Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Blackback Gull

Today I watched an interesting episode in the life of a Black-backed gull. 

These are one of the most powerful predatory birds on the coast, and capable of taking and eating most other species if they want to, including Cygnets up to 3 weeks old. I have seen one take a fully grown duck a few years back. 

This episode involved a black back finding a dead flounder and trying to soften it up to eat, but being pressured  by a Hoodie crow and a young Herring gull.

The end result was the black back eating the whole flounder in one go ! Sequence of pics tells the story.

The crop on a black back Gull is enormous and basically encircles the entire neck, consuming a whole fish or eel is no problem to the black back !

Another fascinating episode of the River Nairn wildlife !

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Solo on the Mend

The rest and peace and quiet seem to be bearing fruit for Solo, for she is now using her legs more, still with a slight limp. Full use of the legs is essential for survival, needed for running to take off and escape. 

It may be that Solo has been intentionally separated from her family if she was injured, swan parents often shun a cygnet that appears to have some illness, Popeye and Penny did it a few years back to one of their own with an injured a leg - The reasons are simple, it is to avoid the other cygnets catching what might be ailing the sick one.

Anyway Solo is on the mend eating grass lettuce and wheat, and keeping a wary eye on me too !

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Solo The Cygnet

Clocks back and Winter starts today, I always did hate the clocks going back, and still hate the overnight plunge into Winter. The day was at least quite pleasant, and I got the chance to check out Solo the lonely cygnet. I think she may have hurt one of her legs slightly on landing, nothing serious but enough to make her avoid walking unless she really has to, otherwise she has no injuries that I can detect. 

She only requires some R and R, and a little time to mature a bit more, I think she has been expelled from the family home too soon, or may have got lost during a training flight.  A couple of weeks to build up her strength, then released into a flock of young cygnets that have also left home is the answer. I filled the paddling pool and she spent the entire day in it, until I put her in the aviary at dark. 

This might be the reason she is rather weak on the legs, she may have been reared in a pond where she rarely if ever walked, and this would account for the legs being underdeveloped and not yet up to the rigours of take - off and landing. I have decided to call her Solo, and was pleased to see her finally eating the lettuce, grass, and Wheat. (Short video below showing her having a preen in a relaxed setting.) 

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Lonely Cygnet

Yesterday I noticed a new cygnet had arrived in the river, Popeye and Penny also noticed, and for a while I thought maybe they would adopt it having recently lost one of their own. Alas they chose not to, and have tried to eject it from the river with intimidation and pecking. Today I had several phone calls from the Police, and reports from several residents that the cygnet was injured and on the bank near the River court flats.

An hour before dark I had a look at the cygnet and it looked tired out and sitting in a dangerous location vulnerable to a possible dog attack.

The best course of action was to bring it back to the aviary out of harms way, I will be able to check it during the daylight hours tomorrow for any possible injuries. 
Meanwhile it is hungry, and have given it a selection of natural foods like Wheat, grass , carrots, and lettuce.
It is about 3 weeks younger than our Nairn swans, smaller, and I think female. It has probably been sent packing by it's own parents, for this is the time of year when cygnets are expelled from the territorial home. 
My thanks to those residents who acted in the interests of the cygnet. Pics tell the story.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Autumn Arrives

After the longest benign Summer that I can ever remember, it looks like Autumn has arrived. With only a couple of days until the clocks go back, the leaves are finally falling along with the temperature - but what a great 5 months of good weather ! 

The birds have enjoyed a summer feast, building up reserves for the winter months ahead. 

No more fresh green leaves for the cygnets though ! 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

BT Communicates

After Trust representations to BT Openreach about the lethal telephone lines that caused the death of one of our cygnets at Broadhill. I have today received confirmation that action will be taken after consultations with local residents about the visual impact of bird diverters / deflectors being fitted to the offending lines.

The River Nairn Swans and Waterfowl Trust is more concerned with the physical impact of Birds hitting those lines, and feel sure the residents of Dunbar avenue will be keen to protect our Swans and other birds.

Short email extract from the Openreach Operations Manager in Inverness... luckily a self confessed wildlife enthusiast ! 

I am currently looking into what we might be able to do in order to try and avoid a repeat of the death of this swan. Bird diverters/deflectors look the most likely solution and we need to speak to residents about the visual impact of fitting them.

As a wildlife enthusiast myself I was sorry to hear about this and I am keen to do all we can to help.

Robert Geddes

Operations Manager 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


Yet another blight on the riverside today, a bicycle that looks in pretty good condition dumped in the river about 50 yards down from the merryton bridge. I wonder how long it will take before the council remove it ?

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Nairn Swans - October

The Nairn Swans are just over 5 months old and now flying, they are in extremely good condition and getting that wee bit whiter every week. 

The river has still not seen a big spate this season, and it is likely that the cygnets will be around for some time yet. 

A few photos taken today of our much admired Nairn swans.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Poorly Pigeon - UPDATE

Pigeon UPDATE. This afternoon the pigeon had a seizure and died, sadly the virus won this one.  

Yet again we have been fortunate with the good weather this week, and the countdown to the clocks going back is drawing closer. I understand a BT engineer was out having a look at the lethal telephone pole with 7 lines coming off in every direction, 

as yet no action has been taken on this issue.

The cygnets are now eating a variety of food, and have been seen flying by many on a regular basis. The longer nights mean this years ducklings look forward to their daily ration of wheat as winter approaches.

However not everything is sweetness and light, and some birds like humans get sick from a variety of illnesses. This is something I never ever gave much thought to in the past. It's only when you notice a bird acting out of character that you realise something is wrong. Last Sunday was one of those times when I spotted a pigeon puffed up, lethargic, not keen to fly. Throwing it a few grains of wheat, it's response was almost uninterested. I knew from those signs it was unwell, and was able to approach and pick it up.

It was underweight and I decided to take it home to check it out. After consultations with our Trust Avian adviser, and Moray coast vets, as well as a pigeon fancier trust member and the internet - it appears the pigeon might have both a bacterial and virus illness. It's chances of survival are possibly about 30%, much will depend on how well it might resist the virus and build up an immunity to it. The bacterial infection is being tackled with medication, thanks to Paul my pigeon friend for telling me to get it re- hydrated immediately with a solution of water, honey, salt and vinegar. The solution is being drunk copiously and I have no doubt this is keeping the bird alive at present. The bacterial medication seems to be starting to work, and I can only hope this is going to be one of the 30% survivors of this virus. I have managed to save several pigeons over the past year but have also lost a few, must keep honing my TLC skills !

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Flying Again

After the tragic loss of one of their cygnets, Popeye and Penny have resumed flying lessons for the remaining eight.

In spite of dangerous strong winds they had them up in the air, and like experienced Squadron leaders, they showed them how to descend in formation, avoiding crashing into a bridge. 

Yesterday they were still looking for the missing cygnet, and will probably keep an eye out for some days to come - they will eventually accept that it has disappeared for good.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Cygnet Killed

Tragedy has struck our Swan family this morning after one of our cygnets crashed and died. A local resident reported seeing one cygnet flying up river and circling  to return to the family, it was at this point the cygnet most likely hit a telephone line at the top of Broadhill and crashed into the side of a house.

Earlier I had searched along the beach and harbour area looking for the missing cygnet, but was then told by a resident of Dunbar avenue, that they had found the dead cygnet at the back of their house. 
This is truly sad and of course avoidable, if BT had put bird diverters on their lines. This is another case of human activity being responsible for the tragedy. I have emailed BT asking for bird diverters to be put on the lines so the birds have a chance, these lines right at the highest point of Broadhill are lethal to Swans who will not see them in time to avoid a collision.

This is the most dangerous time for cygnets learning to fly, they have to learn how to use the wind and avoid hazards - assuming they can see them !

Friday, 4 October 2013

Thank You From Sue

I received a very nice letter today from Sue Hulbert of the Southwest Swan Sanctuary, extracts below:

My Dear Joe,

First of all I would like to thank you for the wonderful hospitality shown to me during the few days I visited last week.
I would like also to congratulate you and the Trust on the fine job you are doing for the waterfowl on the river Nairn on the Moray Firth. The riverbanks with surrounding undergrowth and trees and long grass are something to be protected and cherished, as it provides cover, nesting areas, and protection from marauding dogs that might not be under control. Sadly in my locality I see the appalling damage inflicted on Swans by dogs on a regular basis down here, many of our lakesides have no undergrowth or cover at all.
I also wish to say, well done to the local council for the information panels around the riverside for visitors like myself. It might be a good idea if these panels could be opened and refreshed from time to time, with pictures and information on birds that come at different times of year.
I thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many of your Trust members and followers, they are a great bunch of people, and good to see their unity of purpose on issues concerning the welfare of the waterfowl. 
The Swan Convention has also been informed of the great work that is going on along the Moray Firth and they are delighted, you may well receive a congratulatory letter from them.
I wish you and the River Nairn Swans and Waterfowl Trust, all the best for the future.

Remember you are most welcome to come down and see us anytime.
Yours Most Sincerely,

Sue Hulbert      ( Founder Southwest Swan Sanctuary.)
                                                               Charity No: 1002582

On behalf of the Trust and the people of Nairn, I would like to Thank Sue for taking the time and trouble to come all the way up here, to cast an expert eye on our waterfowl and their environment, It was greatly appreciated !