Monday, 11 December 2017

Could This Have Been The First Swan ?

Was fascinated to read about recent fossil discovery on the BBC and in Nature Journal showing an unusual dinosaur bird, thought to have roamed Mongolia 75 million years ago.

                        It is so Swan like and of similar size, able to walk on land and swim and hunt in water.
I have often thought when dealing with Swans that their skin was so dinosaur like

Humans have only been around such a short space of time, so when I see something like this dated 75 million years. I can easily imagine the evolution of Swans - find it a little mind blowing !

Friday, 8 December 2017

Snowy Scenes

As expected, the stormy winds have decreased and the snow showers have arrived. 

Was pretty chilly overnight and not much warmer today. Snow is the big enemy of the birds and means little access and lean pickings.

The Pied wagtail that often feeds on the garden pond had an easier time, being able to walk onto the ice and pick up the dried Mealworm that I put out for it.

The river birds got their share too, with no fear of ice on fast flowing water, the wind chill from the north still numbs my fingers though !  Short movie clip below after feeding time.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Not So Sweet Caroline !

Storm Caroline arrived as forecast across the North of Scotland today. Gusts up to 90 MPH have been sweeping across the north and on the exposed coasts of the Moray Firth. The riverside did not escape, although had a bit of shelter from the nearby housing.

Penny, Duke and the 200 ducks were hunkering down at the Merryton bridge, patiently waiting on their daily rations. Between the short daylight hours and high tides I am feeding them once a day with about 25 lbs of grain and seeds. 

Penny and duke filled up and got their heads down, getting into the sheltered lee of the bridge supports. Storm Caroline should move away by tomorrow, followed by snow showers and polar winds. After recent mild winters, I think were in for a hard one this time.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Residents Return

After 6 days Penny and Duke flew back together to the river this morning.  This came as quite a surprise to me, as six weeks ago it looked like Penny had got herself a new mate. Six days ago she and the new mate appeared to escort Duke out of the River for good.

This might only be temporary of course, but Duke was grunting and trying to bond with her today. Perhaps the new mate was just too young and unable to show the power required to chase Duke away.

Penny and Duke look absolutely stunning and in really good health. There will be much more happenings before the new season gets under way, as there will be challenges for the nest site in the new year.

Has Penny just decided to retire with Duke, or will she persist and try and get another mate? this space !

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

A December Day

With our resident Swans away, things seem quiet on the river.

However life goes on for all the other wildlife. Yesterday we had a new swan visitor checking out the river and island, looked like a single male.

Today the Seal taking advantage of the Spring tide, for a meander well up river, being closely watched by the mergansers and ducks.

A typical December day.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Penny Pops Back

After a further 2 weeks absence, Penny and her new mate Slim returned to the Swans Island this morning.

Penny's main priority was to escort Duke away from the territory.

Duke initially tried to challenge the pair, but was swiftly put down by Penny who showed her aggression with wings up and head back.

As I suspected Penny will keep a check on the territory right through until nesting time.

Slim is still following Penny's lead. Sequence of shots tells the story.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Sparrowhawk Threat

The cold weather means food is vital for survival over the winter. Some birds prey on other birds of course, and a regular local killer is the Sparrowhawk. 

They are fast and clever, and home in on other bird species at every opportunity.
Today Disco and Limpy would have been on the menu given half a chance.

As I looked out of my window I saw the Hawk sitting on the ground just 2 feet from the aviary staring at my disabled ducks, who were cowering under cover in the Aviary.

When I tried to take a photo it took off, but shortly after landed on top of the Aviary roof - trying to find a way in !  It even started jumping on the wire mesh to see if it could get through !
I am going to have to be very mindful of the ducks safety this winter !

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Disabled Duo

Disco and Limpy the two disabled ducks are slowly getting closer.

However Disco is still not 100% accepting of Limpy, who has only one good leg. He is getting more mature looking and can pretty much do everything - other than walk on two legs. I am still hopeful they will be able to mate in the spring !

These two would not survive in the wild, so the Trust has given them a life together in the safety and comfort of a sanctuary.

Meanwhile on the river, the swans have gone for a winter vacation, who can blame them with a bone chilling northerly wind blowing upstream !  Again, I'm sure they'll be back well before nesting time.  

Thursday, 23 November 2017


The high River earlier this week produced a chance to get a few shots of the Dipper.

                    It still managed to dive in the fast swirling  waters, and get some food among the masses of dead leaves.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Healthy Duke

After 18 hours of rain the river is well up and the birds keen to be fed their daily rations. Duke flew in for a quick boost, with his share of grain, mixed bird seeds, and wholemeal bread.

This time last year he was pretty sick and again last spring. I observed his inner mouth and tongue to be extremely white and anaemic looking.

With this in mind I started to feed him a supplement of dried mealworm, to boost the protein level in his diet. I even gave him some liquid iron which he took initially but then spat it out the following day...proving he does have a sense of taste ! 

Anyhow he has been much more active, has a good appetite and the tongue and mouth are now a healthy pink, as the photos show !

He is still patrolling the river around the island, even with the seal hunting close by.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Penny and Slim Pay a Flying Visit

After 2 weeks away, I was delighted to see Penny and her new mate Slim back in the river.

They both looked in great condition, obviously been feeding well somewhere.

Penny as usual came over to say hello, but then got down to the serious business of chasing Duke.

Slim again stayed in the background, observing Penny and her obvious command and control of Duke and the area.

After a short while and a few nips at Duke  she left him alone and started to bond closely with Slim, they are getting on really well.

As I suspected, she has spent the last month grooming Slim, and showing that she has a home and is strong enough to defend it. Slim is getting a real lesson from a powerful, mature, and established winner !  Sequence of shots shows the days events. They have again departed this evening, but Penny has shown she is keeping an eye on her domain, and like Arnie - she will be back !!

Short vid of penny and Slim getting ready to chase Duke below.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Ducks Feeding Time

The Wintry weather has arrived and drop in temperature can certainly be felt today. With no sign of Duke, perhaps he has gone to join a flock or searching for Penny or food.
The Ducks too are feeling the cold, this is what it's like when I turn up to feed them in the morning. The short video below gives you an idea of the excitement before feeding starts !