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 ! 

Monday, 5 June 2017

New Gull Season

The Annual Nairn Gull crop is now well under way, get ready for the Poop and dive bombing !

Friday, 2 June 2017

Ducklings Doing Well

In spite of the disappointment of Penny and Dukes failure to produce any cygnets this year, we still have new life on the river and beyond.

The 11 surviving ducklings on the river are doing well and virtually safe from the Crows and Heron. The Black backed gull is likely to be the biggest threat, and perhaps the Otter.

Meanwhile I know of a large brood of 14, even bigger than  the river ducklings that are still thriving in the Merryton area. 

The eight orphans and the two recently hatched ones at the Trust rehab centre are also in fine fettle. There will be others scattered around the Town still nesting, and with the summer weather, the vigorous vegetation growth the chances of continued survival are good. 

Wednesday, 31 May 2017


Today I found out from one of our Trust members what killed the duckling last Sunday. 

The Trust member was walking her own dog about 4 pm Sunday when she saw an out of control young Labrador chasing the ducks along the riverbank at the Swans island. The dog then ran halfway up the island towards Penny sitting on the nest, Duke was quick to react and attacked the dog warding it off. The dog then chased all the ducks and ducklings along the bank, catching and killing the defenceless duckling. There was mayhem and all the ducks were scattering all over the place.
Our Trust member followed the woman owner of the dog and asked why she allowed the dog to run free attacking the wildlife. The owner said she was unaware of the wildlife and said there were no signs indicating the presence of wildlife !  She also said she was only up for the weekend from Glasgow and staying at the caravan site. The dog at this point was now on a lead and almost pulling the owner over. Incredibly the owner said the Swan might have injured her dog !!! 

                           I have asked many times for the council to get a few signs put up around the lower river warning dog owners of the river wildlife. Once again, I have written to our new Regional councillor Tom Heggie, asking for action on this matter. 

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Sad Swan Season

After a long gruelling incubation period, it looks like Penny and Duke have been unable to hatch any cygnets.
This is incredibly sad after all the trials and tribulations of the past year. We had the death of Popeye last September after a long and productive life, fathering over 62 cygnets during the past nine seasons. Then we had the good fortune for Penny to get Duke, a new mate who had been around the bay for some weeks before Popeye died. It seemed like a match made in heaven and a continuation of Penny's highly productive life.

They bonded well, but Duke was sick last November and we had him sent for medical treatment, after he was returned he was fine for a few weeks but then took ill again. During this time another pair of swans moved in and ousted Penny. Duke was again treated successfully and returned to rejoin Penny and battle the young pair that tried to take over the territory. The mating season seemed normal, apart from the occasional skirmish with the young pair all went well.

However it is now 5 days beyond the usual incubation period and reluctantly I have to accept that for some reason yet to be established - the eggs have not hatched.
I am sure that hundreds of local people will be disappointed not to see our river cygnets this year. 

                              I am particularly vexed for Penny, since she is still sitting - determined to hatch the unhatchable !

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Dog Kills Duckling

Was feeling confident that our month old ducklings in the river were getting big enough to survive the Crows, Heron, and Gulls. However I forgot about the irresponsible dog owners, one of their dogs killed a duckling yesterday, obviously grabbed, punctured, and shaken to death just behind the Seaman's hall. How many times do I have to remind dog owners to keep their dogs under close control at this time of year ? This area in particular has ground nesting birds, and young that cannot escape a dog attack.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Ducking and Diving

With the hottest weather of the year, even the ducks are enjoying the holiday weekend.

The Runt, her ducklings and the 8 orphan ducklings are all chilling out by the pool.

They have to take it in turns since the Runt attacks the orphans near her little ones.