Sunday, 28 June 2015

Harbour Street Ducklings Progress

The Harbour Street ducklings are now 5 weeks old and fast outgrowing the Aviary.

However for their own safety I will have to keep them another 2 or 3 weeks before release.

The only white one is a real beauty, I hope it's a female, but either way it will almost certainly carry the white genes.

The other siblings are particularly dark just like their Grandmother was, and they too will probably carry the white genes.  (Short video clip below)

Friday, 26 June 2015

Successful Release

After 8 weeks, today saw the successful release of 10 ducklings.

 These were a combination of 8 that were hatched in the incubator, and two saved from the moat about 8 weeks ago.

There was another which I've had to take back home due to it having an unstable leg, I will take it to the Vet this afternoon to see what can be done.

There is also a mother duck with 5 tiny ducklings, she arrived with 8 about four days ago but so far lost 3 to the Crows.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Trust Members Outnumber Ducks !

After two and a half years The River Nairn Swans and Waterfowl Trust has now more members than ducks on the River Nairn. 

We now have 153 members to date, this is testament to the people of Nairn and the visitors who love the place. I have never had an advertising campaign to recruit new members, and most local people have seen me going about my daily routine of feeding and caring for the river birds over the past 10 years.

Ever since the discovery of my first Robins nest 60 years ago at the age of 10, while on a fishing trip to Aberfeldy with my father, I have always loved the natural world and all it's wonders. Even today I still get a buzz from seeing new life appear - whatever the species. 

It is great to know that there are so many like minded people in a world increasingly stressed out by technology, consumerism and greed, who appreciate the value of the Natural World.

Some youngsters asked me last week how I managed to get the birds eating out of my hand, I explained that kindness and offering food wins them over, making no sudden or threatening moves they will gradually trust you. With that I gave the two boys some bird seed and told them to hold out their hands flat, then passed a friendly pigeon onto them, I think those boys will now see birds and nature in a different light - hopefully for the rest of their lives ! 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

White Duckling

The rescued Harbour street Brood are approaching 4 weeks old and thriving.

The little yellow one is now turning whiter and stands out a mile of course. 

Once it is totally white and fully grown it can pass for a gull at a distance - which can be an advantage to river survival.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Something To Crow About

Trust member Elaine MacPhail came across a young Jackdaw being attacked by Crows yesterday outside Millbank Primary School. 

It was injured, unable to fly and looked in dire straights, so Elaine decided to take it home and contact me. On close examination it had been bitten at the mouth and under the eye, this was consistent with Crow attacks, usually going for the head and tender areas like the eyes. Being part of the Crow family did not save this young Jackdaw from attack.
Fortunately there were no broken bones , so all that was required was a dose of antibiotics and some pain killer. The bird was in shock so I kept it in a warm dark environment overnight.

 Today after a tube feed every 5 hours it has really picked up and is now able to drink and calling it's parents ! It will probably take a few days to a week before this bird can fly so I will care for it until then. 

Sunday, 14 June 2015


Like Mum and Dad, one day these little cygnets will reach for the sky !

Saturday, 13 June 2015


Our Swan Family have some regular habits, a nice meal then a bath !

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Bird of Brae

Maria of the Wool shop on the brae, had a little surprise for me today, in the form of a seagull chick that tried to enter her shop. Obviously fallen from the roof, Maria did not want to put it back into the street for fear of it being run over, so brought it to me. 

Already up to the eyes with 21 ducklings and 2 mother ducks I could do nothing except call the Scottish SPCA who promptly picked it up...only after I gave it some Tuna which went down a treat ! 

The Nairn seagull hatch is well under way, and the usual crop on the usual sites are coming on apace.

Remedial Action

Since the death of Feisty and her brood, I have taken some remedial action to try and curtail the mating activities of the Drakes. For the past 5 days I have not been feeding them, in the hope that they will spend more time finding food and less time chasing the females! Currently I am only supplementing the Swans feeding and also the nesting female ducks that fly in for a quick meal. The ratio of drakes to ducks has been steadily getting out of kilter over the past few years.

 There are a number of reasons for this, the most basic is that female ducks are much more at risk because they have to produce the next generation by nesting on the ground and spending 6 weeks laying around a dozen eggs then incubating them. 

During this time they lose half their bodyweight and some are killed by Dogs, Mink, Otters and other predators. The Drakes run no such risk and only stay with their mate until incubation starts, then they leave and join the other drakes on the river, building up a community of males. 

At the last count in the spring we had around 65 Drakes and 45 females, it would have been better the other way round ! 

Some Drakes retain their heightened readiness to mate, although most lose interest during the hot summer months. Naturally broods are made up of both sexes but we seem to be getting more males than females over the past few years ! Hopefully we will get more hatches over the next couple of months, but I fear the Crows will wipe out most if not all of them. As I have stated before, I have no problem with predation - as long as it doesn't end with the Crows !! Even the RSPB acknowledge that Crows can decimate another species.

Meanwhile as the top predator, I have 21 ducklings under care that will now have to be kept until almost fledged, the only way of outsmarting the Crows it seems !

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Desperate Drakes Kill Feisty Duck

After caring for Feisty and her brood of 9 for nearly 6 weeks, she and 7 of her ducklings have been killed. 
I am gutted by this disaster, especially since I reared Feisty herself as a duckling in 2012.
She produced 2 broods last year all of which were killed by crows, this year I was certain she would succeed by keeping them safe until half grown before releasing them back to the river. I did not reckon on the desperate Drakes anxious to mate with any female duck they could catch, and this was the fate to befall Feisty.

From the moment I released her with the brood she was pursued relentlessly by many drakes, to the point where I tried to intervene to stop the onslaught and allow her to care for her brood. The day after release she was getting exhausted and I managed to chase the drakes away long enough for her to hide under the bushes on the riverside. 

Meanwhile the Crows were picking off the ducklings two or three a day since Feisty could not look after them. I realised the situation was critical and took the net with me 3 days after release to try and catch the surviving ducklings. I searched for Feisty in the bushes where I last saw her hide, and found her body

 - it was heartbreaking for me. In addition I could not get the remaining 3 ducklings since the tide was against me, and when I returned the next day there was only one left which I managed to catch. Later I heard from a resident overlooking the river that a few hours earlier, another of the ducklings was being attacked by a Crow and he chased it off and retrieved the injured duckling that he then gave to the SPCA. I have not yet heard how it has fared. (UPDATE : Phoned SPCA today - the duckling was put to sleep because of injuries.) 
have seen another duck killed by Drakes attempting to mate earlier this year, they can be pretty brutal regardless of the condition of the female. Females lose about half their bodyweight laying around a dozen eggs, and are in a weakened condition when they hatch their brood. Being pounced on by as many as a dozen Drakes and unable to escape, ducks sometimes get killed, and their orphaned ducklings taken by Crows and gulls. Drakes usually begin to calm down during the hot summer weather when they start to moult, something which we have not yet had !  Although this is June it feels like early April - this might have some bearing on why the Drakes are still switched on to mating.
Feisty's one surviving duckling will only be released when ready to fly, I sincerely hope it's a female like feisty !

Monday, 8 June 2015

White Delight

The Harbour street rescued ducklings are coming on nicely, with Mum looking after them. The White one is a sheer delight to watch. Video clip below.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Crow Deterrent

So far this season has been a disaster for ducklings, all hatches totalling 65 on the lower river that I am aware of have been killed by the Crows.

Having also taken 2 cygnets, these predators are without doubt the biggest threat to young birds on the riverside.

 The dead Crow that I placed on the island last week as a deterrent for the Swans has been well used.

The swans have now taken to sitting around the carcass and the Crows steer well clear of them - as the photos show.  Sadly this does not help the ducklings.

Thursday, 4 June 2015


Blondie and her brood are doing well, it's amazing how there is only one white duckling in the brood.

Enjoy the short video below - taken this morning.