Monday, 29 August 2011

Vets Admission & New Gull

Today I received a phone call from Moray Coast Vet Group regarding the Seagull I took in for treatment / surgery 2 weeks ago. They admitted that not informing me of their action to euthanize the bird was wrong, and unacceptable. They said that a breakdown in communication seemed to be the cause, but also admitted that their expertise in avian matters was limited. Having been a customer of theirs for over 30 years, I accept their explanation and feel assured that they will do their best in future to avoid a repetition. Surgery on birds is very risky, but I would rather see a brave attempt to save a viable life than to automatically put it to sleep. Perhaps this will be more likely in future.

Ironically I spotted a young seagull at brochers brae last week which appeared to have an injured leg . (God forbid ! ) It looked too young to have left the nest and still has some head fluff, but was limping badly. When a friend mentioned the bird to me a couple of days later, still limping and in the same location I decided to give it the once over next time I saw it. The following day it was pecking around the sewer overspill at brochers brae so I picked it up and carried it home for inspection. The left leg joint was swollen, and the left wing not sitting correctly, this leads me to believe it may well have been hit on the left side by a vehicle. The good news is that there are no broken bones that I can detect, some anti - inflammatory medication, rest and feeding until the fluff has disappeared is probably all that's required. This morning the limping has reduced, and it decided to have a bath - for this gull things are looking up!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Out Of Sight - Out of Mind

Sewerage continues to blight the River Nairn every time we get a downpour that lasts for 20 minutes. It has been obvious for years that the Town sewerage system has been over loaded and can only get worse. Because most of us don't see the problem it is in the main ignored - a case of out of sight out of mind. Scottish water should be made to rectify the problem by agencies such as SEPA (Scottish environmental protection agency) and of course our local politicians! Maybe a radical approach like refusal to give anymore planning permission to build within Nairn - until the sewage infrastructure is put right, might be one way of forcing Scottish water to invest in upgrading the system ? I for one see the effects of the sewers constantly because of my contact with the river environment, and have contacted SEPA several times. This resulted in some action which temporarily improved the situation, because they cleaned some of the system and bolted down some visible manhole covers. It was obvious this was merely going to move the problem elsewhere, recent downpours just expose the weakness and the pics above show what is happening on both sides of the river every time it rains ! I think it's time our community councils and regional politicians start taking Scottish water to task, instead of destroying the wildlife habitat and vote garnering by occasional litter picking ! The more people that complain about this issue, the better for all of us - including the wildlife!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Flock of Angels.....Not Quite !

The pen is still urging the Cygnets to stretch their wings, and they duly oblige. They have still to realise that they need space to spread their wings and today I witnessed several water crashes, due to the large wingspan and miscalculations of the young angels. One of the young cobs is exerting his dominance on the flock, and is just full of himself - attacking when the mood takes him.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Swan Love Lessons

The Cygnets have now entered adolescence and showing all the signs of restless teenagers. Earlier today the parents decided it was time to show them who was the boss of the family, and pulled them together for a love display. I just managed to get the camera rolling to catch the love heart shape, and the cob giving the powerful male grunt that only he can do. The cygnets joined in joyous cheeping, at what was basically a family love in - great to watch. Turn up your sound and enjoy - the not so Mute Swan family !

Tuesday, 23 August 2011


Having my morning coffee in the living room, I glanced outside to see a Sparrowhawk strike a sparrow in front of the window. The talons were firmly wrapped round the poor bird and the hawk started stripping the feathers with lightning speed. I grabbed the camera but could not move the window plant for fear of chasing the Sparrowhawk, this has resulted in some plant colour reflection on the images. It appeared to be a young male Sparrowhawk and it made short work of the sparrow. I took a short video of the action (see below) before moving position to try and get better still shots. I managed a few pics before the hawk spotted me and flew off with its kill. This Sparrowhawk was smaller then the one last year - looks like I'm going to lose some of my garden visitors again. Nairn has no shortage of Sparrowhawks, with an abundance of feral pigeons and young birds to eat ! I don't suppose the sparrows get a chance to see the fearsome look on the hawks face , those talons are very long and needle sharp!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Duck Numbers Down

This years new duck numbers are down on the previous year, we had about 35 surviving ducklings which is a bit of a disappointment. The Mink and hoodie crows had again a devastating effect on the numbers. Take for instance the superduck mother who had 23 at one stage, she finally ended up with 3. This was incredible considering what a great mother she was, having taken on the cob , avoided dogs and the heron - but I think the hoodie crows and later on the mink did the damage. They should have been safe at 6 weeks old but were going missing night after night. It was a great pity that the Mink was not caught sooner.( short video below of superduck and ducklings that were about a month old.) I also noted that we got only two broods from up river which was a shock, again I assume that maybe mink were mainly responsible, for many of the mothers that went up river have never returned. This could only happen if something is killing the mothers as they sit on the nest guarding their eggs. All in all the river duck numbers are about the same as last year because of the loss of many females that went missing up river. I did see some guy with a chestnut coloured spaniel whom I've yet to find out exactly what he's up too, but it looked suspiciously like he's hunting ducks and nests illegally along the riverside. This might account for all the missing broods up river !

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Flight Training Begins

The Pen has moulted and regrown her new flight feathers, and is ready for serious flight training exercises with the cygnets. Today was an ideal starting day with a light breeze blowing down the river. The cob took no part since he has just lost all his flight feathers, and wont be able to fly for another 5 weeks ! The cygnets wings are developing fast and should be capable of flight in a fortnight. Mum starts the training by giving a call for all the cygnets to pay attention, she then starts running with wings outstretched and then slows, waiting on the cygnets to follow. As the cygnets copy her she runs ahead even faster, glancing back to see who is following . The last pic shows Lefty the cygnet who had the angel wing - joining in and making full use of the wings. The Mute swan is Britain's heaviest flying bird and within 6 weeks these babies will be flying well !

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Coping With One Leg

I am still fuming about the disgraceful action of Moray coast group vets for putting down a viable bird life after being told not to do so ! Of all the bird species that could cope best with one leg I would say the Seagull is the most suited of all the birds I can think of. It has a broad webbed foot centred under the body, a large wingspan allowing it to take off from land and water easily. It does not use trees or bushes, spends a lot of it's time on water and flat surfaces such as sandy beaches. I also know from experience that they can walk quite well on one leg, for I watched Steven my own gull friend of 13 months, walk across the lawn one day on one leg - just because he wanted to. I know there are reasons why certain birds and conditions could not cope at all with one leg and their lives would not be viable. The vets culture is perhaps where the problem lies, maybe the separation and distinction between what they consider to be domestic pet species and the wild ones ? This makes it easier for them to put to sleep anything that is not considered human friendly, unlike a budgie, parrot or canary. These of course are wild birds in their own countries adopted by humans as pets. Vets practice are business's and we go there as paying customers, we expect them to do the best for our pets and would not accept for one moment them putting to sleep our budgie parrot or canary, should it have a broken leg. We are not talking complicated invasive surgery here, the biggest risk would be the anesthetics - a risk we would all accept given the choice. This gull should have been given the same treatment as any pet bird, it would have been paid for and my experienced aftercare facilities were there for a full recovery too. It was a callous act to put it to sleep.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Thumbs Down for Vet

Yesterday morning I took the seagull with the broken leg to the Moray Coast vets in Nairn . I left strict instructions with the nurse that I did not want the bird put to sleep and told her two options to be considered. One was to have the leg fixed if possible, or amputate if that was not possible. I was told I would be contacted but heard nothing until I phoned this morning - to be informed that the bird had been put to sleep !!! I was livid that a perfectly healthy bird that could have been saved albeit with one leg, had been put down without any reference to me. I asked for an explanation and was told that Sarah the vet would contact me. Sarah phoned later and told me she thought rather than put the bird through a complex operation, putting it to sleep was the kindest thing to do. I said that I would not like her to be my Doctor if I had a broken leg !

She laughed and seemed to think this was amusing....I certainly did not ! All living things deserve a chance to survive. This bird in particular deserved such a chance, for it risked it's life to survive. I had it at home for two days and it managed to get in and out of the bath using only one leg, It was in good health and could fly. I have already given the Scottish SPCA 4 seagulls this year that were probably too badly injured to be saved. This one had a fracture about quarter of an inch above the leg joint, if you cant amputate that and leave a stump, then perhaps you should go back to vet school ? I left strict instructions that I wanted the bird saved and that I would pay for it. I also don't think she had the right to euthanize without informing me first. Thumbs down for professionalism Sarah.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Swallows Fledged

The Swallows I discovered a few weeks ago have now fully fledged and only return to the nest to roost. They now have just over 5 weeks to hone their flying skills and put on some reserves to start the long journey to Africa. Usually they leave around the 23 Sept, roughly the same time as the Geese start arriving here for the winter. After the summer we've had I'm sure a lot would like to follow them ! I found another gull yesterday with a broken leg, too bad to repair it myself so will take it to the vet in the morning. I would like to see it survive because it's healthy otherwise and showed a strong determination to live when I discovered it. If the leg cant be saved I will ask for an amputation, I have seen several birds in the past that survive perfectly well on one leg. Meanwhile I have given it an anti - inflammatory to reduce the pain.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Steven Seagael Makes my Day

Two days after I released Steven the gull on the west beach, I have looked anxiously several times to spot him, without success. This morning whilst feeding the ducks near the island, I saw a solitary gull paddling up river under the trees which was unusual for a gull. It looked like Steven but was too far away to tell, after a while it took off and flew towards the maggot flats and landed on the grass. I couldn't resist the urge to investigate further and crossed the Merryton bridge to check him out. The closer I got the more convinced I was that it was indeed him. I have carried a piece of fish every day in case I found him in a starved state, and when I held it he came running as usual and gratefully swallowed it. He has survived his first 2 days in the wild at least, and his ability to fly from land and water is essential to his survival. If you wonder how I know him compared to all the other gulls, he has white scar marks on top of his beak from when he was first injured. Seagulls don't go totally white until they are two years old, he is of course whiter and older than first year seagulls. It's great to see he's survived and can take off from water too ! (short vid clip below)

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Freedom !

I said last year that when Steven the seagull can fly over the garden gate I would consider him cured of his broken wing, and that I would take him to the beach. After 13 months Steven finally flew over the gate today and landed in the road. My fear of losing him to the neighbours dog or him being run over, meant I would let him go today. I ushered him back into the garden then transported him down to the beach. Conditions were in fact Ideal, a brisk easterly wind low tide and hundreds of other gulls on the shore seemed just right. I opened the bag on the dunes and let him feel the wind, he walked a few yards onto the sand shook his wings raised his head and took off ! (short vid clip below ) I was choked with emotion as I watched him fly towards the sea, his flight was almost flawless but his landing a bit unsteady. I walked over to where he landed and he paddled through some shallow seawater sipping as he went and pecking at the odd shell. After a little while he walked back towards the dunes where he was joined by an adult gull. I thought for a moment that maybe there was some connection since he made himself small as though it was the parent. I only hope there is no other motive from the adult and that it didn't spot a weakness in Steven to be exploited. I decided to walk him towards the other gulls and get him acquainted, he occasionally took little flights and landed awkwardly at times. Hopefully if he survives a day or two, his ability to control his take offs and landings will improve greatly. When we got closer to the other gulls I stopped and let him carry on alone for fear of spooking the flock. At one point he stopped and looked back as though having a last look at me his friend of the past year, a flick of the tail and he carried on to meet his destiny.
This morning I lost two teeth at the dentists, this afternoon the loss was greater - I shall miss him.

Steven Seagael can Fly !

Something remarkable has happened to Steven, my seagull mate of the last 13 months. Regular viewers will be well aware of the story where I fixed his broken wing last year but not good enough to fly. I have tried physiotherapy and making him jump/fly for his food, this to get him to maximise the use of his wings. When this years crop of young gulls invaded the garden over the past few weeks, Steven seemed to get the bug to join them as I chased them out of the garden. He also appeared to have gone off his food and hadn't eaten for days at a time. I figured he was making himself lighter to enable him to fly. He kept running across the grass and occasionally lifting off as he neared the gate, getting higher over the last week . I knew he was getting better because his mended right wing tips were no longer touching the ground when he ran along flapping his wings, he was definitely lifting it higher and no longer shearing the tips off like last year. I was worried about him not eating for days, until I realised he had been catching his own food by way of hunting sparrows ! He stalks under the bushes watching the sparrows carefully, and given a chance to jump up and catch one - he obviously takes it. Today I found a ball of regurgitated bones and feathers which he disgorged on the doorstep ! He also flew from the window cill right across the garden to the gate without any headwind ! It looks like he could be well enough to join the other gulls at the beach sometime soon. He has proved he can hunt, and with a fair wind he maybe able to fly enough to get out of trouble. He has been quite a character with Millie my dog, and he liked me playing with him too. ( short vid clip of a game he likes)

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Dangerous Cuttings Removed

After complaints to the council by myself and others in the community, the dangerous bramble bush cuttings were removed this morning. I am glad the council moved quickly on this, but sorry that they cut the strip of habitat in the first place ! I hope they have learned a valuable lesson, that it is better to talk to local knowledgeable people first before doing something that the community don't want ! People are more environmentally conscious today than they have ever been, because they realise there is more to life than consumerism and covering everything over with concrete, tarmac and manicured grass. Our wildlife have rights too and must be spoken up for when the need arises, for they cannot speak for themselves. After the near fatal attack on our Swans last year I called for a few signs to be put up for people to keep their dogs under control and on a lead near the wildlife. I was not listened to, now we have the council removing the natural safety barrier that to some extent prevented dogs from getting at the wildlife. Yesterday I sent an email to our local councillors stating that I would be holding the council responsible, should anything happen to our Nairn swans because of the removal of this natural barrier ! I want them to remember for every action there is a reaction !

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Nairn Swans Put at Risk !

As I predicted a few days ago on my council vandalism posting . Today I witnessed first hand what council Incompetence means to the safety of the Nairn Swans. A group of visitors had encouraged the cygnets close to the river wall making them easy prey for any uncontrolled passing dogs. I have complained to the powers that be, and as yet have had no response, and whats worse the council have still not raked up the bramble cuttings that were strimmed along the wall. These cuttings could get impaled into the mouths of the swans when high tides allow access to them, this could cause infection and possible death. WILL THE COUNCIL GET THESE CUTTINGS RAKED UP AND REMOVED FORTHWITH !

The pics show how the natural vegetation barrier along the wall has been removed, thus allowing the cygnets access to the wall and obvious danger. The pics also show the Alien plant species (Himalayan balsam to the left of the photo) still growing happily, (was this the intended council target for cutting ? ) Maybe the River Community Council should be asking questions ? The final photo is yet again a reminder of what can happen to a swan after a dog attack ! Should anything happen to the Nairn swans because of the removal of habitat I will be holding the Council responsible ! Can I also remind people not to feed the Swans out of the water !!

Summer Spates Disaster

This summer has been a non starter and a bit of a disaster for the food supply of the Swans. The summer spates have been heavier than usual and earlier too. The one back in July wiped out the river weed, and any recovery in it's regrowth has now been wiped out with the last few days heavy rain. It is too late in the year for any river weed growth now, so the Swans will have to rely on seaweed and handouts from now on. Even the seaweed on the shore can only be got at when the tides and weather permit. Their need for greenery can be seen when they are frantically pulling at the small strip of grass in the harbour. I have made it a point to give them hand pulled grass daily, mower cuttings are too mushed up and they don't eat it. In addition they get wheat grain and wholemeal bread. The cob is now moulting and will be flightless for approx 6 weeks, the pen has regrown her new flight feathers and should be able to fly again by the weekend. The cygnets wings are growing and on track for flight training by September, it will be interesting to see if the parents give them the heave ho early this year, considering the lack of river food available.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Geese a Break !

What a lovely surprise this afternoon when 9 Canada geese dropped into the river for a quick bite and a break. I was feeding our 9 cygnets when I heard the loud trumpeting honk of the geese as they flew in from the east, over the Island and circled round to land just yards from the island grazing. The young ducks had never seen such strange looking creatures and seemed bemused by them. The Geese quickly started eating and obviously needed the break, the swans were some distance away and never saw them. I wondered if this was a family unit of parents and 7 young. This is the first time I have ever seen Canada geese in the river itself. After 20 minutes of refreshment they headed off into the southerly breeze. It was a perfect setting, except for the vandalised riverside contribution by the council ! Several people have already remarked on the destruction of wildlife habitat, I am still waiting for an explanation from someone for this outrage ?