Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Seven In River Heaven.

The 7 lucky ducklings that have just spent the last 8 weeks at the rectory garden, were finally escorted down to the riverside by trust members Alison and Chris Reid. Down Queen and rose street to the river at the old cemetery, watching out for dogs and traffic. 

The mother duck was happily in front and pleased to return to the river, where they met up with the September brood of 9, approx the same age so there will be some fun to be had for all of them.

All went well until we saw the smallest of the brood being picked on by all the others. Later I had to rescue it when it got separated from the brood who headed back up river. I will keep it safe until it's wings are developed enough to get it out of danger.

Meanwhile it has an aviary all to itself with all mod cons.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016


Ever since Penny turned up with our new Cob, I have been asked several times what his name was. I had not yet thought about a name, and Popeye the second was too much.

However he has certain characteristics which reminded me of John Wayne, who's nickname was"Duke". 

From what I see, he is fearless, very relaxed, friendly and laid back for a male Swan, so the name Duke seemed just right. 

Penny and Duke are getting to know each other really well, I watched them this morning as Penny approached from the island where Duke was standing under Merryton bridge.

She was confident, relaxed and in control, as he observed the protocols by raising his wings and eye-balling each other, as they mirrored their movements in unison.

He also let out a loud grunt of approval at her approach.

Things are looking good for the pair of them. I also managed to get a close look at the underside of his bill for an indication of his age, I don't think he is as old as Penny but nevertheless not as young as I initially thought, perhaps around 10 or 12. 

He most likely lost his mate and rejoined a flock where Penny probably met him when she dropped the cygnets off. Widow meets widower - It looks good, but time will tell between now and spring.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Designated Wildlife Haven - The Case For

Let me say at the outset, this only applies to the area between the A96 road bridge, and the bailey bridge on the River Nairn, it therefore does not effect any other part. 

Waterfowl have taken millions of years to evolve - long before humans. They are called waterfowl because their home environment is water, this fact alone should give them priority over frivolous human water based activities.

They have many predators, humans, Crows, Gulls, Heron, Otter, Mink, Seals, foxes, stoats and weasels,Dogs, Rats and Cats. It's no wonder they use the water as a means of survival. Nairn is a small coastal town, some would say dying on it's feet, with shop closures lack of investment, jobs and affordable housing. 

The leisure industry is one that is growing, and being a coastal town one of it's main attributes is tourism. One of my arguments for a designated wildlife haven, is to use the Natural assets the town has. What could be more Natural, costing the public purse ZERO than to declare part of the riverside a wildlife Haven.

This is an attraction that is open 365 days a year, regardless of the weather, or tides.

We have beaches and river walks all of which are available 365 days a year, but the weather dictates their appeal. The last 30 years have brought the natural world into sharp focus, with our understanding of the planet and it's myriad of life species.

People now appreciate the diversity of life more than ever, and many consider it a privilege and pleasure to see it close at hand in a natural setting. Nairn has this Natural setting and some wildlife that is pleasing to all. 

Declaring this small area a wildlife haven, would cost nothing, and all that would be needed is a few advisory signs eluding to that fact. It would change peoples perception and help promote a more responsible attitude to littering and pollution. It would bring more visitors who value the natural world, and Nairn would enhance it's standing as a caring coastal town.

There are many reasons this area is ideal as a wildlife haven. There are two islands available to the water birds, where they can nest and loaf and escape predators.

It is tidal, and therefore does not freeze  in the winter, it provides a food source for over wintering birds. It's location means it can be policed easily and avoids certain predators. I have heard people say that building a weir or two on the lower river would allow boating. Let me dispel any notion of that idea.

The river Nairn is a small spate river, prone to flash flooding and tidal surges, building any kind of barrier at the end of this river would be courting disaster.

The volume of gravel and trees that are washed down this river would get caught on any weir, and depending on the tides at the time, could cause major flooding of Fishertown. Moving water is dynamic and should be treated with a great deal of respect ! The above is my case for a wildlife haven. If you agree, please sign the petition. 

The local angling community would still have the right to fish there, but it is hoped they would suspend this, in the interests of conserving salmon stocks and wildlife safety. The boating fraternity would not be a problem providing they confined their activity below the end of the Maggot wall, thereby leaving the wildlife in peace to nest on the islands and riverbanks. The whole of Nairn would be the winners along with it's wildlife.    

Friday, 14 October 2016

Sparrowhawk Eyes Up My Ducks !

You can tell it's Autumn as the colder longer nights increase the hunt for food. The local Sparrowhawk has increased it's attacks on my garden Sparrows, and today was eyeing up my call ducks.

Having recently built a duckpond , it proved it's worth today when they hurriedly jumped in to escape the Sparrowhawk.
I heard a commotion and looked out the window to see the hawk wondering if it had chance to get one ! 


The river seal is back on the prowl again with the coming high tides this week, his main diet is fish but he will take duck if given the chance.

The ducks are pretty clued up about his presence, and the alarm goes out as they all head to the sides and shallow water.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Another New Arrival !

Looks like the word is out that the Swans island is up for grabs. Another Male swan has arrived in the river.

This morning one of the Trust members told me he saw 2 in the river and another 2 fly in and land on the water. There was then a fight and 2 driven out, fortunately it was not Penny. 

When I arrived two of them were at the island and headed up when they saw me. Penny first and then the big male, he was very tame fearless, and totally the opposite of the one 2 days ago.

 He is either one of Penny's offspring from years ago, or has come from another place where he was hand fed, maybe Brodie, Forres, or Findhorn. 

She later stood on the island and had a nap letting him get on with patrolling the river as though he were Popeye.

They did eat grain together, and he did a bit of posturing which Penny ignored.  The plot thickens !!

Tuesday, 11 October 2016


After the tragic loss of Popeye a few weeks ago and Penny taking the cygnets away I wondered how she would handle this new scenario.

My hopes that she would find a new mate have been given a huge boost today. 

After her absence all day yesterday I was delighted to see her escorting a new young swan up the river this morning.

Could hardly hold the camera steady as I wanted to get some good shots, to tell if it was a new male friend.

Penny came right up for her usual grain feed but her friend stayed back, very wary and cautious, my heart leapt as I zoomed in and realised it was a young male!

Penny has got herself a potential new mate !!
This is the miracle I hoped for, it means she has accepted the fact that Popeye has gone for good, and the next chapter in her life has begun, a real life fairy tale if ever there was one. 

He is young, tall,   handsome and slim, and not one of her offspring, I only hope they get on enough to make a new life together. 

The signs are good since I watched their interactions for some time, both this morning and this evening and they are looking great.

He is naturally very wary and cautious, Penny has been showing him the extent of her territory, the island, the harbour and around merryton bridge. He has followed her slavishly with mirroring movements, head dipping and preening. These are all very positive signs of a beautiful friendship, and maybe a lot more !
Watch this space !!

Monday, 10 October 2016

Trust Petition - The Facts

To avoid any misinformation and rumour about the Trust Petition now under way, the following letter has been sent to the Inverness Courier who are running an article on the issue. There are some in the Nairn community who are making false claims about the Trust and our aims and motives. Here is the letter :

We would like to make it clear that these are not the views of one man, but the view of the Trustees and membership of 170.
The Trust would like the local authority our 4 regional councillors who are also trustees of the common good, to designate the river area from the A96 Road bridge down stream to the Bailey bridge a wildlife area.

This would not have to be a legal status. The idea is that the wildlife should have priority in this area, over other human interests like water sports and fishing. All this should be on a voluntary basis, recognising that the wildlife their environment and habitat takes priority.

We see no reason that the River Nairn angling association cannot abide by this voluntary code of practice. It should be simple enough for their members to suspend fishing in this area for the preservation of Salmon stocks and wildlife safety. By their own admission only a few members actually fish this area anyway.

As for the boating fraternity, The Trust finds the use of canoes, Kayaks, and paddle boarding in this area, far too disturbing to the wildlife to become the norm. They basically scare the life out of the birds and drive them away, thus depriving  thousands of locals and holidaymakers the pleasure of viewing them. We have no objection to them as long as they do not pass the end of the Maggot wall coming from the harbour. Beyond that lies the Swans nesting island and both river banks used by the wildlife. In any case the river Nairn is a small shallow spate river, unsuitable for boating. When High water conditions allow, we have no issue with canoes passing through from up river. They have the entire Moray firth and Scottish coastline to amuse themselves.

Finally, having 4 or 5 signs around the designated wildlife area asking people to keep their dogs under close control is all that is required. This would be a reminder to all dog walkers, some of whom are on holiday, that there are ground nesting birds in the area and their dogs should not be allowed to run amok.
There is no question of the Trust seeking to impose any ban on any group

We see no reason why this would not work to the benefit of all concerned, and the wildlife would have their rightful place on the river.

After years caring for the river birds, we know how appreciated our water birds are, by tourists and locals alike. This would be great for Nairn, having a designated wildlife area in the town and costing the region nothing.  Most Towns would love such a thing – for the common good.

The Trust monitors and reports pollution incidents, and regularly clears litter as well.
Our 170 members have spent £11000 in the past 4 years caring for the wildlife and their environment.

On behalf of the River Nairn Swans and Waterfowl Trust

Joe Telfer  ( Founder )

The fact is, the Trust want to keep the river in this area as free as possible from human interference that would drive away the wildlife, this is to everyone's advantage.
I hope this puts an end to the usual misinformation, rumour and speculation about the Trust Petition. Please sign if you want to keep our wildlife safe.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Little Grebe

Another rare-ish bird on the River this week,  spotted and asked by some, what is it ? 

It's a little Grebe, they look almost like a duckling because they are so small. Rear end is like a powder puff, and they are divers most of the time, feeding on insects and sticklebacks.

 They are easily disturbed by anglers and boats, this one was just above the Bailey bridge as it happens !

Friday, 7 October 2016

Penny Returns - Alone

Looks like Penny has started to offload the Cygnets and turn a new page in her life story. I did not see her or the cygnets yesterday but today she was in the river alone this morning. 

This evening again alone up by the merryton bridge, she was happy to see me and enjoyed a full feed, and looks in great condition.

One interesting event was the single swan out in the bay, flew overhead twice and Penny did not flare out her wings, she knows this particular swan and from the photos I took, I think it's a female and no threat to her. The recent disappearances for 2 days at a time seems to be as I thought, that she is escorting the cygnets to another area with other swans ready for the final push. Even if they come back now it wont be long before they go for keeps, they are 5 months old and the weather is perfect for departure.