Friday, 29 July 2011

Reunited !

After 5 days away from the river, Lefty the cygnet was reunited with the family. The trepidation and nervousness on my part were completely unfounded, since he was welcomed back by every member of the family. The first to meet and greet him was Mum of course, with much cheeping and head nodding, as though he had just been found from a walkabout. Releasing him and trying to get the camera out and recording the event was jerky at best. ( vid clip below.) After the welcome it was over to me for a feast ! Lefty however was keen to have a proper bath and dived and rolled, something a 5 star paddling pool could not offer. This morning I checked his wing again to make sure all was well, It had not varied from the night before and looked normal. (Above are before and after treatment pics). I now fully expect him to develop his wings and flying skills along with the rest of the family. This has been a valuable lesson for me also, and boosts my confidence in the handling and care of the swans should it ever be needed again.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Lefty is Put Right

Tonight with tension mounting, I removed the bandage I put on Lefty the cygnet last Sunday - to reset the Angel wing. I am delghted with the result and the wing looks in perfect shape with the primary flight feathers now resting in the correct position against the body. I took the bandage off a little earlier than originally planned to give it time to settle, before returning it to the river to rejoin the family. Earlier he dosed away the hours with Steven for company. The final hurdle will be tomorrow when reunited with the family- will he be rejected by the parents ? I will have to choose the time and place carefully and make it as smooth as this space !

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Lefty Meets Steven Seagael

Our recovering Cygnet Lefty had a good day and spent most of the time having naps and chilling out by the pool. My year old mate Steven sat close by and seems to accept the cygnet without any problems. The main problem is the other seagulls that are plaguing the place, I have already taken two down to the river and given another three to the SSPCA and still have two around. Anyway I'm hoping the Cygnet will be able to return to the river within a few days, he keeps walking around like ET checking the gate and wanting to go home !

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

So Far - So Good

Our Angel Cygnet seems to be doing OK so far and has only nibbled at the micro tape covering the edge of the bandage. He keeps heading for the gate, so he knows the way he came in and would like to get back ! I think it's a male and this would fit with the Angel wing, since it seems to be males and the left wing that gets affected. I think I'll call him Lefty....might please some of our left wing viewers !

Meanwhile I saw an Osprey hovering above the river at the Swans Island, this was brought to my attention by the pen who let out a warning call and looked skyward. This is the first time I've seen an osprey above this part of the river, but it makes sense since the water is very low and plenty of small fish around. A couple of poor quality pics due to the conditions.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Angel Delight

After a final consultation with Sue Hulbert my Swan and wildlife expert, and the SSPCA. I finally bit the bullet and collected the cygnet from the river this afternoon with the help of my friend and soulmate. Using my experience and a big bit of guile, I managed to spirit away the angel wing cygnet with the parents being unaware of the cygnapp! I gave them all an ample helping of Wheat, so their heads were all underwater busily eating when I grabbed the cygnet and made a quick getaway to my friends car ! It was as stress free a cygnapp as one could ever hope to get.

Having invested in some vetwrap bandage, tubigrip and microtape, I set about repeating the correct method of bandaging the angel wing as I did successfully last year with a duck.

With the wing now re-fixed into position I am hopeful that a week should do the trick and the cygnet will rejoin the family without a hitch. The Cygnet has settled down so far and not pulling at the special bandage which means that hopefully I have got it right. This is the only cygnet from 4 broods that our pair have reared to fall foul of the angel wing disorder. The cause may well be inherited which occasionally pops up after so many broods. It could also have been caused by an injury, such as the fishing line I removed from the harbour the other day, it had a massive tangle at the end of the line, and the cygnet does have rather a scraggy looking neck ! Diet can also be the cause due to vitamin D and manganese deficiency. The natural food in the river has all but vanished since the big summer spate of 2 weeks ago, the Swans have been limited to the beach when the tide allows, and the rocks for seaweed. I do feed them wheat, grass, poultry pellets and wholemeal bread - but cannot vouch for everyone else being so diet conscious. The parents were fed this - plus carrots throughout the winter and were in prime condition when nesting time arrived.

With the cygnet in the garden I wont need to cut the grass this week at least ! It settled into the paddling pool I bought last year for waterbird emergencies, and is now on a diet of wheat, spinach, lettuce and grass...real hospital food !!!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Angel Wing

A few days ago I noticed one of the cygnets appears to be developing a condition called "Angel wing". At first glance it just looks like the new feathers protruding on the wings due to their rapid growth rate, nothing unusual there since they are growing so fast. However having seen and cured angel wing on a duck last year, I thought I better get it checked out just in case. I took a series of photo's and sent them to Claire my vet, and also to Sue my avian adviser down in Wiltshire. Both seem to think it could well be the start of Angel wing ! This creates quite a serious problem, and I will have to make a decision within days as to what course of action I'm going to take. My dilemma is this, if I do nothing and let the condition develop, the cygnet will never be able to fly and will be attacked and maybe killed by the parents when the time comes for them to leave home. If I treat the cygnet successfully which might take up to 10 days away from the family, then the parents might reject the cygnet when I return it to the river ! It's a tough call and a case of the lesser of two evils I think. The advantage of treating it means it will probably be able to fly and will survive even if it means starting alone in loch flemington or some other sanctuary. Not fixing it will leave me guilt ridden knowing I discovered the problem and did'nt act on it ! On vets advice I will monitor it for a couple of days and see if the wing settles down, I sincerely hope it does !

Now the Bad News

I had a look at the wildlife warning sign at the harbour entrance today. It turns out to be the A4 copy I gave to the harbour master two weeks ago for my idea of the wording for said sign !

Typical Highland Region have spared no expense and taped the paper copy onto the harbour masters fuel shed - job done! COME ON COUNCILLORS, DO I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING MYSELF ? LETS HAVE A PROPER PERMANENT SIGN ATTACHED TO THE FLOODLIGHT POLE AS I POINTED OUT BEFORE .

Friday, 22 July 2011

Some Good News

Following the previous post, where I again retrieved an abandoned fishing line from the harbour entrance. I emailed our regional councillors, the RSPB and Tony Usher ( head of Harbours ) with Photo's of the offending harbour entrance line. I am pleased to publish Tony Ushers Reply today :
Dear all

The Harbourmaster is in the process of placing the sign at the entrance to the harbour and advises he has also removed a couple of abandoned lines.

We should all remain vigilant in collecting these lines to reduce the risk to the wildlife.


Tony Usher
General Manager-Harbours
Harbours HQ

Looks like a victory for common sense, and does illustrate the fact, that the abandonment of fishing line is common since the harbour master has also picked up a few !

All I can say is, if people continue to leave fishing lines and ignore the warning sign to be erected, then a complete ban on fishing from this spot should be implemented - no if''s or buts !

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Fishing Plonkers at it Again

Seems like the Fishing plonkers are alive and well, and as irresponsible as ever. This evening I checked the harbour entrance for fishing tackle and was not disappointed. As I reported in a previous post about hand lines being left abandoned and tethered to bollards, this evening was no exception. Enclosed pics taken this evening with no one to be seen in charge of the abandoned line ! With the two other pieces of discarded line that I found there last week, this merely reinforces my belief that a fishing ban at this spot is actually needed. (Councillors take note .) A renaissance of plonkers we don't need - Nairn has plenty already.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Should River Wildlife Have a Vote ?

I was approached by a gentleman the other day who declared that I was doing myself no favours by calling for a harbour fishing Ban. He read the local paper and remarked that he himself had fished in the harbour as a child and it was common sense to pull the line from the water if the swans came near. I agreed with him, but pointed out that not everyone has common sense! I understand the feelings of people who have enjoyed their childhood pastimes and are nostalgic about those days. I also understand that we live in a different world now with everything being expendable with a throwaway culture and society. Scotland has a Litter problem compared to many other European countries, some of which are so clean you could eat your meals from the streets ! The Nairn shore has also changed dramatically, and in years gone by I am told you could dive off the start of the east pier because there was little sand. Fishing tackle especially nylon line is now plentiful and comparatively cheap as to when I was a boy, and some kids are so used to throwing away everything combined with a littering culture. This makes it more dangerous for the wildlife, especially at the entrance to the harbour where there is an obvious blind spot for child anglers. I notice on a local Blog "the gurn" they have an ongoing poll on whether there should be a fishing ban in the harbour area. Since the swans and ducks are likely to be at the sharp end of any hooks and tackle, and they are waterbirds with a right to be there. Perhaps it's only fair that they too have a vote on whether there should be a ban on fishing at the harbour entrance ?

As their self appointed proxy voter I would like to cast 150 yes votes for the swans and ducks ! All too often everything is judged in human terms exclusively for humans - to the detriment of other deserving native species. When the opposite side of the harbour entrance was commandeered and fenced off, fishing from that side disappeared - we heard no gurn, saw no poll or outcry about that ?

I consider rivers to be the veins and arteries of the planet and should be kept as clean as possible. With the new recycling bins issued to everyone there should be no plastic bottles and cans in the river and harbour. Schools should be very strict on litter, and the kids should be taught until it's second nature not even to drop a sweetie paper !

I am not in the business of doing myself favours and frankly I am not a people person, I have more in common with the river wildlife. The Town and humanity would be the poorer if we lose our appreciation and respect for the river and it's wildlife.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Blooming Island

The Swans Island is in full bloom with an abundance of wild flowers and what we would describe as weeds ! The nettles are 4 feet tall - compliments of the weather conditions this summer, however this is not all bad news for the wildlife. The seeds from these plants will provide feeding for a host of small birds, it also provides good cover for the ducks and future nesting material for the Swans - they too are in full bloom! Last year I saw the Goldfinches take advantage of this natural food supply on the island. Nice to see a clean harbour for a change, for I gave it a clean out on the south side which was followed by one of our local councillors doing the north side ! Being a seaside holiday town, this should be done weekly without me having to keep prompting the authorities !

Saturday, 16 July 2011

That Time of Year Again

The annual seagull fledging is well under way and the streets and pavements are occupied with young gulls. They walk around oblivious of all the dangers and the parents frantically keep watch and occasionally feed them. Living in a one way access only street, I find it very sad when people see fit to flatten young gulls, for no reason other than the fact that they don't want to slow down or stop to allow the chicks to get out of the way. These people are already breaking the rules by using an access only street for shortcuts, I suppose killing innocent chicks means nothing to them either. I have been given another injured gull which was run over in the high st, it has a damaged leg, but is on the mend. I also have another younger chick which fell from it's nest between two chimney pots. It has a damaged leg and wing, although the wing appears to be OK it does hang down slightly. I am reluctant to put them back into the street because there are no pavements and the road is narrow, with proven killer drivers using it! I also had to call the SSPCA to take away an adult gull with two badly broken wings, Almost certainly a parent that will no longer be able to look after it's young. Steven my year old gull has accepted the pair of new casualties and surprisingly has not attacked them, although they are in his territory. He is getting the call of the wild again and would like to join the young gulls migrating to the coast, he is using his wings better than ever and I am still hopeful that one day he will be able to fly enough to cope and survive. I am trying to get him to use the full spread of his wings by getting him to jump / fly for his food, the therapy seems to be working and he can jump - fly about a metre from a standing position. ( short vid clip below.)

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Dead and Alive

The 10 beautiful little ducklings I warned to be careful about a few days ago are all dead. The hoodie crows and maybe people tossing bread on top of them have seen them all wiped out. The mother duck lost at least 2 every day since hatching on the 8th, on one occasion she lost 2 within 3 hours. I saw her at mid day then by 3pm she had lost two. I fear the seagulls on that occasion for she was near the grass and wall, in full view of all the passing tourists etc. It is really sad because the ducklings were gorgeous with 3 of them really light coloured. The caravanners are still not getting the message and continuing to walk round the river with a white bag of white bread and feeding the seagulls - One chap tonight with his child I had told last year not to feed the gulls, there he was again doing the same damn thing !! As for doing the same thing, I picked up two pieces of fishing line from the smoke shed pier yesterday !!

Meanwhile the cygnets are thankfully very much alive, they are now two months old and growing by the day. I am giving them a 20kg sack of grain a week at the moment, this will steadily increase as they progress towards the autumn. The pen has lost virtually all her wing feathers and will be another month before she can fly again. (Short video clip below - apologies for the sound, digital camera mics are awful for catching the wind blowing across the front of the camera ! )

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

SSS Milestone

This is the 367 posting on Simply Superb Swans, you can quite happily read one post a day for a year ! I never thought for a minute that I could base so many posts on one subject ! The truth is my blog has covered a variety of items other than swans, but the Nairn Swan family has been the foundation and could quite easily have been entitled "A year in the life of the Nairn Swans !" For those of you who are new to my blog, can I suggest you go back to 2009 - 2010 archives and have a browse through, you might find some of the photo's and items of some interest. If you liked some of my photo's and stories, maybe donating 2p for each post - for the welfare of the Swans and ducks ??? .....Just a thought.

Brown Flag Again ?

The past few days have certainly seen a fair bit of rain and caused a few headlines with the golf at Castle Stuart. Closer to home it's had the usual effects on the drainage and river. A couple of days ago I took some pics of the main sewer at the bottom of Brochers brae, and the sealed manhole at the Merryton bridge. That huge puddle you were wading through on the way to the maggot was not rainwater by the way, but the sealed manholes were at least holding back the turds ! At Brochers brae the sewage water was pouring down the river wall and so were the overflow tanks at Merryton straight into the river with the accompanying smell. The swans were blissfully unaware that the moat was well and truly contaminated. Today the big spate arrived with the usual trees ploughing along the riverbed, and with the low tides getting hung up on the shingle again. Lets hope they don't take the water purity samples along the beaches, otherwise it'll be a brown flag for us !

Friday, 8 July 2011


Earlier this evening with the occasional flash of lighting and thunder rumbling overhead, I saw a mother duck with 10 little beauties. I think the father must have been the big fair duck, since two or three of them are very light and really cute ! These might be the last brood of the season.

I would ask everyone to be very careful if out feeding the ducks from now on, this brood could be taken by gulls in an instant if bread is thrown at them. We have 3 lots of ducklings just now that are often tagging behind the new ducks, the mothers generally keep them close to the walls and banks - so look very carefully before you start feeding any ducks ! Watch out for fairweather feeders ( holidaymakers and those that come out at weekends to feed the ducks. ) Warn them not to feed the gulls anywhere near the ducklings. People have been in the main pretty good about not attempting to feed the ducklings during the last few months, by all means feed the swans and adult ducks - but not when the ducklings are close by. It would be nice if we could have some of the light coloured ones surviving. To all those that think seagulls are just the same as swans and ducks, I will again publish a couple of pics I took in previous years as well as the new ducklings seen earlier today. PLEASE TAKE NOTE ! Gulls are currently feeding their young !

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

"Nairnshire" Harbour Ban Correction

After reading the local Newspaper The Nairnshire Telegraph I was dismayed to see what I consider to be an over the top distortion of what I was calling for. The first sentence declares that I was looking for a "Blanket Ban", Then the Editorial states ".... ban fishing around the mouth of the River Nairn ? " These are misleading distortions of the email I sent to local councillors on this issue. I have not called for a fishing ban affecting the river or the east or west piers.

Readers can judge for themselves the content of my letter in it's entirety to the regional councillors.

Dear Councillors,

Yesterday I had to free two cygnets being tangled up in fishing line within the harbour. As you are aware this could have been lethal to one of our tourist attractions, and has happened on several occasions
The SSPCA were also called yesterday and the inspector agreed with me that fishing within the harbour seemed foolish and dangerous.

With this in mind I would be grateful if fishing was banned from the harbour walls for the sake of the wildlife. The swans use the harbour on a daily basis depending on the tide. When they come down the river close to the wall they cannot be seen by children at the high entrance to the harbour. Fishing rods and lines are often left unattended hanging over the harbour entrance and are lethal because they cannot be seen by the Swans !

With 11 swans now in the river it is essential that some action be taken before there is a tragedy.
I am sure all right minded people would appreciate the common sense value of such a ban.
Please act without delay and have a sign erected on the smoke shed entrance to the harbour.

Yours Sincerely,
on behalf of the wildlife
Joe Telfer.

Readers will notice there is no reference asking for a ban at the river mouth, or east or west piers - which are not the entrance to the harbour !

I have been quite specific about the danger zone, which is the narrow entrance to the harbour.

If a Ban is not possible then at the very least a warning sign at the Smoke shed pier should be erected without delay. It would do no harm to have one at the end of the west pier as well. If you don't know where the smoke shed pier is, I include photo's showing harbour entrance and pier. I have already covered this subject in depth on previous posts and I'm sure everyone is aware of what I've said and what I want.

Perhaps our two River Community Councillors, Tommy Hogg and the writer of the article John Dolan would like to interfere and get the region to do something about the filthy harbour litter ? I have often cleaned this myself in the past it takes about 5 minutes to do one end. This is a very bad advert for Nairn's tourism industry and sets a bad example to kids to leave their fishing tackle litter as well. Have we no civic pride in the state of our harbour ?

Sunday, 3 July 2011

SOS No Brainer

You might think that it's common sense for people fishing to withdraw their lines from the water if there were 11 swans in the vicinity. Unfortunately we are not all gifted with common sense, and some children just don't realise that swans cant see fishing line. This weeks entanglement is the fourth time I've had to remove line or hooks from the swans, so I have good valid reasons to request a ban or at the very least a sign erected warning of the fishing danger to the wildlife. The entrance to the harbour is narrow and two or three fishing lines set across it is pretty well bound to snag on 11 swans should they suddenly turn into the harbour. There was an evening last summer when I checked the pier for discarded fishing tackle and was amazed to find 2 hand lines which were hitched around the bollards, and the lines right in the middle of the harbour entrance ! The really amazing thing was there was no one around - the lines had been abandoned with hooks etc still attached. The enclosed photo shows some of the tackle I have found on the smoke shed pier over the past couple of years. Many other bunches of discarded nylon line I have already disposed off. I am aware that some local old timers will argue that kids have been fishing there for many years and why stop it ? Well I can think of several reasons, but I don't want to stop peoples pastimes or pleasure, I just want them to act responsibly and do the right thing by the wildlife. Today there were dozens of locals and tourists admiring the abundance of river wildlife, many passing comments on how lovely it was to watch the swans and cygnets. Sometimes we have to make choices on what is best for wildlife and people together. The other enclosed photo is where I think a sign would be most effective to educate -what should really be a no brainer. If you want further proof of the dangers of fishing tackle then have a look at this site :

Friday, 1 July 2011

SOS Update.

Having emailed our regional councillors and harbours authority about some action on the swans safety, I got a few replies back.

The head of harbours, Tony Usher thinks he has no powers to impose a no fishing ban in the harbour, but will ask our local harbourmaster to be vigilant regarding fishing tackle laying around.

Sandy Park would find it difficult and thinks a ban could not be enforced.

Laurie Fraser thinks the matter could be looked at and discussed at the next meeting.

Graham Marsden did not reply to my email.

Liz MacDonald was positive about signage being installed at the harbour, and agrees with me that education about the wildlife is a good thing. I believe there will be sufficient support for at least a sign down by the smoke shed pier on wildlife safety. Liz thinks the Scottish country access code might provide the right form of wording for such a sign. Personally I think a 2 foot wide by 18 inch high sign, attached to the floodlight pole beside the cast iron bench on the pier would be the right location. Many children use the bench for their fishing gear and would see the sign for sure. Suitable wording might be something like this: