Friday, 31 August 2012

Weekend Look Back 1

Starting now, I will be posting a look back at some highlights of the past - every weekend. It may be some event, or a particular photo, or video, months or even years ago. It may prompt some of you to roll back the postings of which there are now 630 with hundreds of photo's to look at. This weekend starts with a video clip of Penny calling the Cygnets, trying to get back to the nest for the first time this year, proving that Mute Swans are not so mute, enjoy !   (the last one made it by the way)

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Late Ducklings

With the late ducklings now two weeks old and down to 5, I'm hopeful they will all survive - Fingers crossed! They are such beautiful creatures and very cute at two weeks old. Yesterday I got the opportunity to see them close up catching midges and small flies, they will need all the growth they can get as fast as possible. It will be November before they can fly themselves, and who knows what the weather will be like by then ! Another week should just about see them safe from airborne predators like Crows and Gulls. Short  clip below catching flies.

Bridge Silver Lining

Councillor Liz MacDonald informs me that BEAR Scotland will be painting the River Nairn Road bridge railings during September. This is welcome news since I informed BEAR that the Cygnets will be learning to fly during September, and I wish to reduce the chances of an accident on the bridge. Earlier this year there was a near fatal collision with the bridge railings, and It was obvious to me that the Swans only saw the railings at the last moment. The railings will be painted Silver as requested, hopefully reducing the chances of a collision - as well as sprucing up the Town a little!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Fish and Flips

One lucky duck was out of luck today after catching a young flounder. It tried time and again to subdue the fish to swallow it, until eventually a young gull spotted the struggle. Black headed gulls are renowned for stealing food from other birds and promptly lived up to it's reputation ! This is only the second time I have seen a duck try to eat a flounder.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Gulls, Why You Shouldn’t Feed Them.

The debate on gulls continues to roll on and on, so perhaps I can shed some new light on the gull question based on several years personal experience - dealing with gulls in some form or another. First of all we have to realise that Gulls have been around long before us, they are intelligent fast learners, and they live a long time.

They are primarily Predators but are so adaptable that they can forage anytime anywhere and are learning new skills all the time. Watching gulls drumming the ground to bring worms to the surface is now quite common whereas some years ago this would have been a rare event. Something that struck me some time ago was their instant attraction to anything white, and I wondered why the attraction was so strong. All gulls are predominantly white themselves, presumably it's easier to see each other at great distances over the sea perhaps. When some find a shoal of fish for instance others can see them and quickly join the feast. Their attraction to white is even more marked in Town where they are continually faced with white carrier bags, white polystyrene fast food containers, and white fish and chip papers. Then there is the human bounty of white bread providers, quite simply white means food ! 

Having cared for quite a few young injured gulls over the years, and observed adults and their offspring at length, I copied the adults feeding routine on the young injured gulls before releasing them back to the wild. The adults deliberately reduce the amount of food they give their young in order to wean them and make them self sufficient predators. We have all seen the young gulls walking behind the parents, head bowed and peeping constantly for food. The parents have a crop full of food but they refuse to give in, except when needed to keep their offspring alive. This strategy is for the good of the offspring and their future survival, and forces them to the seashore to join flocks that will hunt and scavenge shellfish, molluscs, eels, etc.

Misguided townies who think the birds are starving because they are always on the scrounge are doing the seagulls no favours by throwing them food. They are in effect creating townie seagulls who are unlikely to head to the seashore when they are being fed by benefactors. These gulls then become the long lived pests that will resort to snatching sandwiches or chips from children or adults, and end up being the scourge that empty litter bins and dive bomb you, making the newspaper headlines.
I have made quite a few enemies over the years, by trying to educate people into what not to do regarding feeding the gulls on the riverside. They are creating gull colonies that would normally be fishing the seashore, they put the lives of young ducklings at risk, because a feeding frenzy means that gulls will take everything that floats in the vicinity.

 They also deprive people trying to feed the ducks and swans because they move away when bombarded by marauding gulls. People innocently and naively carry a white carrier bag to feed the ducks, in effect the carrier bag is a flag to the gulls to come and get it!
Gulls are intelligent and only need fed once or twice to remember you, so remember  feed them at your peril, because you will never get peace to feed the ducks or swans in future.
For all the talk amongst the powers that be, there are still no decent sized signs placed strategically around the Town warning people NOT TO FEED THE GULLS.

 The bins are still allowed to overflow and give easy access to the gulls. Personally, we should start exercising a bit of control over our own species - before we start killing another ! 

Friday, 24 August 2012

Dirty Ducks

Yet again the sewage seepage from the outfall just above the Merryton bridge is continuing  to pollute the river. Earlier this week I emailed the offending photo's to SEPA in the hope that they will look into the matter. Yesterday I noticed a van with two workmen inspecting the drains, hopefully this problem will be rectified sometime soon !

Meanwhile the cygnets were taken aback by the two headed Swan that confronted them! Pollution mutant hybrids perhaps ?

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Living Dangerously

The late ducklings are now down to 6 and just one week old, the Mother has so far managed to keep most of them, but she does live dangerously ! This morning she chose to sit on the gravel, close to a hungry young Herring gull pestering it's parent for food . The ducklings are still at risk for at least another 2 weeks, but she's done a good job so far !

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


The cygnets wings are getting stronger and less floppy, they should be able to start serious flight training by the end of the month. Penny's new wing feathers were given the full lift off yesterday when she flew about 100 metres just above the river. The mystery of where the new ducks came from was solved, when I learned that the owner was a local man. I reckon they are bonnie wee bantam call ducks that come in various colours.

Sunday, 19 August 2012


What a glorious Games day, beautiful sunny weather and high tide on the river. Visitors getting a splendid view of the river and all the water birds on show. I spotted 4 newcomer ducks, perhaps from the Cawdor direction or somewhere else ? They are slightly smaller than Mallards and shorter bills too, it will be interesting to see if they stick around and integrate with the others. The swans were looking good and regally swanning around.

Friday, 17 August 2012


Our latest ducklings are down to seven, but I'm hopeful the Mother duck will do her best to keep them as safe as she can, based on her actions so far. She keeps them pretty close most of the time. They are full of the joys sometime !

The cygnets meanwhile are being encouraged to strengthen their wings by Penny, who flies short distances ahead of them.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Late 8

Today I noticed a new brood of 8 ducklings, this is the latest hatched brood I have ever seen on the river. The weather this year has been so unusual, with many of the early broods being wiped out by cold conditions and predators. Hopefully some of these will survive because the crows are no longer feeding their young, but some seagulls are still feeding theirs however! I just hope people do not start throwing bread and bringing down the gulls to take them all !! The ducklings have plenty of insects and seeds to feed on, so please don't throw bread at them !

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Helping Wildlife

All of us at some point will come across a sick or injured animal or bird. It may be a case of a bird hitting your window or the result of a collision with a car, telephone or power line. People often feel helpless faced with an injured bird or animal, yet the means to help may be close to hand. Having a mobile phone means help is only a phone call away. Locally the Scottish SPCA is the number I call if I am unable to handle the animal or bird myself, the number is 01463 231191. The Local Vets Practice may also be helpful, the number is 01667 453161. In the case of a bird hitting your window and being stunned for a while, all that's required is the bird be left alone and given time to recover.Where there is no obvious broken bones or bleeding and you want to give the bird a chance, a day or two in a box with food and water can sometimes work wonders. In the case of a large injured bird like a seagull, always use gloves when handling them and keep them away from your face, they can easily give you a peck. It's rewarding when you see a successful outcome, such as the pigeons I kept for a couple of days, and now see healthy and thriving ! 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Fishing Suspended

Low water conditions

Good News for the River Nairn Wildlife, Fishing has been suspended from the A96 Roadbridge to the Creek pool until further notice. Well done Nairn Angling Association for considering the welfare of the waterbirds, as well as the Fish currently trying to run up river. With low Summer water conditions, it is not in the Salmon or Nairn Anglers best interests to allow fishing in this area. Well done Nairn Angling Association for this eco friendly decision!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Cygnet Olympics

Seems like the Olympic spirit has reached the River Nairn, the cygnets were having a short sprint earlier today ! (Short video of a pre flight training session).

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Grass and Grain Feed

Lack of river weed means the Swans are grateful for any greenery that comes their way. Pulling some fresh tender lawn type grass is free, and much better for them than any kind of white bread - You wont get bothered by seagulls either ! Good food for growing swans is whole wheat grain, this is also good for the ducks and it sinks. The ducks can reach down up to five or six inches deep, and the swans about two and a half feet, so if you don't want bothered by gulls, buy a sack of Wheat, costs about £9-40 for 20kg. 

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Three Months Old

The end of this week will see the cygnets 3 months old, growing fast, and almost the size of their parents ! The final phase of their growth is the full development of their wings, ready for flying lessons next month.
Penny will be able to fly again shortly after this years moult, Popeye has now started losing all his flight feathers and will be flightless for the next 6 weeks.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Seagulls Revenge

The Town seems to have produced a fair crop of Gulls this year, many have already migrated to the river. The two traffic accident victims I have, are progressing well but still need recovery time. The adult has still not regained it's full balancing ability, but the juvenile is now using both legs. One young gull gets it's own back on the traffic !