Friday, 30 September 2016


There were so many magic moments with Popeye and the Swans over the last 11 years. I have dug out some photos as one does at a time like this. Being allowed to stand guard over the hatched cygnets, him on one side of the nest and me on the other,  sheer magic!

The look in the eye, the nod of the head, the whistle and grunts, and there was some painful ones too !

Like the time he gave me a beating as I removed fishing tackle from Penny, it resulted in a cracked rib and quite a bit of bruising, but all was forgiven, and within days we were back to normal.

Then the joy when he was reunited with the family after last years illness, short video to the left entitled Happy Homecoming, have a look if you haven' t seen it before. 

What a legacy, having fathered 62 cygnets in  9 years, these offspring will be scattered all over the highlands by now.


Magic Moments indeed. Farewell Popeye.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016


Have just been informed that our much loved Popeye died yesterday. This is really sad news and I am gutted, I fully expected him to survive and be back with Penny and his cygnets. Colin Seddon the Manager of the National Wildlife rescue centre, told me that the Vet report stated that cause of death was renal failure, possibly because of his age. Colin also said he regretted being the bearer of bad news, and added -"One thing is for certain he certainly had a wonderful and productive life with you and the Trust".
I am pretty shocked folks.

Monday, 26 September 2016


Popeye has been given antibiotics and put on a drip to keep him hydrated. He has been transferred to the SPCA wildlife centre at Fishcross for further treatment. With his history at their disposal he should be well taken care of - as he was last year. 

The photos of Popeye flying were taken last Saturday, the day before he was laid low by whatever ails him !
Hopefully he will be back in a week or so, flying alongside his family !

Sunday, 25 September 2016


Our resident Cob Popeye has been taken to the Vets for treatment this afternoon. Over the past couple of days I noticed he was spending some time on his own away from the family.

This gave me cause for concern since it is often the first sign of impending illness. Yesterday although he turned up in the evening with the family he was not eating and keeping his distance from me, I was now fearing the worst. 

Today he was again on his own down at the Swans island while the rest of the family were up at Merryton bridge. I went down to have a close look at him and he was not a happy boy, he moved away and staggered shakily onto the island from the moat. I knew he needed immediate veterinary attention and called the Scottish SPCA to have him taken for treatment. 

With the help of Inspector Aileen Ross from Inverness, we ushered him to the end of the Moat and caught him without any trouble. He is now at the Vets in Inverness, hopefully the diagnosis will not be serious and we can get him back to Penny and cygnets soon. 

                       I get the impression it is a bacterial infection, the same or similar to last year when he was given several weeks treatment. He is stronger this time and having caught him earlier, treatment should be quicker.

Could this be a result of the recent sewage spill into the river ? ...I wonder !

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Three Weeks And Thriving

The September Brood of nine are three weeks old today, still alive and thriving. They are growing fast, being fed Meal worm and porridge oats twice a day and still able to get algae and weed from the river stones.

So far the mother is the most successful on the river this year, and I'm hopeful most if not all will survive. She is incredibly attentive and uses the cover expertly, keeping them safe at all times. The weather has played a vital role, being benign since they hatched, the crows are no longer feeding their young, and the cover and insect life are still abundant - and of course I'm supplementing their food. 

Sometimes being a late hatch can be a great advantage providing luck is on your side. 

Usually this time of year is not so benevolent with floods and bad weather, this time it's a windfall for our late brood and they have a fighting chance of reaching adulthood. Short movie clip below, showing their morning rush to meet me with the breakfast . I have to watch I don't stand on them !

Monday, 19 September 2016

Sleeping Swans

After a hard climb up the river, the Swans had a good meal and then a snooze.

                            I have often been asked, "do they sleep on land or in the water? " both is the answer to that one.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Natural Nairn Beauty

It may be mid September, but today still feels like summer.

Our Late brood mother duck and 9 ducklings are still thriving and entertaining passers by with their natural beauty.

 Mallard duck broods are a joy to behold !

Cygnets In a Flap

The Cygnets were in a playful mood yesterday, and decided to give themselves some vigorous flapping exercise.

 The powerful force generated by the huge feet and wings are shown in the photos.

These birds do literally walk and run on water !

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

No Place Like Home - Return Of The Seven

Was told today by Mr John Bell owner of the rectory, that the Mother duck and the lucky 7 ducklings had returned to his garden from the river !

This is indeed astonishing after escorting them last week from his garden down to the river, the mother duck and ducklings made their way back the following day. Seems like there's no place like home for this particular duck.

The Garden is indeed huge with a lawn and pond, there is ample room for foraging and Mr and Mrs bell provide extra food as well. 

They are delighted to have the ducks and hope they stay until fully fledged.

                             I think they are likely to have ducks every year from now on, since either the mother or young are likely to return every nesting season !

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Waterfowl vs Water-Foul

After last weeks documented sewage discharge into the river, I was told by SEPA that this drain is a combined sewer and rainwater outlet. According to the Spokesman for Scottish water speaking to the Nairnshire Telegraph " the outlet at this site is a consented storm water overflow which is designed to discharge into the river when the sewers are full. At such times the contents of the sewer are extremely diluted by rainwater"  I would take issue with this statement as far as the contents being diluted. 

How do tampons, panty liners and paper towels get diluted ? These are Items I find on the river bed around Merryton bridge.

I'm sure the sewage bacteria will be pleased also to know they are in a diluted environment as well. 

Additionally, there was no rainfall in the preceding 5 hours before this discharge occurred, in other words no storm water overflow to blame. The simple truth is the sewage system is not really fit for purpose, and any additional load from new developments will only make matters worse.

 The residents of Nairn want an enhanced quality of life not a diminished one, we have a choice - is it Waterfowl or Water-foul ,  I know what I prefer ! 

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Privileged Trust

The more I find out about other species, the more I realise how privileged I am to have formed a trusting bond with them. Taking the time patience and effort to observe and understand them, makes me realise that as human species we are in the privileged position to understand, appreciate and befriend all other species on the planet if we so desire.

The natural world is a treasure for all of us to wonder and observe, to me it is spiritually uplifting. Today I was privileged to be left in charge of a brood of 9 ducklings on the river, this was in the middle of dozens of other birds and predators too.

The Mother duck I had been catering to over the past month while nesting,  decided to stretch her wings with her mate and flew up river about 50 yards leaving me totally in charge of her brood at my feet, this was the ultimate trust that another species bestowed on me.

When nesting and calling her daily, giving her a feed when she left the nest for a break, a bond was being created. 

She hatched 10 ducklings on the first of September and had no qualms about bringing them close to me for a feed, this is now a twice daily occurrence which I am privileged to do. 
The food is a combination of mealworm and porridge oats, and the ducklings gorge themselves, especially last thing before retiring  for the night. So far she has lost only one duckling about a week ago, and I'm hopeful she will be the most successful duck on the river this year.