Friday, 30 September 2011

Predators Strike Again !

I was dismayed to see 2 of the new Khaki Campbell ducks disappear from the harbour days after this post. Since then the remaining two moved into the river among the mallards, and up until 3 days ago another one went missing, leaving only one ! I did realise that these domestic type ducks had either been clipped or moulted and were unable to fly - making them especially vulnerable to predators. This morning I could see no sign of the last remaining Khaki duck, so checked the island to see if it was there. Sadly I found a dead Khaki near the top of the island, it had been pretty well stripped of it's flesh and was developing maggots, must have been killed several days ago. It looked like the work of a Mink, but I suppose could also have been an Otters handiwork. The growing number of predators on the river might well be killing other species too, like the Heron. One of the riverside residents told me that last monday night the Swans were hissing and warding off something about 11pm. This would be about the time this duck was killed. I have contacted the Water Bailiff to see if he can re-bait the mink traps before we lose any more ducks! The Mallard drake with the broken wing that I couldn't catch has also disappeared, inability to fly is pretty well a death sentence to any waterbirds.

Local residents overlooking the river have told me of massive duck commotion at night, this indicates predators attacking during the hours of darkness. I am saddened by the loss of these khaki ducks, for they were particularly attractive and added a bit of colour to the river. The mortality rate in the past 10 days is at least 5 ducks that I know of, this is unsustainable and will somehow have to be stopped ! A complete species wiped out, gives you and idea of how deadly mink are to ground nesting birds !

Wednesday, 28 September 2011


In Addition to the 6 goosander seen recently another new arrival on the river today, a female Wigeon. I noticed it feeding among the grasses at high tide along with the Mallards, it was still there after the tide went out. Smaller than the Mallard, they sometimes follow Swans and coots and eat mainly vegetation.

Monday, 26 September 2011

"HAPPY" The Movie.

As a member and follower of Action for Happiness, I have been invited to the premiere of "Happy" the Movie on October the 19th. This will be held in London's Notting hill gate at the Coronet Cinema. I wont be going, but have indicated I would like Nairn to see this film.
Action for Happiness presents... HAPPY: the movie, Does money make you happy? What about family? Do we live in a world that values well-being? Are we in the midst of a happiness revolution? Roko Belic, director of Academy Award nominated "Genghis Blues" brings us
HAPPY, a film exploring the secrets behind our most valued emotion. (click on the link for a short trailer.)

I have contacted the events Manager of action for Happiness to see if the film can be shown here in Nairn. It is the intention to have this film shown throughout the UK as widely as possible.

Also emailed Cinema Nairn to see if they would be interested in screening this movie. I hope I can arrange a showing and spread the Happy message....we could all do with some of it ! Watch this space !

Saturday, 24 September 2011

We Have Lift Off !

Favourable downstream winds encouraged the Cygnets to yet again have a go at flying today. Sure enough the undercarraige went up and most of them flew a few feet from the water before splashdown, it was exciting to see. With settled weather forecast this coming week and suitable tides, they should be flying at some point every day - keep your eyes open for action.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Walking on Water

The Nairn Cygnets are looking great - healthy and strong and in perfect condition for flying. I was a bit too far away today to see them having a wee sortie up the river, but I took a couple of distance shots showing them treading water with the wings going. The parents watched their progress but took no part in the exercise. With High tides due late next week I think they will be making daily trips to the seaweed near the swimming pool, this might give them a chance for short sea flights if the weather is mild. Soon they 'll be taking off, flying and landing like the cob in the lower pics. With a 2 metre wingspan they will look and sound great in flight !

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Descended from Dinosaurs

In the overall timescale of the planet we have been here in about the blink of an eye, yet we think we know everything ! I missed the bulk of the TV program on the bird type dinosaurs tonight, but the evidence is clear on the evolution of birds from dinosaurs. I can easily imagine swans having descended from dinosaurs, with evidence still there to be seen today. Take a look at the feet of the Cob which I took some time ago, the scaly effect, then there's the hissing when annoyed, probably a very early prehistoric sound, the spline ridges along the mouth which were probably once teeth like. Yeah, it's easy to imagine they are Dinosaur descendants !

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

New Ducks ?

Today I saw 4 new ducks in the Harbour a Drake and 3 ducks, I suspect they have been put there for they are not wild Mallards but a domestic species. They look like Khaki Campbell's and have obviously been reared by humans, in addition they are unable to fly at the moment due to either wing clipping or moulting. They look exactly like the previous pair we had in the river a few years ago, larger than the mallards but very friendly and produce a lot of offspring. They mix and breed with the mallards and create hybrids of various colours. From what I've read, Khaki Campbell's are a mixture of Indian runners, Rouen, and mallard ducks anyway.

Some people will take exception to putting another species with wild stock and mixing the natural gene pool. Personally I don't have a problem with different ducks inhabiting the river, nature tends to sort them out over time.

The previous ones produced some lovely ducklings but many were killed because their light colouring made them obvious targets for the hoodie crows. The parents were good at producing and rearing their offspring and were highly successful, were it not for human badness ! Two of the light coloured ducks were killed by humans with catapults as I stated on older postings, - an awful heartbreaking crime on such beautiful innocent creatures.

Needless to say If anyone sees wildlife crime they should contact me or the police.

Anyway, a bit of new colour in the river is welcome and I'm sure the new additions will mix well with the Mallards. The Cygnets were intrigued with them too.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Little Auk Dies - Puffin in fact !

UPDATE : I have just heard from the RSPB that the bird was in fact a young Puffin although the beak and colouring have not yet developed ! This might explain the chest injury if it fell /dived onto rocks - very sad anyway.

Sadly the little Auk found at the carse yesterday died at Midnight. It had an injury to the chest which I only discovered on inspection after it had died. Beneath the feathers was a wet patch which I thought was because it was always laying down on it's chest, there was a small tear in the skin and small hole, maybe caused by another bird or maybe an airgun - who knows. I had phoned my friend and Avian adviser Sue earlier for her advice. She consulted a seabird expert who recommended feeding the bird with sprats until strong enough for release. Sadly all in vain now.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Arctic Little Auk

Some Local good Samaritans out at the Carse found a Little Auk on the shore, they brought me the bird to see if I might look it over. I did not know what species it was until I checked my bird book, to find it was called a "Little Auk". It appeared tired out and is probably exhausted by being blown off course during strong sea gales. I think it's perhaps a juvenile just developing it's winter plumage and got caught in the recent deep low pressure that swept across the country in the last few days. Did not appear to be injured, showed no fear of humans and was easily handled. According to the bird book they winter in the open ocean, but are driven south into the North sea when food is scarce and can be driven onto our shores during autumn gales. They breed in the Arctic islands on Spitsbergen and Greenland, food is mainly plankton and small sea creatures, also eats fish and shellfish. It's a very dumpy endearing little bird, and I hope it survives. Hopefully rest and recovery time is probably all that's needed, but I will have a little fish on hand just in case!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Hard to Believe

The cygnets have just turned 4 months old, which is very hard to believe considering their size ! They are fast losing their baby feathers and being replaced by more white. Flight training appears to be on hold just lately, and the cob has another week or two before he gets his new flight feathers. Maybe then we'll see some short flights around the bay ? The pics show the pen teaching them how it's done. Meanwhile the Swans and ducks are eating 20kg of wheat a week from me alone, not to mention the grass and wholemeal bread ! (Short vid below of wheat mealtime, note how the protective parents still position themselves at either end). Three donations from well wishers in the past week ensures the waterbirds food supply - Thank you wildlife lovers, much appreciated !

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Council Cutters Wanted

I notice this weeks local front page refers to a riverside cleanup project between the road bridge and merryton sewage bridge. The plan appears to be in doubt because of sewage discharge and contamination issues, frankly I'm not surprised. From my observations over the years, there appears to be several discharge points in that small area, this is in addition to the large Scottish water outfall pipe which leaks frequently - even in dry weather. There might also be two other drains from merryton and elsewhere. The lush growth and height of the trees is testament to the nutrition provided by the sewage discharges ! It's ironic that when walking under the roadbridge every day you have to duck to avoid being smacked on the moosh by the overhanging bushes, yet the council saw fit to vandalise a 5 foot strip of inoffensive wildlife habitat behind the seamans hall ! This is just another example of government mismanagement and wrong use of resources. Could the council kindly trim the overhanging skelpers at the roadbridge, and also the Berberis darwinii at the old harbour walk before someone sues them ? ( make sure you remove the berberis cuttings since the thorns are lethal !)

Friday, 9 September 2011

Swan Etiquette

As the Nairn cygnets mature and have little skirmishes, the parents occasionally pull them together for etiquette and protocol in such matters. This culminates in communication with cygnets cheeping and head nodding, finally grunting by the Cob draws a line under any bad behaviour.

Gulls Fixed

After a week of good food and medication it was time to release the Bumble foot gull back to the riverside, the foot infection and limping had all but gone. I let it go at the bottom of Brochers brae where it walked along the wall then flew around the river, returning to the top of the arcade, probably where it was hatched. I returned home and the other gull that has been with me for about two weeks, left of it's own accord an hour later, I think the departure of the earlier one was the trigger. It was in good health and the bad leg and wing had both healed. Two successful rescue results and my garden is free of bird casualties - for the moment job done !

I am however trying to catch a Mallard drake with a broken wing, so far without success because he can run faster than me ! I will keep trying though.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Look

With Blustery autumn winds and the leaves turning, all my hopes of a late summer are fast disappearing! The Cygnets will be 4 months old next week and it's hard to believe they are the size of the parents already. The previous pair of Swans used to chase their cygnets away around the 6th October when they were just 5 months old. It remains to be seen what will happen with our lot of 9 this time. I think the river food supply was the main deciding factor - I mean the lack of it ! This year has been a write off weather wise, and the river weed disappeared in July, the need for greenery has been obvious for the cygnets, and I do my best to supply them with some tender grass on a daily basis. In addition they get their Wheat Grain, alternating with poultry pellets and wholemeal bread. The other day the high tide allowed them access to some green willow leaves, they will be flying soon and will need all the power reserves at their disposal. I got a very Oliver twist look from a cygnet the other day when my supplier ran out of wheat - It was a, Please can I have some more Look !

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Bumble Foot

Yet another young gull with a bad leg at brochers brae, this one has been around for a while and limping quite badly. I saw it sitting close to the manhole that has been spewing out sewage every time it rains hard, it seemed poorly, still has baby fluff and was not eating. Perhaps the parents have abandoned it because of it's limping and apparent illness. I managed to catch it and take it home for a good look, although it can fly OK. The left foot appears to have the start of a painful condition called bumble foot, with swelling on the underside due to bacterial infection. This usually enters the foot due to a cut or scratch and if left untreated can enter the bone and other parts of the body with dire consequences. It crossed my mind with all the sewage overspill in that area, did it get the infection there ? Anyway since the other gull I have at present is all but cured of it's leg injury, I banished it to the garden to make room in the aviary for the new patient. I consulted Sue my Avian adviser and have administered some antibiotics and anti inflammatory medication. After two days it has already shown signs of recovery and is now eating with gusto, when the limping disappears I will take it back to brochers brae and release it. Meanwhile the other gull from the same area is getting familiar with the new casualty.