Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Halloween Rescue

Today I was astonished to see yet another late brood of ducklings on the river, a mother turned up with 8 ducklings looking for food around mid-day. Mindful of the last brood ten days ago that were all killed within 48 hours, I was determined not to let this happen again. I have never seen ducklings hatched this late ever, and I know  they would stand no chance of survival beyond a couple of days. They would have to survive 10 weeks until they could fly, this would take them beyond the new year, which is totally impossible !   
Later this afternoon I headed down to try and catch both the mother and the ducklings. My heart sank when I saw half a dozen women throwing bread towards the mother and ducklings, with seagulls swirling and diving on the bread ! 

I explained that they were in danger of having all the ducklings killed by the gulls so they stopped and the mother duck moved away. After an hour or so the mother came over looking for food, the cold and darkness was beginning to fall but I managed to give her some grain with all the ducklings close by.
I took the plunge and grabbed the net, but the mother flew a few yards away before I could catch her. The ducklings were easier to catch and I managed to scoop all 7 that were still alive ! They are now safely in the brooder box under a heat lamp and I'm confident of their survival now. 

I know some people will think they should have been left alone to their fate, this I could not bear ! As a member of the top predator species on the Planet, I have merely deprived the lesser predators- namely mink, crows and gulls of a quick meal. Ten days ago I had the chance to save two of the last brood but chickened out, to my regret they were both killed the following day. I could not let it happen again ! I will try and capture the mother if possible, for it would be better if she reared them in the safety of my coop and aviary. At least I know they will survive until I can release them back to the river, and the mother will also survive. 

Letting them be killed was not an option for me at this juncture, the nights are long and cold, and there are no insects or food available for the ducklings. Allowing them to be killed would take the total of fatalities this year beyond 100, this is more than the entire mallard population of the river. Short video below

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Bantam Call Ducks

The four Bantam call ducks that were released into the river a while back are still together and surviving well.
In fact I would say they are in better condition now due to adequate feeding by me. The man who put them in the river reckons they are wild now and declined to give me a donation for their upkeep, how wrong and mean can you get !  They are doing well and surprisingly spirited, and will have a go at even the largest of the river ducks, they all fly well and I'm hoping they will nest next season.

The drakes have no white ring on the neck but will tackle any others that come near them, short video below.  (witness one nipping another larger Mallard ).

Monday, 29 October 2012

Loss of Habitat

We have many bird species on the lower River Nairn, we can boast the largest - the Swan, and Britain's smallest bird the Goldcrest, seen between the Merryton and main road bridge. Sadly this area has been stripped of natural habitat used for winter feeding and cover. I was led to believe the area was going to be "tidied up and have some fallen and broken trees removed, and the sewer overflow pipe extended into the river". The descriptive words used were "a light touch would be applied". 

The truth is that virtually all the bushes and wild saplings have been shredded in spite of my plea to River Community Council Chairman Tommy Hogg to spare this habitat for the small birds that depend on it for winter feeding and cover. It also allows passing dogs easy access to the riverside which roosts many ducks at this spot . Every yard of tidal wildlife habitat is precious, especially in an urban environment, people want to experience nature close by and they don't want to lose it.

 Even this shredded area was host to Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Blue tit, Robin, Chaffinch, as well as more common blackbirds etc, not to mention mice that live in the dead trees! I may wear glasses, but I can see perfectly well what's going on around me, do the River Community Councillors ?

Some before and after pics, and some of the species that we will see less of now !

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Matriarch

October last year saw the entire family still in the River, and the weather a bit milder as well. The cygnets were starting to get a bit too friendly for Penny's liking, and as Matriarch she had to intervene. The sequence of pics tells the story on this link .
Meanwhile today I tried a small mini camera on my jacket, trying to catch some close shots of my Pigeon pal with Popeye and Penny having a chat in the background !

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Winter Starts

Always dread the clocks going back, seems like an overnight plunge into Winter !  It's two fold this weekend, with winds coming down from the Arctic and clocks going back, it' s a double whammy !  The Geese always give the game away, by arriving in large numbers just prior to the Winter Weather heading our way. The river wildlife let me know as well, clamouring for food - the colder it gets the more they clamour !
Even the pigeons have joined the grain feast, and I have many friends on the riverside, especially throughout the Winter !
Both lower pics are courtesy of a lady with a multimedia phone, and Charlie Robertson who did a bit of filming !

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

River Junk Removed

The depressing sight of river junk prompted me to wade in and remove the stuff yet again today. I carried the discarded Bike and Buggy to the nearby car park and informed the council to see if they will take it away,  before it gets thrown back in the river !


Monday, 22 October 2012

Last Ducklings Gone

As anticipated the two late ducklings have both gone, one yesterday, and the last one today. It's so sad that these poor little ducklings did not get a chance to survive. I watched the last one yesterday feeding and preening with it's Mother, the will to survive was so strong because it would have seen what happened to it's siblings over the previous two days. The night's are so long and the crows would be ready for them at daybreak, either that or the gulls!  It's hard to accept the total wipeout of these tiny birds, it's only their size that makes them so vulnerable.


As the name implies, Turnstones do exactly that in the pursuit of food. Today with the Sun in my favour, I managed to get some nice shots of a pair foraging for poultry pellets that had drifted under the stones. The lower river estuary is ideal, for it has an abundance of stones.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Litter Bug-gy

A new addition to the river today,  in the past month there has been a microwave cooker , an ironing board, a bicycle and now a child buggy, so much for Nairn civic pride !  

Saturday, 20 October 2012

2 Too Late

The Swans Island produced yet another brood of ducklings today, just after midday one of the ducks I reared last year (the sister of the mother of the white ducks) came over to me with 2 ducklings underneath !
I know she laid some eggs earlier in the year which were flooded and eaten by the crows. She had been acting as though she was sitting on eggs over the past couple of weeks, but I thought it was far too late in the year to be true. I believe she had more earlier in the day, for I see a pic of her on the Gurn showing 4 ducklings. The hoodie crows and seagulls will most likely have them all by tomorrow, this is virtually winter regarding food supplies! I have never seen ducklings this late in the year and I just can't see them surviving now, the days are too short with no insects, and long cold nights to get through. The last lot of ducklings in August, started with 8 and finally ended up with two.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Riverside Litter & Other Issues

Over and above the perennial problem of dog poop, with the darker nights aiding the offenders. There are other ongoing issues which affect the Town and the wildlife. Today for instance I picked up the usual litter scattered along the riverbank close to the Swans island, in addition there was a dumped microwave in the river which I retrieved (since no one else was likely to do it ). It was dumped just 15 feet from a large bin, but there's no reasoning with plonkers I guess. There is also a clear danger to children at Brochers brae with the new wall which houses the recently installed sewage pipeline.

 Although I brought this to the attention of the River Community council chair Tommy Hogg, and Cllr Liz MacDonald with the accompanying photo's of  child bikers, they don't appear to see a problem. 

Since before completion when I realised the contractors were going to leave a flat surface on this wall rather than the angled one that was previously there. I voiced my concern knowing that the wall would be used for BMX stunts, skateboarding, and as a seating area with the ensuing litter problem ! I'm not often wrong, but I'm right again ! Residents adjacent to the wall have witnessed similar scenes and in my opinion it's only a question of time before some kid takes a header over the wall resulting in serious injury or worse ! Can you imagine what this surface will be like when it's thick with ice and snow ?
It is also bad for the wildlife because people sit on the wall eating fish and chips and feeding the gulls, finish up by dropping their drinks cans and wrappers into the river, the result can be seen in todays litter collection by me ! The mere fact that bikes use the wall scares the wildlife from their roosting area between the bridges too. Scottish water should be made to reinstate an angled top to the wall rendering it useless for play. With a little imagination it could be made into a very attractive feature. Covering the entire wall top with fixed growing boxes allowing hanging type plants flowers and shrubs, which would make an ugly wall into a cascade of colour. 

This feature already exists at the top of Harbour street close to the traffic lights and is much admired. This is the kind of civic pride that should be expanded throughout Nairn, it draws visitors and would make the riverside walk a positive joy, with colour and wildlife to be seen. C'mon River Councillors, spend some of your  £3832 treasure chest on beautifying the riverside !

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Battle Stations !

October is generally the month when cygnets start leaving the nesting area and join up with other youngsters, it is also the time when newly bonded pairs start looking around for new territory that might be suitable for future nesting. Yesterday saw a young pair fly into Popeye and Penny's territory, this prompted an immediate battle stations response from our residents - it took them only minutes to see off the newcomers, watched by their 3 cygnets. All returned triumphant !

Monday, 15 October 2012

Rare Visitor

High tides this week, and I thought I was seeing things when this unusual bird was paddling upstream on the River. I have never seen one before and thought it might be a young Puffin, it was only when consulting my bird book I realised it was in fact a Guillemot. Perhaps it was a young one or lost in the recent bad weather.

It was busily looking for fish and came very close, completely unperturbed,(short video below).