Sunday, 22 January 2017

Swans Island 10th Anniversary

This Year is the 10th Anniversary of the creation of Swans Island. One of the best things ever to have happened to the lower river Nairn. Something that gives me great satisfaction and has genuinely benefited wildlife and humans.

My motivation for creating the island was borne out of love and compassion for the previous pair of swans, who had used the river Nairn for several years to raise their cygnets after hatching near Kingsteps.

In a violent battle over the territory in May 2007 they lost their brood of cygnets, and shortly after the cob was killed after hitting a power line - leaving a lonely Pen .

My relationship with the swans and this Pen, was the catalyst that gave me the idea of a Swans nesting island on the river that would avoid a recurrence of the tragedy.

Approval and permission was sought through Nairn district council, Nairn river community council, Scottish Natural heritage, SEPA, The Provost and Local Cllr Liz Mc Donald, The  H C Inverness contamination unit, and Marine Scotland. All of these had no problem with the project, providing it was done following SNH and SEPA  guidelines, all of which were followed to the letter, permission was granted on July 17th . Work started and was completed in August 2007.

Now 10 years later we can see what benefits the island has produced. 

The swans have nested on it every year and have produced 62 fully fledged cygnets over the last 9 seasons.

There has been at least an equal amount of ducklings also hatched on the island during this time.

Thousands of locals and visitors have spent countless hours observing the wildlife reared, and the Town has become known for it's Nairn Swans. 

The photos show the site before and after the construction.

This was a perfect location for the swans nesting site, the existing spit of  land already had the makings of a nest site, except for the height. 

The shingle material that came out of the moat area was used to create a nesting mound and increase the height. I had to sow some grass seed and transplant a lot of reeds and tall grasses. Being August I was able to get it established enough to bind the topsoil, and prevent it being washed away before any big spates hit it. Conditions set by SNH ( Scottish Natural heritage ) was that no alien plant species should be planted, and that it should be naturalised. The river was unaffected as the site was well away from the Creek. I think some of the locals thought it would be washed away during floods, but I was confident that the location and shape would help it survive. The biggest threat would being hit by a massive tree during a big flood.

We've had quite a few big floods in the past 10 years and this resulted in the moat being filled with stones a couple of times, fortunately no massive trees hit the island proper. The money and work I spent doing it has been repaid ten fold, with the joy and happiness that the Swans and ducks have given me and many others in the last 10 years.  

Before the Swans island, Popeye and Penny tried to nest in the harbour, and also laid eggs on the riverbank, only to be swamped by the spring tides. 

Now the successful island is a refuge and haven for the birds during nesting and moulting, and when high tides and floods sweep down stream. Over the past 4 Years since the Trust was founded, we have spent over £12,000 on the care and welfare of all the river waterfowl, their island and environment now totalling nearly 200 birds. The Trustees are voluntary and unpaid and have received no funds or donations from any of the community councils, and only £800 from Highland Council last year after entering a competition for it. The Trust has members throughout Scotland, the UK and some from around the world. Prior to the Trust I was funding the wildlife care myself, so am very grateful for the Trust members support now. 

With the death of Popeye our resident Cob last September we all await the spring, with Penny and Duke to continue the successful hatching of more cygnets to grace our River.
If ever a place deserved to be a designated wildlife area - This is it !

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