Sunday, 30 May 2021

Cygnets 2 Weeks Old

Our Cygnets are thriving at 2 weeks, and already behaving like grown ups.

 Close observations show them paddle stirring the riverbed to stir the food to the surface. 

The necks are growing fastest to reach down further for food. Thankfully the high river levels have subsided and the threat from  predatory Crows almost over. 

 Slim and Sue are likely to be taking them down to the shore soon, to sample the great outdoors and seaweed cuisine. Their back riding days almost at an end. Short video below showing close ups feeding. 

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Life Lessons

Within a week of hatching, the cygnets are already being taught life lessons by Slim and Sue. 

Hardwired into their DNA the ability to take on board survival skills that we humans do not possess at that age. 

When danger is close  the cygnets instinctively group together, ducklings do the same thing, a case of safety in numbers and not so easily picked off by predators. 

Slim and Sue have already flown off a short distance but still within visual contact of the brood, this makes them automatically group together and head for the parents.

 Slim and Sue head back towards them and acknowledge the meeting by head nodding a greeting. 

This valuable life lesson tells the cygnets to stick together and you will be safe and found, alone you might be lost! 

Yesterday this was almost the case, as one of them was swept downstream, but saved by the group action of the family. 

They almost lost the battle against the current but just managed to get out of the river below the bailey bridge. I escorted them back along the shingle close to the maggot wall for an hour.

 After resting up for another couple of hours they managed to re-cross the swollen river and head home to the safety of the island moat.

 Short video of this mornings meal time below. 


Monday, 24 May 2021

The Good, Bad And Brood-iful

Been quite a first week for the cygnets, thankfully the remaining 7 are strong and healthy. 

Another weeks growth should see them safe from the Crows ! 

They have drawn quite a following this week and many got a chance to take some great snaps. However, big spate on the river right now and very dangerous for the cygnets. 

Sue is meanwhile keeping them warm away from the dangerous currents.

 Mandarin duck has also had attention and has enjoyed the island for the past 3 weeks. 

On the down side, we still have fly tippers dumping their waste behind the Seaman's hall. Several large bags were gathered up by Morag and Iona and placed in the large refuse bin close by. 

Disco and Donnie were standing by the pool watching their offspring take the place over.

The conversation between them probably went something like this, " What have we done ?"

Saturday, 22 May 2021

Welcome Iona - New Trust Secretary

 The Trust is pleased to announce the position of Secretary has been filled by local resident Iona Gibson. It was by chance that I met Iona while doing some litter clearance on the river. She offered to help and quickly donned the working gear to give me a hand. 

Realising the value of the Trust and it's importance to the wildlife and the local community, she wanted to know more about our river birds. Her enthusiasm, intelligence, and caring commitment was such, I offered her the position as Trust Secretary. 

Being a voluntary and unpaid position is not everyone's idea of getting on with life. However, Iona is caring about our wildlife, environment and the local community, and is happy playing her part to improve all our lives. 

 The Trust is pleased to have another team   protector/Trustee, with talent, energy, and love of the natural world at it's side. We have a new generation of Cygnets and a new Trust /protector.  Welcome Iona! 

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Bitter Pill - Trust Rescue

 High Drama on the riverside today as the Swans come under attack from the Crows!  To rescue a cygnet only for it to be killed a few hours later is a bitter pill to swallow- but this is exactly what happened today. This morning I saw Slim lunge at a Crow near the base of the island, then fly after it for about 100 metres before chasing it across the gravel, it was an extraordinary sight. It only became apparent later, that the Crow had grabbed a cygnet and flown off with it until forced to drop it by Slim ! 

While all this was going on, Sue descended from the nest with all her cygnets...but she only had 7, what happened to 8 and 9 ? 

                      I decided to have a look at the nest to see if any were there, sure enough just inches outside the nest was the headless body of a cygnet. I deduced that it must have been killed when it was alone on the nest for whatever reason. Meanwhile Slim was still having a yo- yo set to with a pair of crows  down river. 

When Sue came down off the nest Slim started to head back up to join the family. Some time later a passer by said he saw a lone cygnet down in the area where Slim had been battling with the Crows. 

Myself and 2 other Trust members went to investigate but could find no trace of the cygnet - we assumed the Crows had taken it. Later still, Trust member Donald came back from a short trip to the harbour to tell me he saw the cygnet in the harbour basin ! Myself and new Trust secretary Iona and Donald all rushed down tot the  harbour to effect a successful rescue. It was a brilliant team effort by the Trust and Slim to save the Cygnet.  It appeared ok with no visible injuries so I took it back to Sue and the siblings for release. It was slightly slower in the water than the others, but I hoped it was not serious and would check it again in a couple of hours. I was gutted 2 hours later to discover that Sue only had 7 cygnets and the downy fluff was scattered around the edge of the moat. Dealing with wildlife can be so rewarding, but equally heartbreaking too.

Monday, 17 May 2021

100% Nesting Success !

Our beautiful swans Slim and Sue have gone beyond my expectations for hatching success. 

The final tally is nine, and I saw the final hatch this morning. 

Sue's continued persistence on  hatching all her eggs was beginning to concern me a little, as the first ones hatched Friday night/ Saturday morning. Anther 3 emerged on Sunday, and I thought the remainder were maybe infertile. 

Around 11 am today Sue got off the nest and encouraged the cygnets to follow her, I watched as 5 entered the river while Slim babysat what looked like only 3 bobbing heads in the nest. 

                       I decided to investigate if the 5 with Sue were managing to find any food as the river is almost bereft of weed for them to eat. They were happily feasting on algae covered stones. I could see Slim taking a very close interest in the nest and wondered if all was well. 

Further observation took me to the nest to see a final newly hatched cygnet still wet and half in the shell ! 

What a  lovely sight beside 3 of it's siblings and Slim watching over them, what a privilege ! After a brief few minutes Sue returned back to the nest with her cygnets. All that remained to be done, was dry out the newly hatched and keep them all happy and warm. 

 After a nod of recognition from me, Sue was quite happy to have me observe the cygnets preening beside her as she dried off the new one underneath. It could not have been a better day. I even managed a minute long video of the happy family below, best one ever !

Sunday, 16 May 2021

Cygnets Hatch - First Glimpse

 Today as Expected,  Slim and Sue's cygnets have hatched, so far we have 7, but there is still a chance of more as Sue continues to sit. 

My special rapport with Slim and Sue, allowed me the privilege of fairly close contact with the happy event. 

The weather thankfully was benign, and even the relentless North wind dropped for the day. 

The Trust forward thinking by providing the moat height and Ramp for the transit of the cygnets proved their worth.

 Sue led the first born up the Turf from the moat. This is a good example of how to interfere with nature in the best possible way, by providing a ramp. 

Can I remind people NOT to throw bread to them as they are too young to consume it, and it would only attract Gulls.  Short video below in between Sue's short time off the nest.  Enjoy.

Saturday, 15 May 2021

Mandarin Checks Out The Ramp

Our Mandarin duck has made himself at home on the Swans Island. 

Yesterday he walked down the newly turfed ramp, and had a good meal with his Mallard pals,

                   lovely to see. 

Thursday, 13 May 2021

All Ramped Up

Heavy rain today puts a dampener on everything, even Disco and her ducklings have had more than enough, and taken to the dry Aviary. 

                            I have been putting finishing touches to the Island Moat ramps. These will be vital to the cygnets after they hatch, unlike ducklings they cannot jump, and have to clamber up the banks. I laid the Turf, kindly donated by RB landscapes Nairn.  A small detail, but the ability for the newly hatched cygnets to get out of the water and back to the nest is vital.  Survival is often down to luck, like what the weather throws at them when newly hatched. A fast flowing flooded river can be a deadly place for ducklings and cygnets. 

 Hopefully the weather will improve soon and all will be well. The Trust tries to ensure an optimum start for our resident swans.