Saturday, 28 April 2012

Half Ton Shingle Shifter

The legacy of last weeks Spate is strewn all over the beach, and changed the course of the river yet again. The swans island moat has a huge half ton tree root sitting at the end of it. This hulk has no doubt shifted thousands of tons of river shingle on it's way downstream, and probably changed quite a few salmon pools too. I can only hope that next months spring tide will remove it, otherwise it could sit there until we get another flood.
Again nature has dealt a blow to many ducks nests, with many being flooded out, but Penny our Sitting Swan has been spared because there was no high tide to threaten the nest. This has been a tough nesting time with Snow, wind and rain for the past month. It will be interesting to see if she has preserved all her clutch intact, and if they will all hatch next month. It shows the wisdom of the Swans not nesting early when the weather was good, it could have spelt disaster for any hatched young in the past week. Meanwhile the Jackdaws are into their nesting season, and many now picking up dog hair and feathers to line their nests.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Raging River

We all knew we were going to pay for that glorious March weather....aren't we just ! Non stop wind and rain for days on end, and the river bursting it's banks in several places. Some recent comments about the wisdom of me feeding the birds was literally cast to the wind  - there were some mighty grateful birds lining up for a welcome feed today. The river was in a  raging spate and the birds had no source of feeding available...except for the Goosanders which incredibly were still managing to fish the edges with some success.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Predators 14 Ducks 0

Today I witnessed the last poor duckling being taken by a hoodie crow. The Mother duck was unable to fend off two Hoodie's as they worked their routine to take the last of the 14 hatched ducklings so far. My language to describe what I felt about those crows today is not fit for publication, suffice to say my anger is immense. The enclosed pic of the mother and duckling I took some 20 minutes before it was ambushed

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Last One

How sad it is to see only one duckling left out of 14 hatched so far. This morning she still had the two and the tide was well in, yet this afternoon at 4pm she showed up with only one. So much for those who think there are loads of ducks on the river. Up until now I know of 2 ducks that have lost all their eggs to the tide, and the other two who had 14 ducklings between them now have only 1 left will also probably be lost ! This would make it 4 adults with no survivors.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Cold Killer

As feared, the first lot of ducklings have been decimated. There are only two ducklings left from the 14 that started from two recent hatches. The mother duck lost 4 yesterday, and two this afternoon. The cold weather has prompted fierce activity from the Hoodie Crows, and they are picking off the ducklings at will. It's heartbreaking to see the disproportionate slaughter inflicted by two or three crows on the river duck population !

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Drilled Ducklings

Sometimes luck and timing just catches the shot right. This was the case today when the mother with eight ducklings (she lost one since yesterday evening), gathered them together on a bank. It looks like the one in the corner is getting the other four to stand to attention !

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Delightful Duck Drama

What an amazing day, and I'm yet again astounded by the wonder of ducks ! Today the sewage pipe contractors arrived to dig out the old leaking pipe along the riverside. I knew there was a ducks nest just a foot away from this pipe and perched 10 feet above the river. I asked the Contractor yesterday to avoid disturbing the duck on her nest since it was due to hatch anytime.

The contractor ignored my request and continued to tear away the old sewer wall, when I went to investigate the condition of the nest, the contractor said the duck was on the nest and some had hatched. What I found was a nest with 5 unhatched eggs in it. I checked the condition of the eggs and they had not pipped, meaning they were not about to hatch and were probably dead.

I anxiously searched the river for the duck and within minutes I spotted her with 7 tiny ducklings in tow ! She had hatched them in the nick of time and got them safely into the water from a 10 foot high wall ! The next part of the drama was her leading them onto the central shingle bed which was full of seagulls, one of which was eyeing up the ducklings. At this point I headed home dreading what might happen later. On my return in the afternoon, I spotted her a bit farther down river being pursued by a gull, she had already lost 2 ducklings and was fending off the gull when I joined in, clapped my hands to chase the gull. She came over to the high wall beside me and I gave her some wheat grain then she headed over to the other side of the river. with the 5 remaining ducklings. This evening I could not resist checking on her again but could not find her or the ducklings. When I called the other Mother duck who had the 4 survivors from last Saturday down from the swans island, I was gobsmacked to see her come down from the nest with NINE DUCKLINGS...I realised right away that she had taken on - or adopted the new ducklings that had hatched earlier in the day. I was overjoyed because this is their best chance of survival, since this mother keeps to the safety of the island and nest, which is only a few feet from the Swans nest...the safest place to be! After a quick feed the mother of 4 led all of them back to island then up to the nest. The Mother of the 5 knew where they were and walked up to the nest to check they were OK. This was the ultimate in Sisterly love that I have ever witnessed between adult ducks ! Sequence of pics throughout the day, starting with the Star adoptive Mother !

Monday, 16 April 2012

Penny Takes a Break

With the cold Northerly wind blowing up river for days on end, today's brief glimpse of sunshine finally allowed Penny the chance for a short break. Popeye was on hand to stand guard over the nest, while Penny shivered after entering the cold water. A quick bite of some Wheat grains and a bath, followed by some preening. After 10 minutes off the nest, she returned to continue the long incubation. Popeye meanwhile passed some more nesting material to Penny and presented me with a shot of a pull me - push me Swan !

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Summer Soon ?

I was quite surprised to see a Swallow on the river today, considering how cold with Wintry showers still coming in from the North. It's usually around the 23 April when I notice their return, one Swallow does not make a summer, but maybe soon I hope ! The first ducklings are still around having been reduced to 4, the cold and lack of insects doesn't help their chances either.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

First Ducklings

The first River Nairn Ducklings that I'm aware of, have shown up this morning. One of the nesting Mother ducks that I've been monitoring, showed up for her usual feed with 7 little beauties in tow. The inclement weather immediately put paid to my joy, with a tremendous shower of hail that must have seemed like cannon balls to the ducklings. The hoodie crows may have already claimed some, for they have been watching the nest site for some days now. I can only hope that some of them survive the inevitable onslaught !

Update: this afternoon I arrived in time to see two hoodie crows trying to take more ducklings...there is now only 4 left.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Alien Invaders

When I was a kid 55 years ago, one of the annual play events was making pea shooters from a plant with hollow stems - Japanese Knotweed. Today interestingly enough, I take a dietary supplement called Resveratrol - partly made from Japanese Knotweed ! The other two particular Alien invaders that seem to be the most troublesome are Giant Hogweed and Himalayan balsam. Of the three, the most dangerous to human health is Giant hogweed. I recall about 30 years ago down at Mundole near Forres, a young child who unwittingly had been playing along the riverside and come into contact with the giant hogweed. She was covered in huge watery blisters like having been scalded with boiling water, it was really bad ! The Himalayan Balsam is much more benign, and extremely attractive to bees, which I understand are most attracted to the colour red. They are so prolific at spreading because of their exploding seed pods. The biggest alien threat is undoubtedly the Giant hogweed, and should be first on the elimination list !

Homing Pigeon

It's nice to be appreciated....even by birds ! Regular followers will recall the recent rescue of a young pigeon that was found stunned outside Salon 80. I kept it for a few days cleaned it up and eventually let it join the the town centre flock. It now returns daily along with it's mates, and takes pride of place on the doorstep !

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Duck Survival Camouflage

The Ducks on the lower river have now dispersed all over the place to nest. The bulk of the ducks to be seen openly, are now mainly Drakes without partners. They are ready to pounce on any nesting females that show up for a feed. It's tough being a female duck at this time of year, not only do they have to put up with all the testosterone packed Drakes, but their own survival and that of their precious eggs is all down to them alone. Their rather plain feathers are ideally evolved to match the decayed springtime foliage, even their eyes are located in their dark head band. This allows them to watch predators without giving away their position, perfect survival camouflage. The biggest threat sitting on their nest, is loose uncontrolled sniffing and hunting dogs, owners should be mindful of the ducks that we all so admire, and keep their dogs under close control over the next 3 months !

Monday, 9 April 2012

The Long Wait

The weather does not bode well in the short term, with forecasts of cold and snow on the way again. This will hit any new ducklings about to hatch, after all the good weather in March. Lack of insects and warmth is bad news for any new ducklings during April. The swans have now settled into the long incubation period, and Popeye can now take time out to fully recover. The foot injury is now healing over with scar tissue and he is looking really healthy. The patch of sprouting Himalayan balsam that was sprayed has all but died, but a few small bit's have been missed, I might pull them out by hand later on. Doing the right thing at the right time saves time and money.

Friday, 6 April 2012

The Good- The Bad - and the Lovely

The good - news from one of the Brochers brae residents today, is that the Leaking sewage pipe that I have so often displayed on this blog - is to be replaced shortly. Starting in a about a weeks time, the job should last for around 6 weeks replacing 120 metres of pipe. This is good news for this particular resident and their children who were most directly affected, it is also good news for the Swans and related river wildlife, along with the Nairn beaches which should now be cleaner - without the periodic pollution every time we get heavy rain.

The bad - news for me today was the flooding of one of the ducks nests due to the spate and high tide. This is heartbreaking, because she is one of the ducks that I reared and released last year. She has been brilliant and built the most beautiful camouflaged nest which was filled with eggs, today she was close by the bank looking towards her swamped nest - it was really sad after such a breeding success. The lovely - are the ducks of the river, they are the most endearing creatures with real character - I love them !

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Popeye Protects

Popeye our resident Cob is recovering just in the nick of time to protect the territory. Yet again he had to chase another pair away allowing Penny his partner to get on with the business of nesting. He still has a limp but able to walk reasonably well on land ( short vid clip below.) Was a bit too far away and poor light did not allow good shots, but you can see Popeye doing his stuff above the island with penny on the nest, not the least bit fazed. After he sees off the intruders, he comes in to land in the river in front of the caravan site.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Snow White Swans

From Africa to the Arctic in 3 days - the high pressure responsible for the huge weather switch is building again. The local wildlife has taken a battering with many birds nesting under a blanket of snow of the heavy variety, crushing and breaking many bushes. The Swans must have had a bad night on such an exposed nest site, open to the bitter polar winds. Popeye is presently on the snowy nest , whilst Penny is taking a break and giving herself a clean and preen. This is the first time they have ever been caught nesting under a heavy snowfall. I was also greeted by many ducks this morning, looking for a sustaining feed to keep them going whilst nesting. The next potential threat comes from a quick thaw, maybe coinciding with the high spring tides this weekend !