Wildside: Mallard is most common duck

Mallard on the Hen Poo  11/10/2014
Mallard on the Hen Poo 11/10/2014

Continuing Graham Bells talk which he gave recently in Duns on local waterfowl.

Greylag Geese are large, light brown-grey coloured birds with a large orange bill and bright orange-pink legs. There are some large flocks around in the Borders and an increasing number nest successfully in ponds.

The Pink-footed Goose is a winter visitor, nesting in the summer in Iceland and Greenland. It has a dark coloured head with a small black and pink bill and pink legs. Large numbers turn up here in autumn, a few remain all winter but most head on further south. The Bean Goose is slightly larger than the Pink-foot and appears to have a larger head and its legs are more yellow-orange, whereas the White-fronted Goose is distinct as it has a white forehead blaze and has dark lines across its belly. They often travel in small family parties.

There are about 19 species of duck that you may find in the Borders. There is a group of seven species which are dabbling ducks feeding on or near the water surface.

The Mallard is our most common duck in this group and at many sites will readily approach visitors for food. The drake has a distinctive dark green head and the female is a uniform speckled brown.

The Gadwall is like a smaller and slimmer Mallard. The male is a dusky grey brown with a black rear end and the female more resembles a Mallard but has a white rectangle on its wing. This is a scarce species but appears to be on the increase.

Shoveller are distinctive with very large flat bills which tends to point downwards. The male is colourful as it has white on its chest and rich chestnut flanks, whereas the female is similar in colour to the female Mallard. They are often seen dabbling in the water in search of seeds, insects and plankton.

Pintail like Shoveller have quite different drakes and ducks, the drake has a dark brown head and white breast and a distinctive long tail which points almost vertically upwards. Again the female resembles a Mallard. It tends to be a winter visitor and can be seen on ponds and mudflats on the sea shore.

The Wigeon also feeds along the sea shore and a few can be seen from time to time inland.

The drake is a handsome bird with a chestnut head with a striking yellowish forehead and crown, its back is a mottled grey colour.

The female is undistinguished grey-brown. It nests in north-east Europe.

Our commonest small duck is the Teal which breeds here but its numbers are supplemented by large numbers of winter visitors which originate in northern and eastern Europe.

This is a fast flying duck and they can be quite noisy when swimming around in reed beds. The drake has a chestnut head with bold green eye-stripe and there is a yellow patch below its tail.

The last of the dabbling ducks is the scarce Garganey which is a summer visitor here, migrating to tropical Africa in the winter. It is a small duck, the male is distinctive with a bold white line on the head above the eye and the female resembles a female Teal.

To be continued.