Tuesday, 28 June 2011

SOS - Save Our Swans

After checking our Swans this evening ( and eaten alive with Midges !) The Pen seems to have a Rafa Nadal leg problem and had it resting on her back for most of the evening. I think the struggle and pulling with the fishing line may well have strained her leg, however I did see her walking on it so will probably be ok. She is also molting again, this process takes 6 weeks during which time she cannot fly and is vulnerable to ground attacks by uncontrolled dogs ! It is important that people are made aware of this, and should not feed the swans out of the water where they can be easily attacked. If the local authorities cannot ban fishing from the harbour walls then they should at least be responsible and have a sign put up behind the smoke shed. It could read, NO FISHING WHEN SWANS IN VICINITY! The Swans are a bigger tourist attraction than fishing from the harbour walls and need our protection. The cygnets seem none the worse for their ordeal tonight. ( see short clip below ).

Lethal Reminder

I am grateful to the member of the public who alerted me to the near disaster in the harbour this afternoon. I was told that the cygnets and Pen were tangled up in fishing line in the harbour, so I gathered some of my rescue gear and headed down there. The entire family were at the northern end of the harbour on the grass which gave me a chance to see the offending line which was caught around the legs of two of the cygnets, the pen appeared to have freed herself. I managed to approach the family as they headed to the water and catch the cygnet which was leading the way - with the line trailing from it's leg. The parents were none too happy which I expected, but turned my back to them to ward off the inevitable wing blows. I cut the line and freed the first cygnet, and quickly grabbed the other which was heading for the water. The line was looped around the leg joint and would have cut into the leg if pulled, it could not have freed itself because of the loop. The parents took it in turns to beat me with their wings across my legs, but I managed to cut the line and free the cygnet anyway. This was a close call that ended well, but could have been much more serious if they had been in the water. To win back their trust I fed them right away, and within 10 minutes the trauma had subsided. With that the SSPCA arrived, for someone had called them - showing that the public are alert to our wildlife. The SSPCA agreed with me that fishing within the harbour was a bad idea and really should not be allowed. I hope the harbour authorities and our local councillors will take steps to ban fishing within the harbour area - it is not suitable and a serious threat to our wildlife. Fishing from the smoke shed entrance to the harbour, should not be allowed because those fishing can't see the swans coming down the river close to the wall and entering the harbour. They are always liable to hit the fishing lines which are often unattended and left hanging over the harbour entrance ! Angling Boat owners should be careful not to have fishing line or rods hanging over their boats in the harbour, swans are curious and will nibble at most things.

With the school holidays coming up I hope parents warn their children to be very careful with fishing tackle and withdraw it from the water if the swans are close by. The Swans cannot see the line and the onus is on those fishing to be responsible and not discard any tackle either ! The Swans are beautiful and a major tourist attraction, and must be protected at all times !

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Nairn 9 Forres 7 Brodie 4

I understand that Sanquar loch in Forres has 7 cygnets this year and Brodie has 4....But the Winner is Nairn with 9. Nice for Nairn to be a winner at something, and appreciated by the tourists who have not exactly had the weather this season. On the subject of winners, the swans Island has produced yet another brood of ducklings. Today I saw another 10 take to the moat, and am thankful that the Mink has been caught - just in time to maybe save some of them. The mood around the lower river has changed now that the Mink is gone, the wildlife are a little more at ease. I understand the Mink was a female and hopefully caught before it produced a litter, too bad It was caught after the superduck lost 20 of her brood - It was probably the Mink that had homed in on them.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Happy Birthday Steven

I reckon Steven Seagael my feathered friend is probably about one year old now, and what a year he's had. From trailing a broken wing, being infested with lice and half starved, his will to survive won through. This goes for all living things, so we shouldn't be surprised that gulls make use of the environment that suits them. Maybe learning to live in harmony together is the best option. If people are serious about tackling the "gull problem", then we should start by changing the building regulations immediately to ban all flat roof building in urban areas - pitched roofs only please ! The government could start converting every flat roofed house - I would be happy if they would start with mine ! Meanwhile some pictorial reminders of Steven's first year with captions.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Gotcha !

One of the Mink that has been terrorising the local wildlife for the past year has finally been caught ! On my normal morning rounds I was pleased to see one of the recently installed traps had a new resident, I was even more pleased when I realised it was the adult which I featured in yesterdays post. I have no doubt this Mink was responsible for many duckling deaths over the past year too. If you are wondering how I know it's the same one, it has a white patch under it's chin. I was amazed at what a strong musky smell came from the animal and have been told that this smell is what will attract other mink to the trap. I know we have at least 3 or 4 mink in the first half mile of the river, and as part of the eradication program the traps will be around for some time yet. Many bird lives and other vulnerable species will be saved by the mink eradication program.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Mink Menace

Today I saw mink on 3 separate occasions down by the harbour pumping station. One of them appears to be living inside the river wall at the pumping station, and swims across the river to the large rocks on the other side. By chance, I heard the ducks kicking up a fuss just by the harbour toilets, and spotted a Mink underwater searching the eroded banks for prey. I caught it briefly on video as it swam underwater and then along the river wall. A mother duck with 3 tiny ducklings was close by, and started to fly at the mink in order to distract it away from her brood. I have asked the river water bailiff if he can supply another trap in the area, to see if we can catch the menacing Mink.

Cant upload the video yet... problem with blogger.com !    Problem solved !!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Duck Disaster

It's getting that I dread checking the ducks on the river in the morning. Our fabulous Superduck Mum who at one stage had 23 ducklings in tow has now only got 3 survivors ! It is heartbreaking to see them all going day after day, particularly since they are so grown up and about 6 weeks old. They have been disappearing night after night, and I feel it must be Mink or Otter taking them at that size. Certainly she has lost some to the hoodie crows in the early weeks too. This now makes this years hatchings on the lower reaches much less than I had hoped, with about 25 survivors - this is about half last years figure. Hopefully we'll get another brood or two before the season ends.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Family Reunion ?

Yesterday evening saw two young Swans enter the river unnoticed. I saw them arrive about 8pm and they seemed to know the river, I suspect at least one of them is the offspring from 3 years ago since they seemed to be looking for a territory of their own. Our residents were blissfully unaware of their presence and were in the harbour enjoying some food and evening sunshine.

This all changed when they entered the river and headed up to the island, only to discover the visitors at the head of the creek pool. The cob almost choked on his weed when he saw them, and - adorned with a weed necklace he switched into attack mode ! He homed in on the young cob first and chased him out of the water and then out of the river. The young cob not to desert his new mate circled round fishertown and back into the creek beside his mate. This time our resident pen joined in the fray and headed for the young pen, as our resident cob flew back and straight into the attack ! The young pair got close enough to head down river chased by our cob, they took off and headed out to sea. A valuable lesson for all the young cygnets who watched both parents launch into battle. (short clip below )

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Ready - Steady - Go !

The cygnets are now one month old and already the size of a Mallard duck. They are thriving and beginning to look like minature swans, their necks are getting longer and now able to reach down into shallow water and pull weed from the bottom. Today they had quite a paddle race in the harbour, much to my amusement and some passing tourists.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Eel Catcher

No change on the duckling numbers today, and time to view another river predator. The Cormorant or Shag seems to be a regular fish hunter on the lower reaches. Today I watched as it deftly manipulated a slippery eel, this is the time of year when eels enter the river in quite large numbers - hopefully it will give the Mink something to chew on rather than ducks !

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Ducklings Devastated

Our Superduck mum who had 23 ducklings a month ago, is now down to only 7. The brood has been decimated, particularly over the past 4 days. Last night she had 11 and today down to 7, and she has lost 2 each night before that - for 3 nights in a row. I don't know what's doing it, but something has homed in on her brood with devastating results. The cold weather has not helped, because this has reduced the food supply for all species, plus the proliferation of Mink and , hoodie crows not to mention the otters too ! It is so depressing to see such carnage inflicted on one particular brood - especially with a mother so dedicated to keeping them in tow. Another new brood of 8 arrived yesterday but she has since lost 2. Down the river tonight was like a cold and wet September, and the Pen was sheltering the cygnets under her wings.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Now for Something a Wee Bit Different

I expect some of you will be a bit Swanned out by now, so a little bit of a change today ! Nice shot of a heron last week. Also a local woman told me tonight that she saw a Goosander mum with two ducklings on her back up around the Howford bridge. That is something I would love to see, I had a feeling the Goosanders would be nesting on the river since I saw them mating earlier in the year. The woman also told me that she saw a duck with 9 ducklings in tow as well - looks like we're going to have a good year with ducks. The superduck is now down to 17 but they are a fair size now and should soon be safe from aerial attack. I also have another seagull casualty to care for, courtesy of Nairn Police who gave me a call about an injured gull outside the police station. It has a trailing wing that is pretty well useless and seems to have been torn from the main body although it's not broken. This is the 5th injured seagull I've had since Sonny, I took it to the vet and have bandaged it up for a while to see if the wing can be salvaged - will just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Action Stations & Jumpers and Divers

The break in the weather was short lived as usual - back to blowing a gale ! The high winds make flying hazardous for our largest birds and some effort and skill was needed today. Two young swans arrived in the river in search of a home, our resident pair were not amused and the cob set to work immediately while the pen took care of the cygnets. The cob chased one of the swans right up above the road bridge until it could not escape, unable to fly because of the trees. I was told that the young swan had been chased out of the river into the bushes - it later escaped when the coast was clear. Meanwhile the pen was watching the cygnets enjoy a spot of diving as they rushed into the strong wind - ( short clip below ) - ah the joy of life !