Saturday, 17 November 2018

Swan Etiquette

Thought briefly that another 4 of our cygnets had left the river. 

Only Penny and Duke with 2 cygnets to be seen. 

An hour later I spotted the other 4 siblings flying home, and was able to catch a few shots as they came in to land. 

Was interesting to watch the protocol of the youngsters as they approached Penny and Duke. 

They arched their wings and squeaked and head nodded, showing due deference and etiquette to Mum and Dad. This etiquette is extended to me as they approach for their supplementary feed.

A ritual that will be used throughout their lives on many occasions.  Photo Sequence tells the story.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Nairn Swans Feeding Regime

It has come to the Trusts attention about local Facebook posts, regarding the feeding of Swans Bread. 

The Nairn Swans are the most successful family of Swans that I am personally aware of, ANYWHERE in the country .
I have been feeding and caring for them for 14 years, and observed, studied and researched much about Mute swans their lives, habits and requirements. I have posted many times about the best feeding for them, as proven by their age, good health and breeding success on the river Nairn.

This is no accident, as I provided them with an Island to nest on, which has given Penny our resident female an almost perfect location to lay and successfully hatch her offspring. So far she has successfully reared 70 cygnets, out of more than 80 eggs laid over the past 11 years.

She is approximately 17 years old now.
I learned a long time ago that the river Nairn only provides natural weed for about 5 months of the year, but the sea shore also provides a percentage of certain sea weed which they have access to when the tide suits.

When I started feeding the swans before Penny and Duke, fed them any type of bread. Within a short while I was informed that white bread was bad for them. Researching the subject, found this seemed to be common knowledge among bird " Experts ". Then heard a disturbing report that the  Scottish SPCA had to remove sick swans from Linlithgow loch, because they were being fed too much white bread by people. The swans were apparently developing an illness similar to rickets, that gave them a weak muscular system. 

This prevented them from tugging and pulling the weed from the bottom.
I took note of this and started experimenting, feeding them different things. My love for these birds prompted this action. Keeping the food as natural as I could provide, I fed them Wheat grain, which Initially I used to soak overnight, thinking that being softer it would be easier to eat. Sure enough they ate it readily, I also bought poultry grower pellets which were essentially wheat based but had added vitamins to help the immune system, these also went down a treat. 

Penny however occasionally got very picky, especially prior to nesting time when egg production was beginning. This was when she would often only eat wholemeal bread. I realised this was quite deliberate as she was seeking out minerals and algae to help with the production of eggs, also tried her with thawed garden peas which she sometimes ate, I pulled fresh soft green grass, which again they would eat during the spring/ summer along with young dandelion leaves. Mixed wild bird seed is also an important part of their diet. Large Porridge oats is also appealing from time to time. as well as very thinly sliced carrots. I mean so thin they are pliable, otherwise they will not eat them. 

White bread has no nutritional value, whereas wholemeal has about 10% protein and is OK providing it is fresh. Mouldy bread is poisonous to swans and ducks !
The Trust spends over £50 a week feeding the Nairn Swans and ducks with a healthy balanced diet, Wheat, maintenance pellets, mixed wild bird seed, carrots, porridge oats and wholemeal. NO WHITE BREAD Thank you. I hope everyone takes note. 
I have seen people throwing all sorts to the swans over the years, curry, chips, crisps, grapes, inedible rock hard French sticks, blue mouldy bread, even frozen fish ! 
The mouths of swans and ducks are limited in size, and therefore anything given has to be of appropriate size to swallow instantly, otherwise they get hounded by seagulls until they drop it.
I hope the Facebook couch surfers read this and learn something advantageous to our River birds.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

A Whitening of Swans

Feeling pretty well under the weather with a bout of Man Flu, so not doing much in the way of posts.

However I cannot neglect my river friends and managed to take a few shots today.  

The Cygnets are turning whiter and it crossed my mind that a  family of cygnets at this stage should really be called -  A Whitening of Swans.

They are still with Penny and Duke, and of course their river pals the ducks.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Duke Exerts Authority

Over the last few days, our resident Cob Duke has singled out another cygnet for a bit of harassment. 

                          I am wondering if this is now in line for an exit             from the river. 

Some shots taken today showing how he singles out this particular cygnet, watched by Penny and the others who raise their wings in a defensive mode.

After a while Duke stops and allows the six to investigate some underwater leaves.

Duke has really taken over his job of main man on the riverside - and Penny has been happy to watch him do it.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Grey Day

Frosty weather gone for the time being, replaced by grey November skies, and dark before five. 

Our Swan Family still together and more mature by the day. Spring tides this week and happily floating away some of the trees washed down by the last spate. Short video of the Cygnets feeding below.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Dog Threat Again !

Once again the river wildlife came under attack this morning. 

A local man with an out of control spaniel, attacked the Swans and ducks at Merryton bridge. It came within inches of grabbing one of our swans. Dog similar to the one above. Believed to come from Boath Park area of Nairn.
This man seemed to think that the river wildlife was fair game for his dog, having the temerity to blame me for feeding the birds there !! The dog was untrained and out of control, and a threat to any wildlife, which is totally unacceptable. All wild birds are protected. 

Within minutes of this incident another Spaniel of the brown and white variety similar to this one ,was chasing an injured Gull along the pathway. Whether it had been grabbed by this or the previous dog is unknown. Clearly some people are still not heeding the Scottish outdoor access code, which states that dogs should be kept under close control in areas that have lots of wildlife. We have over 200 birds that overwinter on this tidal area of the river and everyone in Nairn knows it. The Trust spend a lot of time and money caring for our wildlife, and wont tolerate irresponsible dog owners. They will be reported

We know from experience what out of control dogs can do to our wildlife, as these photos show.