Friday, 30 November 2012

To See Or Not To See...That is the Question.

After speaking to SNH, (Scottish natural heritage) I have today sent off the following email to the biodiversity Officer of Highland Region. This sets out my reasoning for the retention of the undergrowth at the Merryton bridge. I think I have a valid argument, I would like Cllrs Colin Macaulay, and  Tommy Hogg to look at this blog post in it's entirety and convince me otherwise.

Dear Miss Bromham,

I understand you deal with bio diversity for the highland region, and I have been given your name by SNH.
For the past 9 years I have been caring for the local swans and river wildlife in general on the river Nairn. Having constructed a Swans island on the lower river 5 years ago which has been naturalised and highly successful.
I am concerned for some riverside natural habitat which is currently under threat from the local authority.
A family of rats was discovered in a patch of undergrowth near the Merryton footbridge over the River Nairn. This family was only two adults and one maybe two youngsters as far as I could ascertain. The local authority are currently baiting the area with rat poison, evidence today is that the bait is being taken.
However, local councillor Colin Macaulay, has ideas of removing the undergrowth where the rats have been seen as an additional measure.
Along with others, I consider this idea to be very foolish for a number of very good reasons.
1. The undergrowth is dense and made up of dead and alive Bramble, gorse, and broom . It is useful and used extensively by small birds throughout the year, particularly winter where it can remain snow free underneath because of the density.

2. It is on the riverside and is also used by the ducks during nesting time, because it is safe from dogs which are constantly passing by on the nearby footpath. With the construction of a large flats complex only last year, many additional new dog owners now use this riverside path.

3.The riverbank location of this undergrowth is such that if it were removed, it would give a clear line of sight to every dog passing the area, and would most certainly result in swans and ducks being attacked by uncontrolled or unleashed dogs !

4. It would also allow the possibility of canoes and kayaks using the cleared bank space to launch boats into the river from the adjacent carpark.

5.Because the river community council have just cleared native and non native species ie, Himalayan balsam from the vicinity just after full bloom and the seed pods were bursting ! It is inevitable that any newly cleared area will be covered in non native seeds and will sprout unhindered !
Leaving the old undergrowth will suppress any new growth from starting !
In the last couple of years I have noticed a sharp decline in Herons fishing at this side of the river, and am convinced it is because of the increase in dogs taken alongside the river bank. The birds do not get the time and peace to fish !
All of the above things will happen if this scruffy piece of undergrowth is removed, it may look scruffy and untidy but is a vital part of the local ecosystem and protection for many species.
I ask you, for the sake of two or three rats which are also part of the river system - is it worth removing for the potential damage to the environment ?
If you have the power to advise and stop this foolish idea, please use it for the sake of our river and wildlife.
Enclosed photo's of our Pen which was attacked and nearly killed by a passing Labrador a few years back, only prompt action on my part saved her life. Allowing more dogs unhindered access to the river will result in more attacks.
Please persuade cllr Macaulay and River community council to abandon any idea of removing the undergrowth - in fact, advising additional planting of thorny type bushes would be a benefit to the habitat and ecosystem.
Yours   Sincerely
Joe Telfer   River Nairn wildlife carer.

My point about the lack of Herons over the last couple of years I think is also a valid one. The amount of dogs that are now sent down into the water between the Merryton bridge and swans island has jumped in the last couple of years. The Heron pics I took below were seen through gaps between bushes. The one at the top was taken just in front of the area that has now been cleared and opened by Tommy Hogg about  30 yards above the Merryton bridge, we will probably never see that again. My point is, the greater access to the riverside by dogs and people will mean less scenes like these.

Sari & Joe & Winter Cygnets

The three remaining cygnets are in perfect health and getting that little bit whiter every week. The cold snap sees all the birds looking for food, and the rescued ducklings were being eyed up by a crow just outside the aviary this morning ! They are now a month old and twice the size they would have been in the wild - not that they would have lasted two days anyway. Their oil glands are doing the business and providing full waterproofing ! Short video below of Sari and Joe having a bath, they are the two light coloured ones ! ( Named in honour of my Canadian allies )

 I have just received an update on the rats situation from Mr Alan Bentley, the rats appear to be taking the bait laid down by the rat catcher. I have checked the area myself every day, and have seen no rat tracks for the past 4 days. I only hope the bait is not available to the numerous small birds in their vital winter undergrowth !

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Disingenuous Gurn

It's nice to know that not many people are being taken in by the current victimisation perpetrated on me regarding the rats on the riverside. Most people shake their heads in disbelief at the pettiness, and Nairnites are well aware that the river has always had rats. One elderly Nairnite lady said to me a few years back " What a wonderful thing you've done down the river, with the island and all that wildlife now, and you know - they don't deserve it"  I was a bit puzzled by the latter part of the statement, but she seemed to know what she meant. Today I had yet another visit from the police, reported for feeding the birds, this is now getting into the realms of harassment and victimisation and has gone beyond a joke. The woman who reported me feeds her dozen or so gulls by the bridge everyday, and is obsessed by me feeding the swans and ducks. The gossip of some locals seems to have egged her on, going by the slanderous comments she has made about me on the internet. These comments were removed in the nick of time prior to legal action, but the bad feelings that are being aroused in the community by disingenuous gossip and innuendo are worrying. For some years now I have been systematically sniped at by our local gurn from nurn blog media, that claims " it does what it says on the tin", personally I think it does a little more than that. The gurn keeps making references to "Joe Telfer a controversial figure" the gurn has done it's best to create that impression. I'm sure the gurn knows that it is responsible for the content on its pages, it's also responsible for the comments published. I could say much much more about Des scholes aka Graisg aka Gurnmeister but suffice to say he is sailing close to the wind regarding his slant on me. I sent him an email in the past telling him " play politics all you want, but leave me and my dog out of it" So Des, aka Graisg, aka Gurnmeister, never mind what Leveson comes out with tomorrow, be more concerned with what you come out with. I haven't yet reported the rats I've seen at the bottom of water lane, because I don't see them as problem.... yet.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Oxford Council Gives Advice on River Nairn UPDATE !

If you want to preserve the wildlife and river habitat with no further removal of shrubs and bushes, contact our local councillors and make your feelings known.  

As expected after last weeks ambush meeting of the regional and River community Councillors at the Merryton bridge to handle the "hoards of Rats crisis". Alan Bentley the principal waste management officer for highland council Tec services based in Dingwall - after a half hour visit to Nairn River, has authorised the obligatory press statement in the Nairnshire Telegraph today. “Evidence of rats was found at the east side of the Merryton Bridge in the undergrowth. The Highland Council has baited the area and will carry out follow up checks to gauge the success of baiting. The bridge is a popular spot for feeding ducks and river birds. Many people enjoy feeding the ducks and waterfowl but decaying food, often left on the ground attracts rats. People may think that just a bit of bread won’t hurt, but for every person feeding the birds there could be dozens of people that have been before or will come afterwards. In light of the present infestation of rodents and available bird welfare advice, The Highland Council would encourage residents not to feed the ducks or other birds that that live on the river and let nature provide a natural habitat for them.”

After checking the link where Mr Bentley got his advice, I found that this is the advice put out by Vale of white horse district council in Oxfordshire. So we have Mr Bentley who by his own admission to me knows nothing about our river or wildlife, was here for half an hour and has a quick check on the internet for advice which he then puts to the press.
I don't think that duck ponds in Oxfordshire, are comparable with a shallow fast flowing highland spate river,  and depriving our river birds of winter food when they need it most is just not on. Interestingly there is no mention of people feeding gulls in Nairn. So all the gull feeders in Nairn can clap their hands in glee, whilst we deprive the waterbirds of winter food ! Is this the SNP Independence that we can expect, get advice online from Oxford district council on how to manage our river and wildlife ? I DONT THINK SO !!
I was on hand with experience, and quite willing to trap the 3 rats easily within 48 hours, but no they would rather put down poison, and no doubt take weeks over it. Lets hope somebody's pooch doesn't eat one of the dead rats ! Folly after folly, I see that the new Cllr Macaulay is suggesting the River community council continue to destroy the wildlife habitat on the lower side of the bridge. Is the River community council now an SNP controlled council, or does it represent the whole community ? My previous posts appear to have sussed the political interference I warned about ! I would urge all the residents of Nairn who care about our river environment and wildlife, to contact any of the river community councillors and Cllr Macaulay and make your views known. Do you want the river opened up to more uncontrolled dogs and people ? If so you won't have the wildlife as well, In no uncertain terms, tell them to keep their hands off  the riverside shrubs and bushes.
More on the rats row in the Nairnshire Telegraph out today.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Riverside Recyclers

Recycling is nothing new to people of my generation, wartime babies grew up with REAL AUSTERITY with rationing right through until 1954, we knew how to make and mend and recycle everything ! It has taken fifty years for government to start promoting recycling just to cope with the excesses of the consumer society. Nature of course has always been doing it, and our riverside is a perfect example of it today. Those of you unfamiliar with our Salmon rivers should understand that Salmon travel up river to spawn every year. Like all living things their primary purpose in life is to reproduce before they die. Many of our Atlantic Salmon make it back to the sea to continue the cycle of life. Many also die during the spawning season and are washed downstream, settling on the banks and shallow areas of the river, this happens all through the winter until around February/March. Nature's recyclers are often kept alive by this bounty, for food is scarce during winter. The Tidal area of the river is a favourite haunt of birds and other creatures, for everything in the river drifts there and is generally ice free with the daily influx of salt water. Those of us who know the river, are quite familiar with the occasional sight of black back gulls, herring gulls, mink, otters, rats, crows, weasel's foxes,cats and dogs, all sniffing around the riverside for a decayed fish or anything else that might be edible. They are the riverside natural recyclers at work, some would prefer fresh meat but anything will do in harsh times. Rodents are part of the river scene, and are of no special significance unless you have them in your house or garden as permanent residents. The recent removal of undergrowth between the Merryton and road bridge has probably forced resident rodents to move to undergrowth below the Merryton bridge. The current furore over a family of rats should not be used as a pretext for political interference in the river, or to deprive the river waterbirds of their much needed winter food supply!

Ducklings Progress

The change to colder weather in the last few days has been noted by the Ducklings, they take to the indoor coop by late afternoon. Their first real feathers are just starting to come through, but in frosty weather they do feel the cold ! The heat lamp in the coop is only 60w but enough to keep them cosy when closed and huddled together. I'm glad they got a few mild days to get partially acclimatised before the cold set in. This morning their bath had a film of ice on it, but they still enjoyed the water,( short vid below)

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Two of One of a Kind

The Pintail has arrived back with the frosty weather, he is quite a character and keeps all the Mallards at a distance. I was amazed to find that he only allowed the last white duck to be in his space without attacking her. Go's to show that one of a kind can recognise and empathise with another, one of a kind ! The frosty weather has all the water birds clamouring for grub just now.

Friday, 23 November 2012

SNP = Swans Not Politicians

Seems we have a new Johnny come lately admirer of our Swans and river wildlife. It's nice to know that the fruits of my many years investment and good river wildlife management, is being recognised by the recently elected SNP councillor Colin MacAuley. I understand he is researching the subject of Swans. If he would like to know all about our Beautiful Swans, he could perhaps start by reading my 700 blog postings on Simply Superb Swans. I'm sure he would learn a great deal about the care, feeding, and rights and wrongs of dealing with Swans and river birds. I met him briefly the other day on the sewage bridge, but was not formerly introduced, I found out later who he was. Since the subject being discussed was the recently discovered family of rats and what should be done about them, perhaps I should have smelled one. I am reminded of the shiny newly elected ex Cllr Marsden and his attempt at new job creation and empire building, and the end result of his comments about the Swans Island some years ago. With no Nairn bypass, the ongoing dog poo problem, Seagulls, Town Degeneration, sorry Regeneration, and getting yes votes for the referendum, there is plenty for Cllr MacAuley to get his teeth into. I wish him well in his new career and hope he tackles some of the above problems, keeping a healthy distance from the Swans and river birds. He seems to recognise they are an asset to the local tourist industry. Perhaps he could get the region to fund some of the winter feeding costs to maintain our healthy stock of 120 birds ? I currently supply 50kg of grain per week plus carrots and wholemeal bread, at a weekly cost of around £30. Donations cover a part of this. Nairn can be proud of having the healthiest wild river bird population in the highlands thanks to kind donors and myself. On the welfare of the healthiest Swans and ducks in the Highlands, my advice is - if it ain't broke don't fix it! I know politicians like to pick winners, but they should contribute to the success first. I asked the swans if they would like a politician getting involved in their future, their answer in the above photo.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

20 MILLION Disappearing Sparrows !

Noted on the RSPB website  that we have lost 44 MILLION birds since the 1960s. Apparently  20 MILLION fewer sparrows now than in 1966. It sort of ties in with my local argument, about removing small bird habitat and shelter which they rely on for survival. It's all very well people thinking there are plenty of trees etc for the birds, but bushes and dense shrubbery are more important than trees to small birds !
My plea once again to the local powers that be, please leave all bushes and shrubs intact for the sake of the disappearing birds !

Short Memories

People have amazingly short memories, so maybe a quick reminder of what the rats were probably living on back in the summer time. The large pond of raw sewage at the Merryton bridge which was a regular feature, compliments of Scottish water ! We didn't see Mr Alan Bentley doing his principal waste management duties then - just because the rats couldn't be seen under the summer growth doesn't mean they weren't there.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Strictly for the Birds

The more I learn about people and human nature, the more I appreciate all the other living creatures on the Planet. I think too much time is given over to human activity and interests, to the detriment of all other life forms and the whole fantastic Planet we are lucky enough to live on. We are obsessed with our own species while ignoring almost everything else, and sleepwalking ourselves day by day into an ever diminished world.
How little time is given on TV or news media to the myriad of life that covers the globe, nothing but human trivia seems to be thrown endlessly at us. Anyone who is more interested in another species is considered weird or eccentric, maybe they know something that the rest of us should! I'm strictly for the birds, and I think they know it !

The Meaning of Life - or - A Life of Meaning

Everyone needs a reason to get up in the morning, and people need to feel valued and have a goal and purpose in life, this is a fundamental truth about human nature. This is something I learned a long time ago and it goes some way to giving me contentment, and being happy with myself. Many people of course don't realise that this inner desire can lead them into a fixation cul de sac. It seems my care and feeding of the wildlife has provoked some very sad people into looking for any excuse to have a go at me, and what I do. This morning I was met by Highland Regions principal waste management officer Mr Alan Bentley, about the Rat situation at the sewage bridge more on this link. A pest control operative was baiting the area, hoping to get rid of the rat family there. The dense bushes at the side of the bridge are home to many small species of birds, and is one of the few spots that is kept free from snowfall and frost, allowing the small birds access to the ground for winter survival. It would be a tragedy if this life saving cover was removed, all because a family of rats are in the area! In the interests of the wildlife, I would ask people to allow the rat catcher to do his job, and not to throw foodstuff onto the riverbank thus inadvertently feeding the rats. I have many photo's and names of locals feeding the gulls and throwing food all over the place. The photo above is an example of a local man having done the wrong thing. Mixed Grain( which I don't use) has been thrown all over the beach area where the Swans can't actually get it, but they won't allow the ducks to get it either ! I will refrain from publishing all pest feeding culprits at this stage, but those calling for my head should be careful that they don't end up in a noose of their own making ! When the brown stuff hits the fan, it has a tendency to spread all over the place. I think much of this situation is a case of, If I cant do it, then I'm going to try and make sure you cant either !

Monday, 19 November 2012

Lucky 7 Move Home

The lucky 7 ducklings will be 3 weeks old tomorrow, and good fortune still falls on them in the form of benign mild weather. Today I decided to move them into the coop and Aviary since the weather was favourable. Although only 3 weeks old, their size is equivalent to 6 weeks good summer growth in the river - the result of adequate food being available at all times. This was their first time outdoors since I brought them home. The coop is heated against the night time chill. (short wary vid in the shower tray below)

Friday, 16 November 2012

Eyes Wide open

Penny our resident Mother Swan, is in great condition and still the head of the Family. This morning she saw off another incoming swan on her own, and left Popeye and the three cygnets eating their breakfast.
Meanwhile the Ducklings still cuddle up to the photo of their Mum, one thing for sure - when they go back to the river they'll certainly know who she is !

Must Watch Attenborough !

Tonight I must watch David Attenborough's 60 years in the Wild. I reckon this Man has done more for the understanding of the World's wildlife than any man since Darwin.When you see the volume of Trash Television that is churned out, all David Attenborough's  programs are a breath of pure fresh air and spiritually uplifting ! Maybe the Nairn wildfowlers should watch as well !

Thursday, 15 November 2012

This Weeks Sundry Items

This weeks High tides, shows the potential for the "regenerated" area to be partly used by the waterbirds as a dabbling area. When the tide is high they have very little areas to use other than the small bit at the Seaman's hall. Planting some reeds and rushes would complement the low flooded part and encourage frogs, toads and small creatures to benefit the wildlife. 

It appears the road bridge re-painting is finished, and it looks a lot smarter - I hope the Swans ability to see the rails, avoids any future collisions !
The lucky 7 ducklings are thriving, and I should be able to get them out into the Aviary next week. Short video of this mornings bath time below.
For those of you seeking the 10 keys to happiness check out this link 

PS With the high tides I've seen no sign of the rat hoard !

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Roland in The Raw

Following on a previous post regarding river rats, I think my viewers will find the following video taken this morning very interesting. It was on a receding high tide at the Merryton /Sewage bridge where it was claimed at last nights RCC meeting to be infested with rats. Lo and behold as luck would have it, a salmon kelt washed onto the bank, and Roland Rat was presented with a feast ! I don't know why the claimed hoards were not present - maybe just a wee bit exaggerated perhaps. I really must stop buying them Salmon !

Letter to River Community Council

The following letter I sent to River Community Council prior to last nights meeting :

RE : Nairn River Regeneration Project

Dear River Community Councillors,                                                   6  November 2012

I note that the above project will be discussed at the next meeting on the 13th November.
While I appreciate any efforts to improve the riverside, I am also concerned with the welfare of the river wildlife, in particular the water birds. Over the years I have invested a great deal of my time and money caring for the riverside and local birds, these have proved to be a great attraction to locals and visitors alike.
I was therefore disappointed that I was not given the courtesy of any input to the riverside regeneration project. Having asked around I found out that the main purpose of the project was to extend the sewer overflow into the river, and the removal of fallen and broken trees, and the elimination of alien species, I also heard that a “light touch” would be used in this process.
Over the last 3 winters I have been feeding small birds within the project area, this is no longer possible because of the removal of cover which protected the small birds from larger species like crows. However what is done is done, but I would like to make some suggestions based on my observations of the lower river over the years.
The removal of any more trees in this area should be avoided. An unofficial riverbank path already exists between the road bridge and railway bridge, this should not be allowed between the road bridge and sewage footbridge. As you are probably aware this area is tidal and gets flooded monthly, but this could be used to good effect for the wildlife, and benefit people too.
Can I suggest the following be carried out, several sacks of daffodil bulbs could be planted right now at 5 metre intervals along the verge of the riverside path between the bridges. The lower area that gets flooded monthly could be planted with reeds and rushes, this would provide an area for the water birds to use when flood conditions apply, it would also allow frogs, toads and other small creatures to live for the benefit of the wildlife, like Herons etc.
On the sloping bank, bushes and shrubs like gorse / whins, broom , wild woodbine/ honeysuckle, brambles, and creepers like clematis could  provide cover, fragrance and food for the wildlife. Trees to compliment this, like Rowan / mountain ash, Hawthorn, and Elderberry could be interspersed on the upper flat area.
This sort of regeneration would be natural looking, fragrant, colourful, yet offer cover and feeding for the wild birds in the area, such as various finches, Wren, Robin, and Yellowhammer etc.
In addition it would help the adjoining duck roosting area by reinstating the cover and security they lose to alien species removal, and shrub clearance.
I believe these measures would enhance the area, and give a proper balance between human needs and wildlife conservation/ habitat.
Opening up the riverside too much to people and dogs will only drive away the wildlife that so many come to see and love.
It’s worth noting, that the only area currently available to the waterfowl in high water and flood conditions, is the swans Island and adjacent wild grass area beside the Seaman's hall. They need places to conceal their young, and also to forage for seeds and food during the summer time.

I hope the council members will endorse the above suggestions and regenerate a balanced habitat for wildlife and human needs.

Yours  Sincerely          Joe Telfer. 

Rat - a - tat - tat Thousands of Rats Claim !

Attended the River community council meeting tonight, for I had a strong suspicion that I would be in the firing line for feeding the wildlife at the Merryton Bridge. Sure enough, true to form and right on cue, community chair Tommy Hogg said there were "Thousands of rats" at the Merryton bridge due to people throwing food from the bridge! I think he's been reading too many pied piper novels. Over the past fortnight I have only seen the same family of 2 adults and 2 young ones, They have been photographed several times by different people over the past two weeks, and these have been passed no doubt to RCC perhaps giving him the impression that there are thousands of rats at the bridge. Today I happened to see one of the adults coming out of an old drain adjoining the Merryton bridge, unfortunately by the time I got the camera out it had gone, however enclosed pics of the drain cover which has a gap at the bottom big enough for the rats to gain entrance. I get the impression this is a very old defunct drain, perhaps from the days of the old slaughterhouse site ? Also included is a pic of the drain that has just been extended into the river - (before it was extended.) You can see clearly the scope for rats to use it, and with a very unsavoury menu at their disposal ! This is the same drain that I reported to SEPA back in 2007 or thereabouts, and they confirmed that it was indeed spewing raw sewage over the area. Now it will happily spew it into the river when conditions are right ! Over many years I have seen rats from the west pier all the way up the river to Cantrybridge, they are common brown rats and part of the river scene, but I have never seen thousands.

On the question of Brodie of Brodie, I was impressed by the Man 's arguments over the Kingsteps issue, and I share his anti wildfowl shooting stance. It may be sport to some, but it is the killing and wounding of innocent birds never the less.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Two Weeks Old

The Ducklings are two weeks old and growing strongly, the extra living space allows them to move away from under the lamp and not to overheat. I take them to the bath 4 times a day and allow them up to an hour to eat and play around, this simulates what the mother would be doing in the wild,(if the food and summer temperatures were there). In another week their oil glands should be working, and this will allow them to completely waterproof their feathers, needed to keep out the cold. The lamp gets raised higher each week to gradually let them get used to more normal temperatures. When they are fully waterproofed and acclimatised they can be moved into the coop and let outdoors. (Short video of morning bath time below)

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Ducklings New Mobile Home

You would imagine finding a Plastic box nowadays would be easy, but I suppose it depends on the size. I tried several sources including the internet, but finding a box about a metre long by half a metre deep and wide was either impossible or cost a small fortune ! In the end, I realised that if I laid a wheelie bin on its back, cut out the front and sealed the lid, it would do the job. Before I get accused of stealing and vandalising council property, I did buy the wheelie bin from the council for £35, sorry to disappoint my rabid pack of critics ! The ducklings have now moved from a one room flat, to a luxury purpose built mobile home ! Short video below.