Friday, 30 June 2017

River Rescue

After 24 hours rain, the River was again in spate for the second time this month. Although not as severe, it was more than enough to wash all the waterbirds down to the Island haven. The last duckling brood to hatch a few days ago was the one to suffer the worst losses. The fast flow is deadly to tiny ducklings if they are caught out. I found one dead and another two separated from their mother, exhausted and unable to climb up the bank to safety. 

                        I managed to scoop one up from the edge of the moat, and waded over to the other side to find the other this morning. I brought them home to the brooding box under a lamp, within half an hour they had revived and started to eat. Later this afternoon I went down again to find another exhausted one very weak and unable to climb out of the water.

Same procedure back to the brooder and under the lamp, happily it also revived after an hour or so. I will try to reunite them with their mother if the river drops enough tomorrow . This would mean she would still have 7 out of the twelve she had 3 days ago.   It's all down to luck as to their life chances, hatched just before a flood often spells disaster, even for ducks !

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Two New Broods

We may have missed out on Cygnets this year, but the duckling broods are certainly making up for it ! 

Today I can report seeing two more new broods of 12 and 6, and I expect even more to follow. Currently we have 33 tiny ducklings on the lower river and 20 grown ones nearly 9 weeks old. 

With the heavy summer growth, it's shaping up to be a bumper year for the Mallards. Many of these know me from previous years and view me not only as a food source, but as a trusted ally who will keep the drakes away.

Have to watch where I put my feet as some of the ducklings have a tendency to stand on my Wellie's.  The mothers are happy to form a crèche and leave one in charge whilst feeding !  Short movie clip below, of experienced mother with ducklings helped into the river a week ago.

Council Strimmers Destroy Wildlife Habitat

Last year the River Nairn Swans and Waterfowl Trust applied for funding through Nurturing Nairnshire, to plant trees and bushes for the wildlife and people to enjoy along the riverside.
Today the council Strimmers have destroyed many of the planted trees and bush habitat.

In spite of providing the council with a map showing the areas not to be cut more than 3 feet from the path last year,  they have allowed the destruction of this additional river enhancement. Personally I went to a lot of trouble applying for funding, winning it then personally paying for replacements when they were cut down last year. I planted more mature trees thinking they would not cut them down. 

They have tried their best to do so and stripped the bark from these young trees that will now die. Gooseberry bushes have also been cut away, bird cherry, and Rowan too.  These were placed so that the birds and people would get the maximum benefit from them when they grew up.
It seems we have a wasteful council who do nothing but excel at cutbacks ...including the wildlife habitat cutbacks !
They have a choice to replace all the paid for trees and bushes, or pay the Trust to replace them all again !
This was approved and voted for by the people at the Nurturing Nairnshire event last year. 

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Keeping Warm

The mother duck that made it to the river on the 22nd with a large brood is doing a remarkable job.

She still has 13 and keeping them safe from all comers at the moment.

When not feeding and the drop in temperature, keeping them warm is a priority . The June flood has removed all the weed and algae, so adequate food is an issue right now.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

A Thing of Beauty

"A Thing of beauty is a joy forever", in a world that seems filled with so much evil, tragedy and division. I take every opportunity to appreciate the beauty on my doorstep. 

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and to my eyes the simplicity of the natural world gives me daily joy. Take newly hatched ducklings, warm sunshine and the devotion of mother duck sitting among buttercups, never fails to make me smile and lift my spirits. My advice to everyone who wants to be happier is, keep in touch with nature, and stop obsessing about our own species !

Friday, 23 June 2017


                       I often get asked why are the female ducks so plain coloured ? The simple answer is, camouflage = survival.

A perfect example can be seen in the photos taken today of the Mother who entered the river yesterday with her brood , 

who incidentally are also born with camouflage !  See for yourself.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Another Rescue

Got an unusual phone call from the opticians today. A mother duck and large brood walked past the opticians on the high street brae and I was asked for advice on what to do. I told the lady in question just to escort the duck and brood down to the riverside keeping behind and not to rush it.
Anyway I thought I better go down to make sure all was well, and found that the duck had taken a quick detour into an allyway but still heading for the river. The allyway passed several houses and eventually came to a dead end. The mother duck had jumped over the wall and flew down to the river about 20 feet below.

As luck would have it Murdo Mcleod  the painter was working in the ally way and quickly lowered a ladder down to the riverside. We gathered up the ducklings into a box supplied by a neighbour, and Murdo climbed down to the riverside where the mother duck was quacking furiously for her ducklings to follow.
Murdo released them into the river and mother duck happily took them downstream. It was a joyous finale to an exciting rescue.

                       I later met up with the mother and her brood in the evening. I counted 15 ducklings but I think one or two belonged to another mother close by. 

Sister Broods

The current new duckling situation on the lower riverside is a brood of 5 and another of 3. The one with 3 is also the mother of the duckling I rescued and had fostered by the duck in the coop. The two riverside broods regularly mix and the mothers don't fight over them, maybe they are sisters !

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Surrogate Hatches 5

The Surrogate foster Duck has emerged from the coop with 5 new ducklings + the rescued fostered one. I am delighted that this fabulous mother duck with a dislocated wing managed to fulfil her life as a duck, even with the handicap of being grounded for life. She can now rear them until they are able to fly.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Orphans Released

The 8 Orphan ducklings in care for the last 2 months were successfully released back into the river today.

They got a surprise with the changes in the shingle beds after the big spate, huge amounts deposited all over the place.

This evening they were close to the swans island, possibly where they were born 8 weeks ago.

The good news is that 6 of them are females !

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Surrogate Update

The Surrogate foster duck is now hatching her own ducklings - but the rescued duckling has been fully accepted. If you look carefully at the rear end you will see 2 heads of recently hatched ducklings.

The single one on her back is the rescued one. How cool is that !

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Surrogate Foster Duck

Sometimes fate intervenes, and can be incredibly cruel and merciless, occasionally it can work the other way.

 Followers of the blog will recall the recent Duck given to me with the dislocated wing, never to fly again. 
My reasoning for keeping it was simple, it was a perfectly healthy duck but unable to fly. I reasoned that ducks don't fly all that often, maybe less than 1 per cent of the time so why have it put to sleep ? It was capable of doing everything else including procreating, as it has shown by mating and now sitting on a clutch of eggs.

Yesterday one of them hatched and today fate intervened once again, by way of a duckling rescued from the riverside. At my normal riverside feeding I saw a new mother duck arrive with 4 ducklings in tow. The river at Merryton has changed considerably after last weeks flood with a stronger current and trees stuck around the bridge supports. The mother crossed the current but 2 of her newly hatched ducklings were unable to fight the current and were washed to the opposite side.One of the stranded ones made it over but the other was too weak and reluctant to enter the water again. The mother headed up stream with the 3 ducklings and I had no choice but to retrieve the weak one. 

As fate would have it  I again reasoned that maybe the dislocated mother duck still hatching her eggs and already having one, might just accept this new rescued duckling ? Taking it home I carefully lifted the nest box lid and the mother duck moved off the nest, revealing her baby and eggs -  placing the rescued duckling in the nest the surrogate duck immediately moved straight back onto the nest !

Fate once again coupled with natural instinct came to the rescue, I am well pleased !

Friday, 16 June 2017

Orphan Ducklings Enjoy

The garden pool is a smash hit with the ducklings. Changing the water takes a while, but boy do the ducklings love fresh water to splash around in !
The 8 orphan ducklings will be released soon, but yesterday they were having a great time diving and swimming. Short movie clip below.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Penny Recovers

Penny has taken several days to recover from the marathon incubation, and is finally eating a normal amount.
She has been drinking more than usual , just little sips frequently - almost certainly due to dehydration after such a long time on the nest. Wish I had removed the eggs sooner !

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Ducklings Progress

The Orphan ducklings are now 6 weeks old and thriving. They should be ready for safe release at the end of the month. Without a mother for guidance and protection, they will be vulnerable to the Black backed gull, Otters and dogs. Working wings are vital to escape predators, hence the reason they need kept in safety for so long. 

The runt and her two offspring are also growing, and it appears she has produced a little runt like herself - it's only half the size of her other one !

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Swans Eggs Infertile

Today I had the sad task of removing Penny and Dukes eggs from the nest. 

Penny has been devotedly incubating them for the past 7 weeks, this was 2 weeks longer than the expected hatching date.
I was concerned for her health as she was losing so much weight and fearful of fatal damage to her organs.
I applied for a Scottish Natural Heritage Wildlife licence to remove the eggs which was granted a couple of days ago. With the huge river spate the other day, it was only today I was able to access the nest site.
Timing was crucial in order to cause no stress to Penny, and she did her bit by getting up and moving to the side of the nest. My 12 year relationship with her proved it's worth, as she was ravenous and ate from my hand as I put the eggs in a bag . Duke stood at the bottom of the island and watched without alarm.
I could not have wished for a smoother operation, with no stress to either of the birds.

                          I got the feeling that Penny was relieved that she could finally vacate the nest and spend time eating and preening, this she did for an hour - the longest period spent off the nest for last 7 weeks. 
After I returned home I opened all the eggs, and as I suspected found no embryos at all, they were just rotten eggs.

Having done some detailed research on swan infertility, it appears there could be 4 reasons for it. One, Duke might be too old, which I discounted because he is younger than Penny and she can still lay 8 eggs. The second reason which is the most credible, is that Duke had a lot of medication during Feb - March when he was ill at the rescue centre. Some of the meds have been known to cause infertility in other species.
The third reason could be that they are related, which is possible and could only be proved by a DNA test of both of them. The fourth reason is interesting, apparently when a Cob loses it's mate and finds another, they are often unable to fertilise eggs with a new mate. This does not hold true for a Pen in the same circumstances ! 
In 10 years this is the first time that Penny has failed to produce cygnets, all due to the death of Popeye last September. We can only hope the infertility is temporary, and all will be well next season. Penny is a remarkable Swan and has laid over 80 eggs in the 10 years on the river, even at 16 years old she is still laying 8 eggs a year. There is no doubt her cygnets will be sorely missed this season, but I for one am happy to have her and Duke gracing our river anyway. I have placed a tennis ball in the centre to give viewers an idea of size, these eggs weigh around 11 ounces each and one is laid every 2 days.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Tree Cormorant

Yesterday I thought I spotted a new bird species High up in a willow tree. 

First time I have ever seen a Cormorant perched 50 feet high up on a tree ! 

Spate Shingle Shifters

After the biggest Spate this year, the Nairn Beach will need a clean up.

Tons of tree debris roared down the river yesterday and transformed the riverbed on the way down.

Large tree shingle shifters, have been caught up on the bridge supports and stuck in the shallows, causing tons of shingle to build up around them. 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Duck Bath

After yesterdays deluge.

The garden Runt had a good bath this morning before settling down with her babies !