Tuesday, 9 July 2019


Having no cygnets on the river this year is a bit of a downer. 

Fortunately I have a pictorial record of the Nairn Swans since the building of the Island nest site in 2007. 

Penny our current Female Pen first arrived in the river in May 2005 with her mate Popeye, they tried to nest twice in the harbour and the river but were swamped each time by the spring tides.

Their only chance of success was the creation of an Island nest site that would withstand the spring tides. I was happy to organise and fund the project.

This was started in July 2007 and  completed in the following 2 months, although I was still planting grasses and reeds after that. 

Popeye and Penny took possession that autumn / winter and almost immediately started preparing a nesting spot. As it was new there was no nesting material available, so I provided straw scattered around for them to utilise, this they did early in the new year of 2008. I was overjoyed to see them eagerly preparing to nest during February - March. 

Their eagerness almost cost them the clutch as they mated and laid eggs about a month before normal, and the nest was partially flooded by the exceptional March spring tide. Penny had already laid 6 eggs at this point and she laid another 4 which was just as well, as these were the only ones to hatch on the 19th April 2008. 

Later I learned from the swan convention down south, that these were the earliest hatch in the UK that year. So Nairn had the accolade of the first Swans ever to hatch on the river Nairn, and also the first to hatch in the UK.   I was chuffed that my Island idea had paid off, and would be an asset for the Swans and people of Nairn for future generations.

The following year they had a hatch of 9, one of which was killed by the crows, but the other 8 reached maturity. 

Every year after that until 2016 they produced an average of 7 until Popeye died from renal failure in September 2016. 

Penny was alone for a short while until Duke flew in October 2016, this seemed fortuitous at the time but proved to be not that easy. 

Duke was ill and not eating so I had him taken to the SPCA National wildlife centre for veterinary treatment. He had parasites and was given anti parasitic drugs and antibiotics, made a partial recovery and returned after two weeks. He was still weak and unable to compete with a rival pair of swans that tried to take over the Island site. Penny had no intention of giving up her successful home of nearly 10 years, fought hard and backed up Duke to drive the intruders out. All seemed well and they prepared to nest for spring 2017, Penny laid 8 eggs but these proved to be infertile.

Last year 2018 we had a complete reversal and she hatched 7 out of 8 eggs laid.
This takes us to the current year which again is a complete failure, reason as yet unknown. Eggs again infertile, and she is now about 18 years old. However she is a remarkable Swan having laid over 80 eggs in her time, 70 of which survived to fledge.  There were many adventures during these years and I was privileged to observe and sometimes participate. During the 15 years I have removed fishing hooks, line and tackle from the swans 11 times, once at the cost of a cracked rib ! 
They lost only 2 cygnets to the Crows and one to the Black backed gull, another was injured by the Crows but survived. Whichever way you look at it, a success rate of 9 out of 10, or 10 out of 12 seasons is excellent for any Swan. Their offspring are no doubt well established throughout the Moray Firth and possibly beyond. The photos show each year posted, and we should all be grateful for the joy she has given to thousands in the last decade.

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