Sunday, 26 February 2017


The River Nairn Swans and Waterfowl Trust has been established just over 8 years. It has been brought to my attention that some individuals say they know nothing about the Trust, other than me Joe Telfer the founder. It's only right therefore that I enlighten them and everyone else about the Trust.
We are an unincorporated association of voluntary unpaid Trustees, with a current membership around 190.
We have a constitution which is a bit lengthy for here, but I will give you Clause 2 which is the primary basis for our existence.

2. The Purposes / objects: of the Trust shall be the advancement, of welfare health, and protection of the River Nairn Swans, waterfowl, and water birds within the tidal reaches of the River Nairn. This includes their nesting island site, associated riverbanks, environment and habitat, for the good of the community and future generations in perpetuity. The trust shall be non political.

To all intents and purposes we are a charity, but not allowed to state this in our constitution.

Currently we have 4 Trustees, Joe Telfer as Founder Treasurer, Martin Shand as Chairman, Iona Gibson as Secretary, and Sue Hulbert our Avian Adviser.
We will start with Sue Hulbert.  Sue runs a Swan Sanctuary in Swindon, she has 28 years experience in animal welfare and is an Ex council ranger. Although she runs a small swan sanctuary, she also cares for many different birds and animals on a daily basis, including cats for the cats protection league. I am eternally grateful for the assistance that Sue provides with her wealth of avian experience.

Sue is small in stature but catching Swans even in the most difficult situations is something she takes in her stride. She is often asked for her help by the Council, Police, and the RSPCA to assist in rescues. Sue is also a member of the Swan convention. She visited me a while back and spent a couple of days on the riverside passing a professional eye over our river and birds. Her expertise on avian matters is invaluable. We got a thumbs up for the job we are doing. She is also a keen football fan !

Iona joined the Trust as Secretary after being very much inspired by Joe’s selfless efforts over the last 17 years.

Iona believes that the environment is not a commodity - it is there for every living being to exist in harmony. Even in a small town such as Nairn, it is important for the population to guarantee that nature and an urbanised community blend equally. However, to reach a level of true equality, responsibility accountability, and immeasurably matter. 

As such, Iona has been doing her part to learn about and better support the diverse bird life of Nairn, in order to ensure our synergetic continuation. 

Iona hopes that every individual will take the informed initiative to contribute to a collective of environmentally-conscious action from hereon.

Martin our Chairperson works locally in public service  but visits most of the highlands on business, and is also very concerned about wildlife conservation issues. A very keen DIY man and big Nairn County FC fan , with a sense of humour, comes in handy as our handyman with a trailer !

Joe Telfer  Founder Treasurer, Always been keen on the natural world ever since father brought in Trout during rationing after WW2. I remember when he was president of the local angling club in Lanarkshire during the 1950s being taken on a fishing trip to the Tay at Aberfeldy. I discovered my first Robin's nest in the root of an upturned tree, tiny delicate eggs which he made sure I didn't touch.The World and people were different then, Tuberculosis was common, and the bus load of anglers mainly coal miners donated half their catch to the local sanatorium on the way home.
I worked my way round the world for 3 years during the 1960s, I have been in business, ex hunter and fisher, and have had my epiphany moments. I feel passionate about the Natural world the environment and Scotland's natural beauty. With a lifetime of changes - from the milk being delivered by horse and cart to sitting at this computer doing a blog. Familiarity breeds contempt, and the consumerism of society is a major threat to the entire planet. As the apex species I think it's incumbent on us to protect and conserve other species. I concentrate on what I can do personally to protect what I believe is important.
The Trust deals with the Scottish SPCA on a regular basis, the power companies, BT, Network Rail and any others that impact on the wildlife.
Finally our valuable membership, the people who help sustain the Trust with their compassion and love of the Natural world. We have members locally, throughout Scotland and the UK, and some living abroad who keep in touch through the blog postings. The Trust is grateful for your support and pledge to continue caring for our patch of river environment and it's inhabitants.

Penny and Duke

Turf wars continue as Penny and Duke protect their island territory. 

The young pretenders have been back a couple of times but are quickly seen off by Duke and Penny. 

High tides this week and some snow melt raised the river level. Nesting should start in about a month.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Making A Difference

I have been heartened by the kind words of Trust Members and supporters who see the rejection of the Petition as another example of poor local representation. 1250 genuine caring people have been snubbed by the powers that be, even though they were all elected on less votes themselves.The Trust will continue to watch out for the river wildlife and take action when needed.We will not be deterred by the ambitions of a few with their own agendas. I have always been impressed by individuals who have made a global difference to humanity whether it be Gandhi or Attenborough, or thousands of others in their own way. Each of us has the ability to make our own mark. Chief Seattle was one American Indian, who also realised what humans were capable of when it came to damage to the environment. Some of his words are so profound and prophetic and are as relevant today as they were in the 1800s. "Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realise that we cannot eat money."

"If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth."

Then there was Gandhi,  “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
My belief that the small area of the River Nairn from the A96 road bridge to the Bailey bridge, is an area where the wildlife above and below the water should have priority - still stands.
I cannot understand why other river users can't agree to give this tiny part of the river over to the wildlife. It is pretty well unusable for anything else anyway.
What would people rather see, river wildlife or people pursuing frivolous activities ?

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Mirror Mirror....

Penny and Duke like two peas in a pod !

We have a new pollution menace lately, some dog walkers dropping their pooh bags in the river, this is the second one I've picked up in the last week. Please if you see anyone doing this, give them a talking to !

Also this evening 5pm at merryton bridge, you can see the sewer discharge into the river again, poor ducks getting the blame while being caught up in it .  I don't see any highland council employees observing to add to report !

Monday, 20 February 2017

Nairnshire Committee Rubber Stamp Propaganda

I attended the Nairnshire Committee meeting today in the hope that they would have a rethink and deal with the reality of the petition for a wildlife haven. I was badly let down listening to the long preamble about the harbour plans for the future, as I detected another land and water grab by the boating fraternity for the few. 
Up came the subject of the petition, with no references to either my letters, or others that had been sent in, or the 1250 who supported the idea. Highland council propaganda department reasons / excuses to turn it down were adopted, and our meek councillors were happy to rubber stamp it. To me this was just another symptom of a world gone mad in the same category as Trump and Brexit. What else can I say except the Nairn river wildlife are now under threat more than ever - you have been warned - before the election!
I might add that the public could attend the meeting but are not allowed to speak. I will be asking the Councillors for full details of who compiled the HC report, and who furnished the advice and where is the evidence of such advice given, relative to the tidal area of the River, etc. 
Anyone who knows me would never in a million years have mentioned river bird  pollution, considering I have been reporting human river sewage pollution to the authorities for over 10 years. Whoever mentioned the above knows nothing about me or the river.
The trust will continue to speak out for the indigenous river birds who have no voice,  this is one advantage that our species have !


Penny and Duke are very happy back together again. It looks as though the young challengers have got the message and staying away from the river.

Duke is improving dramatically, his appetite is now fully restored which is great since this was my biggest worry. 

Being back on home territory with Penny seems to have done the trick, after the 2 week rehab at the Scottish SPCA wildlife rescue centre. The Trust has sent them a £100 donation. 

Meanwhile Penny and Duke are  reinforcing the bonds, with ritual mirroring of each others movements.

Saturday, 18 February 2017


It seems that Highland Council has been busy trying to justify rejecting our petition due to be debated on Monday. The HC report seems to be based on advice from THEIR employees about OUR tidal waters. Even with my 13 years on the river and over 8,000 visits, I have never been approached or consulted by Highland council staff for my opinion or expertise on our tidal Riverside or it's wildlife. I hope our own councillors take a realistic unbiased view and give it the credence it deserves. 
I have written to our councillors clarifying the points raised in the HC report, here is the Trust Response :
The Nairnshire Committee.           Response to Petition Report                            16th February. 

Dear Committee members,

The River Nairn Swans and Waterfowl Trustees, have read report item 5 regarding our petition request recently lodged for your determination. Although the Trust has only existed for 4 years, the founder has 13 years of twice daily observations, experience and interaction with the wildlife and their environment on the tidal reaches of the River Nairn.
We are concerned solely with the tidal area and the effect of urban human activity, on the wildlife their habitat and environment.
As with all tidal estuaries they are a magnet for water birds and other wildlife, especially during the long Scottish winter months. The reasons are obvious, since the tidal exchange twice a day creates feeding opportunities for all the river bird life, and salt water reduces the likelihood of freezing.
The Trust supplements the natural gathering of ducks with natural grain feed, given in a responsible way where there is no waste, and only the target species get fed. We cannot however vouch for other members of the public within the Town of Nairn.
We only have one Family of Swans, and these we carefully nurture, they are a very well known local attraction.
There have been eleven occasions when Swans or cygnets had to be rescued due to fishing tackle injuries.
This is one of the reasons we have asked for the cooperation of Angling association members to refrain from fishing in the tidal area below the A96 road bridge. They have 8 miles of fishing above the bridge. The Trust would be happy to pay the annual £50 fishing rights fee to the angling Association to refrain from fishing this small area.

As for the points about pollution and what bird life the river can naturally sustain. We could make the same assertion  over the sewerage system of Nairn built to accommodate about 5,000 people, now with a population of 11,000.  Not to mention the effluent from farms, and septic tanks that leach into the river, as well as the combined rainwater and sewage outfalls. As for river rats, they are part of the natural river wildlife eco system and are a threat to no one. I have seen them eating Salmon kelts that get washed downstream during winter and provide food for gulls and Otters as well. They also eat the seed pods from Himalayan balsam which is now abundant along the riverside. If it were not for people crossing  foot bridges, they would rarely see a riverside rat. This is a seaside town and gulls are sadly part and parcel of it, although the Trust tries to dissuade people from feeding the gulls. The Otters make use of the ducks and kill a substantial amount every year, even the seals that regularly come up river on the high tide have the occasional duck !
The 170 Trust members are not the only ones who enjoy observing all these natural events, many hundreds of tourists also appreciate the natural world and increase the foot fall in Nairn.
It may interest your committee that the duck numbers have more or less remained static over the past 3 years, proving that there is a natural ceiling on the river. These birds disperse all over and up river come the spring, and not many will be seen during the nesting season.
Part of responsible management of this tidal area within the Town would be having a few more signs educating the increasing amount of dog walkers, that there is the safety of other species to be considered.
A few more information panels showing the different types of birds that can be seen on the river would not go amiss either. We would happily supply the photos and text free of charge.
What the Trust does, is for the whole community of Nairn to enjoy, as well as the tourists who visit the Town.
This is the 10th anniversary of the swans Island which has proved to be a much loved attraction, and a definite asset to Nairn which incidentally costs the public purse nothing !
The Trustees hope you take heed of the 1250 genuine petition signatories, and listen to our Trust experts at the coal face, rather than a few Council jobsworth experts, Facebook trolls and critics.

Yours Sincerely        Joe Telfer on behalf of the Trustees.

Friday, 17 February 2017


When I named Duke after John Wayne, little did I know how prophetic this would be. This morning was glorious weather, blue skies and Duke and Penny enjoying their feed at the Island. 

They were relaxed and Duke was at last eating more. Penny suddenly arched her wings and I knew she had spotted something, it was the young challengers approaching the bailey bridge heading up towards them.

Penny immediately took to the water with wings arched ready to repel the young pretenders, Duke just stood for a while and watched then realised he had to follow. Instead of getting into the water he just walked along the silt and shingle, I got the feeling he did not want a showdown after having been attacked the previous day.

Anyhow, the cob challenger was emboldened by the fact that only Penny was ready for a fight so he took off and flew straight at her, meanwhile Duke was still moseying along as Penny turned away from the young attacker. 

She was forced to exit the river and the challenger followed and forced her downstream. 

Like the 7th Cavalry, Duke finally got into the river but was set upon by the young cob and they both had a furious battle under the bailey bridge.

                         I ran up to the bridge to get some shots of the action as the pirouette of the cobs ended, and one Cob forced the other out of the water and onto the shingle. 

                      Could not tell who was who at this stage, as one whacked the other to the ground with his wings then jumped on top and started a biting attack. 

                        I was sure Duke was taking a beating until I got closer and realised he was the victor !

When I turned round to see what Penny was doing, she was chasing the female challenger out of the river farther up, it was a resounding victory for both Penny and Duke !

After 10 minutes Duke decided he had done enough and let the young challenger go, as he menacingly walked him to the waters edge and chased him down towards the pier.

Penny menaced the female as she passed to join her defeated mate. 

It truly was a John Wayne ending, with penny and Duke in full control of this Battle scene.

Tonight they came to see me at Merryton bridge, both flushed with success, and eating heartily, Penny was the making of Duke today and he came up to expectations. What a Day !!  

Thursday, 16 February 2017


Good News Folks, Penny returned today and reunited with Duke, I am overjoyed to see them together again, and no sign of the young pretenders either.

Both of them were pretty happy to see me as well, they both had an appetite which is what I expected now that they were together again. Duke was eating with a bit more gusto, and penny of course scoffed her favourite, 2 moist fresh  wholemeal rolls, and a handful of grain.

They then settled down to shake and preen and have a nap.

                     I still have a smile on my face as I write. True to form Penny played a wise and patient game and Duke stuck to his territory in anticipation, he waited in the estuary this morning and the wind was ideal for Penny to have a quick look to see if he had returned.

Tonight I left them both on the island, back in control. I think there will be a royal battle if the young pretenders show up again, it wont be so easy to shift them now !

Duke Hangs in There

This morning brought some relief, when I spotted Duke feeding in the river with no sign of the young pair.
Duke appears to be waiting on Penny who will hopefully show up soon, she has every 3 days since he went to rehab.

His appetite seems to have improved and he managed a full wholemeal roll, I think if Penny showed up this would lift his spirits considerably.

Meanwhile a juvenile Cormorant stood on the side observing Duke as he meandered past.

I have read the report to the Nairnshire committee and am in the process of drafting a response to the apparent pre ordained rejection of our Petition to be aired on Monday.   Watch this space.