Country corner

A wigeon
A wigeon

Isn’t this a handsome drake wigeon?

In truth, when wigeon arrive from their summer quarters to spend the winter on our shores, they are not at all like this.

Halfway through their annual moult, they are a scruffy-looking bunch for their first couple of weeks with us.

However, any you see from now on should be at their pristine best.

Not that you are likely to see them scrounging crusts along with the green-headed mallards on your local river or pond.

Wigeon are true wild duck from far northern breeding grounds .

A few breed on lochs in the Scottish Highlands, but most fly here all the way from subarctic lands, where already winter is has the landscape in its iron grip.

Wigeon are whistlers as opposed to quackers.

In fact, their far-carrying whistle is as iconic a sound of the grey winter estuaries as is the yelping and yapping of our wintering legions of pinkfooted geese.

Teal, too, our smallest duck species, arrive now to share the winter waterscape with wigeon.

The drakes of both species are truly beautiful birds and I never tire of admiring them through my telescope or binoculars.

So, if the only duck you are familiar with is the half-tame mallard, make this the winter you seek out your first drake wigeon or teal.