Thursday, 13 June 2019

Disco Saves a Blackbird




About a month ago, I noticed a scattering of dark feathers just outside the Aviary and guessed that a resident garden Blackbird had been nabbed by the Sparrowhawk. 



Later that day I was appalled at the sight of  a poor Blackbird coming close to me for some mealworm. It had obviously been savaged by the Sparrowhawk, and Disco the disabled Duck started squabbling as it got near. I realised what must have happened early that morning. 



The Blackbird would have been worming just outside the aviary and got hit by the hawk. 



Disco would have seen everything from the other side of the aviary mesh with all the ducklings and her protective instinct would have kicked in, making her attack the hawk which was tearing the flesh and skin from the blackbird !  It must have been a violent attack for the hawk to release the blackbird long enough to escape it's clutches. 





Escape from a Sparrowhawk's talons is rare, especially for a smaller bird. 



For weeks the resident Blackbird comes to me several times a day for a high protein feed of dried mealworms. It may be blind or partially sighted in the right eye, but accurately able to pick up the smallest morsels. 




After a month it is healing and surviving well. Both Disco and the blackbird sometimes eat close by, and both share an incredible near miss experience !

Monday, 10 June 2019

Sad Swans



Penny and Duke are resigned to having no offspring this year. 


For the past week or so, Penny has been melancholy, but at last has her appetite back, this is essential for her good health and wellbeing.


                                     Investigations are continuing into the apparent infertility of the eggs. Evidence so far, suggests Duke may be the primary reason for the fertility failure. Other exterior evidence is being looked into as well.    

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Bonding Or Mating ?




Penny and Duke gave me a surprise today with what appeared to be a mating session at high tide.



With the continued ongoing investigation into this years hatch failure, seeing them mating so soon after the removal of the infertile eggs is quite a surprise. 





There appeared to be nothing wrong with their performance today, which makes me wonder if they were not in sync earlier this year. 



Climate change is playing havoc with nature in so many ways. The start of this year was exceptionally mild in February and here we are approaching mid summer, and it feels like November in this part of the world !



Having spoken to Sue our avian adviser earlier today, she tells me that there are still swans sitting on eggs down in the Swindon area, 500 miles south of here. 

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Lucky Dip



Lucky the lone hatched incubator duckling is now old enough to waterproof himself / herself. I won't be able to determine the sex for another few weeks. Short video below shows Lucky having a dip and water off a ducks back !



Thursday, 30 May 2019

Rescued Ducklings 3 Weeks On



Having fostered out Disco's babes, the rescued ducklings now have a taste of freedom in the garden and pond.


Disco however has not taken kindly to her territory being taken over by them. 


Accepting them is going to take a wee while, but should happen as they grow. 




                     "Lucky" the lone egg incubator duckling is now thriving and catching up with the others. 
Short video clip below.


My Thanks to all those enquiring after my health, so far so good.  

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Disco's Babes Fostered Out



                         I am currently laid low with a vicious viral chest infection, have never been this ill since the pneumonia scare a few years back. 


The ducklings under my care are a bit much so had to foster out Disco's ducklings now over a month old, to Inspector Aileen Ross of the SPCA. She will care for them until fledged and we can release them back to the river then. Meanwhile Disco is now in sole charge of the remaining rescued ones, badly in need of some motherly guidance. Up until now have been unable to allow them to join the others, so now Disco can act as surrogate mother for the next 5 weeks until old enough to release. Short vid below.


Friday, 24 May 2019

Hatch Failure - Investigation Underway




With a Heavy Heart I have to tell everyone the cygnet hatch which we have all been waiting for, has not happened. The result seems to be identical to 2017 when we had total failure to hatch as well.
This is too much of a coincidence, the Trust has launched an Investigation and analysis, in coordination with the Scottish SPCA.
Penny and Duke have been in perfect health and successfully reared 7 cygnets for 9 months last year.
I know the whole town barring a few will be disappointed, as many have been anxiously awaiting the hatch.
Sadly under SNH license I have removed the eggs from the nest, as Penny would continue to sit and try to hatch them. This would lead to her suffering ill health which I cannot allow to happen.
Needless to say I am devastated for her and Duke, who have been exemplary parents.
The investigation will be thorough, and may also involve the wildlife crime officers.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Still Waiting



Penny and Duke are still keeping us all waiting on the cygnets hatch. Weather has been perfect for any hatching birds right now, finally some warmth and insect life around. 


Spotted another small new brood of 6 ducklings today, but sadly we have lost about 3 broods already to the Crows and Gulls.



Meanwhile Disco and her brood of 12 plus 2 harbour rescued ones are growing fast. Unfortunately I doubt if I'll be able to put all the recently rescued ones together with Disco's lot as they are likely to get bullied, being over 2 weeks younger. 


They now have to share the Trust facilities, with the wee ones getting the Aviary during the day, and the older lot having it at night. Keeping them safe is the priority until they are ready for release.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Salad Bar



Disco's dozen at 17 days old are growing fast. 


They have the life of Riley, and so well looked after by Disco who is always on the lookout for dangers. She has seen off Herring Gulls and Crows, and witnessed the Sparrowhawk catching a blackbird outside the aviary. 


They are fed several times a day, and am now weaning them onto Grass as well as Lettuce, a good source of Niacin and saves me cutting it so often !


The smaller rescued Ducklings are still in the warmth of the coop, but will introduce them to the outside Aviary soon with the warmer weather forecast.
Short video of Disco's babes below, even in the pool she is on the alert.


Friday, 10 May 2019

New Arrival




Having acquired a single Duck egg dropped on a Trust members Lawn last month. It was put into my incubator to see if it was viable or not. 



Normal duck incubation time is about 28 days, so I was gobsmacked when I discovered a ducks bill protruding through the shell at 24 days! 



This is the earliest I have ever known for a duck egg hatching. It transpired that the little bill through the shell was stuck for over 18 hours, so I had no choice but to help it out or end up with an - in shell fatality.



Using Tweezers I carefully removed some shell at either side of the trapped bill leaving the membrane intact. Some hours later removed some more and allowed the duckling to finish the job. 



                    It now joins some of the other rescued ducklings. Sequence of shots tells the story and short vid clip below.



Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Caring For Ducklings



At the outset, can I just say that looking after ducklings is best left to the mother ducks. From a Human standpoint, it is a nine week commitment in order for them to reach fledging and survival.



Can be messy and needs facilities to keep it as natural as possible. Ducklings will imprint on humans unless care is taken to minimise this. Sometimes it's necessary to intervene in the case of the death or injury of the mother, otherwise leave well alone.



First of all, ducklings that are only a day or two old need to be kept warm regularly. 



My observations over the years have seen the mother duck take her ducklings for short periods into the water to feed on floating insects and algae, then out to dry off, get warmed and waterproofed under her wings and body. A cold wet duckling will quickly die from hypothermia. The weather conditions are crucial at this time of year, and frankly, conditions now are drastic for newly hatched ducklings. Ducklings cannot waterproof themselves until about 3 weeks old when their oil gland develops This is why you will often see them under their mother until they are quite large. 


Disco my disabled duck you can see here with her 2 week old ducklings, still getting under for warmth and waterproofing. 


The current 16 rescued ducklings are kept warm in a brooding box with a heat lamp, if the heat is sufficient they will not sit directly underneath it and they will be active rather than lethargic. 


Plenty of fresh water and feed by way of crushed dried mealworm, finely chopped soft lettuce, and chick crumb starter feed, gives them a varied protein diet. I also put them in the large bath regularly which gives me the chance to clean out their brooder and apply fresh bedding. I have to partially dry them using paper towels, before putting them back into the brooder to preen and finish drying themselves.


The good thing about having a large brood, is they will keep each other warm and content with company. Having an A4 photo of a mother duck in the brooder gives them an added comfort to sit under.
When they get about 6 weeks old, they can be given thawed garden peas, porridge oats and mixed wild bird seed and wheat grain, they also need access to a bigger pool, and dirt and grit for their digestion. 



Over the past 14 years or so, I have cared for over 150 ducklings and learned a lot from practical experience, as yet I have never had any follow me home, although they certainly know me when I turn up with feed on the riverside. I keep my direct contact to a minimum to avoid them imprinting too much. Short video below showing the 16 recently rescued ducklings having their first indoor bath.


Monday, 6 May 2019

Hats Off To Haley

Local residents came to the fore today in helping to rescue yet another 8 ducklings.



Young teenager Haley from Queenspark, phoned the SSPCA when she spotted what looked like abandoned ducklings at the riverside. It transpired that their Mother was killed and the Ducklings were in grave danger of being eaten by predators. Haley and her friend got into the riverside, and with some help managed to capture all 8 ducklings. 



The ducklings are now under the care of the Trust and have been joined by the other 8 ducklings rescued yesterday from the beach, all of them are only a couple of days old and will grow up as the one family. All of them will be returned to the river when around 9 weeks old and fledged. The Trust is grateful for the fine spirited residents who did all they could to ensure the survival of these cute little ducklings, well done ! Short movie clip below.



Sunday, 5 May 2019

Beach Rescue

Weather still wintry, but slightly better today.



 As usual at this time of year with adverse weather conditions for hatching birds, I carry the net to the riverside in case anything needs rescued. This was fortuitous today as I was told of stranded ducklings on the seashore with high tide and raging surf about to engulf them.



Myself and Trust member Donald (Aptly named today ), headed over to the West Beach to search for the ducklings. Was blowing a gale from the northwest, and seas were rough, crashing along the shoreline. I knew we were on the right track after seeing a mother duck flying along the shoreline, frantically looking for her brood. Donald spotted them just a foot or so from the tideline, barely discernible among the seaweed and stones, one was injured on it's back and the others huddled together. 



They were at the bottom of the high sea wall and would have been washed away at high tide for sure. I was hoping the mother duck would have spotted them and landed, as catching all would have been the best outcome. With the incoming tide they had to be rescued, or die in the surf. 



Donald successfully  managed to get all 9 of them, including the injured one. On closer inspection it looks like a gull or crow had bitten it on the head. I have put it in the incubator meanwhile, but doubt  it will survive.  



They are now safely in a pen with food and water, and being closely inspected by Disco and her brood. 




                    Incredibly the two previous rescued ones adopted by Disco - were showing the most interest in the newcomers, makes me wonder if they were aware that their real siblings are missing.



Don't know if I will be able to integrate these rescues with disco's brood now, as there is quite an age difference and could result in them being picked on and bullied. Will just have to see how things develop. One good thing that might work out, is there is one to hatch in the incubator in a weeks time, this I should be able to add to this rescued lot.