Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Nairn Swans - 10 Years On

It's hard to believe that Popeye and Penny our resident Swans, first arrived on the river ten years ago. I had taken up digital photography just a few years before, and loved taking pictures of all the Swans that I saw on the River. It was a sunny 6th of May 2005 when I first saw Popeye and Penny below.
I deduced that they must have been newly paired up and were looking for a nesting territory, had they been a mature pair, they would have been nesting at that time of year, they must have been about 4 years old. A few weeks later they were chased out of the river by our previous river residents. The following year they returned and laid a couple of eggs in the long river grass near the harbour toilets, these were promptly swamped by the monthly high tide. 

Undeterred Penny moved up river to the island strip near the road bridge and again laid a few eggs. I recall one Monday morning I saw her away from the nest and she would not return to it, the previous night something had scared her and she abandoned the nest, it could have been an Otter, Mink or dog.
Again they were chased from the river by the previous pair, only to return in 2007 trying to nest in the harbour.

 Once again they were caught by the spring tides and the eggs swamped daily, they had still not come to terms with the tidal nature of the Estuary. Again they were expelled by the previous pair after a fatal fight that cost the lives of the previous pair's cygnets, and latterly the life of the previous Cob who hit a power line, it was truly a tragic year !

That was the last straw for me,  I was determined to have a proper nesting island, on the river so much desired by the Swans. 

The island was successfully built later that Summer and I hoped the previous Pen would find another mate.

Sadly she did not and moved away in October 2007, I last saw her the following January in the sea near the paddling pool.

A few weeks later in February 2008, Popeye and Penny returned to the river and immediately took to the new island to build a nest, I was overjoyed.

Their first brood was 4 cygnets, and since then they have successfully raised seven broods with as many as 9 at a time, totalling 56 fledged cygnets since 2008. 

Their remarkable persistence paid off, and they are now part of the Nairn community.

We could all learn a lot from Swans, qualities like courage, fidelity, and persistence.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Pintail Perspectives

Once again we have a beautiful Autumn day and probably the best October weather for years.
Our migrant Pintail is still enjoying the river and the company of the swans and Mallards.

His new plumage is striking and virtually complete.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Popeye And The Pintail

Sometimes waiting to click the shutter just at the right moment gets a nice photo.

The Pintail has integrated well with the other birds and is now looking really good.

With his new plumage, the pin tail feathers are now getting prominent too.

He is a real contrast to the Mallards.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Curlew Casualty

Trust members and regular visitors from Fife, Alison and John Nicol brought me an unusual casualty today from Nairn beach - a Curlew. 

                   I decided to see if it could be saved and phoned our Avian adviser Sue for advice. After washing away all the sand on it's underside I was able to have a good look at the damage and discovered 2 badly broken legs. One of the legs had two compound fractures close to the foot and upper joint, and the other had a compound fracture again close to the upper joint. Although I have some medical kit for uncomplicated repairs, I reluctantly decided that the best option for the bird was to be put to sleep. This bird is a wader and needs two good legs to survive. Sadly the fractures were too severe for successful repair which was a great pity, for it had no wing injuries and was otherwise healthy. Last week I had a pigeon which also died, unfortunately dealing with wild bird casualties, it's a case of some you win some you lose !

Friday, 16 October 2015

Sparrow Cracks It

With the longer colder nights, the birds are taking every opportunity to feed during the daylight hours.

Small birds in particular benefit greatly from fat balls, peanuts, and mixed wild bird seed. 

This little house sparrow certainly knows how to crack open the seeds !

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Pintail Preening

Our Pintail has been here for 5 weeks, and is now part of our River wildlife. I am wondering if there really is something in the early migration of northern birds, indicating a harsh winter ahead ?  With the arrival at Slimbridge of the Bewick Swan from Siberia, and our pintail months before it's normal time.

We are due a hard winter, and I am inclined to guess we will have an early winter and white Christmas this year.

Meanwhile, the Pintail like the rest of us enjoying a sunny Scotland, 

growing new feathers,

and having a good bath and a Preen.

Babies Are Back !

Surprise, surprise, the Cygnets are back, minus "Gluey" the dominant male ! I have no idea where they've been, but they were not particularly hungry which indicates they were getting food somewhere. 

Perhaps Gluey has decided to stay with another group of swans at loch Flemington or elsewhere. He may have been expelled by Popeye and Penny of course.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Cygnets Depart ?

After almost 5 months to the day since hatching, our cygnets appear to have fledged and have now been gone for 2 days. 

Popeye and Penny seem very laid back and content, and may have taken advantage of the settled high pressure weather system and suitable tides to offload the babies. This would be the earliest they have ever got rid of them since arriving in the river. They were in perfect condition for the start on life's journey, it remains to be seen if they will stay away or find the lure of the river and comforts of home calling them back!

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Strictly For The Birds

After today's newspaper revelation about the huge salary paid to the Chief executive of the Scottish SPCA, I am seriously thinking about stopping my small monthly financial contribution to that organisation. Like thousands of other pensioners the length and breadth of Scotland who contribute to the Scottish SPCA, the idea of paying someone a £230,000 a year fortune to head such a charity seems almost obscene.
Even though I do not have the facts about this man's remit or talents, I still think that such a charity should be managed better financially, than by giving someone the equivalent of two average priced homes every year !
This is more than the Prime Minister gets for running the Nation!
Perhaps when the CEO charity post is applied for, maybe they should be asked to lead by example !
Having given to several charities over the years, I am now inundated by constant requests for more, and suffer regular bouts of compassion fatigue ! Most of these now end up in the recycle bin.
As the founder and Treasurer of the River Nairn Swans and Waterfowl Trust, I would like to reassure all our members and everyone else, that every penny that comes to us is exclusively and strictly for the birds !

Although we are not a registered charity, not a single penny goes to any trustee and the annual shortfall comes out of my own pocket, even though I am only on a state pension. In addition I work at least 30 hours a week managing all aspects of the Trust and it's obligations, all for the huge reward of seeing a thriving River Nairn bird population. I can only manage this by not owning a car, not having holidays, and I don't smoke drink.or gamble. It's worth noting that the Scottish SPCA boss yearly income, would cover the Trust costs for 100 years !
The Trust regularly deals with the Scottish SPCA by reporting, catching, 

and containing injured birds for them to deal with, we will continue to do so.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Pintail Progress

The Pintail changes continue apace, this mornings pics show the increased definition becoming more striking.

The long pin tail seems to be the last major change yet to take place.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Not So Mute Swans

Today I had a little conversation with our not so Mute Swans. Penny started them off by  responding to me, then snorting at me for more food. Popeye felt the need to reassert his dominance by giving a deep grunt,  the cygnets complied and joined in with a chorus of baby squeaks !  Short clip below shot in 720p, so better quality  than earlier vids.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Pintail Eclipse Changes

The Pintail is still with us and as I thought,  it is a male in eclipse.

The changes are quite obvious now and should be completed within weeks. Compare today's pics with a week ago - the breast is much whiter and more defined.

The head will get a darker brown and underside white, with the long pintail feather yet to grow out. Watch this space !