tell the police or SSPCA.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

More Awww

I heard from a riverside resident that he witnessed a hoodie crow lifting the weakest cygnet yesterday morning about 6am. He said the crow managed to lift it a couple of feet into the air and the cob made for it - it then dropped it, a very lucky escape ! No wonder the poor thing was lagging behind the others in the afternoon, and the crow still after it ! I can report tonight that the weak one appears stronger and is eating along with the others, it managed to climb to the nest much easier than yesterday. In my experience the next 3 weeks is the most dangerous time for cygnets, after that most airborne predators leave them alone. For those who haven't yet seen the cygnets close up - a wee vid clip below.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Swan Island Success

Our beautiful Nairn Swans have successfully hatched NINE cygnets and the nest is empty, this is a 100% success story so far ! In my previous post I noticed how unusual it was for the cob to have half the brood with him while the pen was still on the nest - now we know why! The final cygnet must have hatched last night or early this morning. I am delighted that she has equalled her best of two years ago when she again had 9. I am concerned for one of them which is obviously weaker than the rest, and narrowly escaped being taken by a hoodie crow this afternoon. It was lagging behind the family group when crossing the river shingle to the moat, a hoodie landed close by was spotted by the cob and he lunged at the crow which took off. Again this evening the pen had the weak one on her back while all the others were feeding, she even carried it up the mound to the nest. If it doesn't pick up within a few days it may not survive. Fingers x crossed ! Earlier in the day, all the cygnets enjoyed a brief race which was a joy to watch ! I was privileged
that the pen brought the cygnets over and gave me a head nod as one of the family ! ( short video below )

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Some Awwww pics

I saw something quite rare this afternoon. The Cob had 4 cygnets in the moat himself, and the Pen was on the nest with the other 4. I have never seen them split up this way when newly hatched. I think the depth and proximity of the moat to the nest, and the fact that both adults could see each other at all times helped. It makes me wonder if there is still an unhatched egg in the nest, I shall check this out tomorrow. The island and swans have drawn quite a few onlookers today all hoping to see the Cygnets - fear not - they will be on the water much more often in the coming days. Meanwhile, enjoy a few awww pics taken today !

Sunday, 15 May 2011

New Nairn Cygnets

UPDATE: This morning I arrived at the river just in time to see the Swans taking the New cygnets back to the Island nest. We have 8 simply superb cygnets !

As I expected the pen has been hatching her eggs since yesterday, and today I got the first glimpse of the new born cygnets. I could only see 5, but on photographic evidence there appears to be six of the little beauties so far. It is possible more have still to hatch but even so, 6 is a nice brood to be going on with. I expect them to take to the water by tomorrow and maybe we will discover that there are more than 6. It has been a long haul for the pen, 2 weeks to lay the eggs then 5 weeks to incubate them. Nice caption for the second pic " Look, I'm a Penguin. " The cob will now go into a defensive and sometimes aggressive mode with the cygnets to protect - you have been warned !

Friday, 13 May 2011

Mink Eradication

Glad to hear that a Mink eradication program has been approved for many of Scotland's rivers. The American Mink has been causing a lot of damage to our native birds and wildlife, and is extending it's grip along the River Nairn. As many of my blog viewers will recall, they have now reached right down to the end of the pier. For over a year now I have tried on 3 occasions to get the river Nairn water Bailiff to set traps on the lower reaches. I hope this new initiative will see some action in this regard ? The Mink might be fascinating to observe, but this is one predator we can well do without !