Keep an eye on this sneaky bird

A shelduck
A shelduck

Sticking to the theme of handsome ducks to be seen locally, here is the impossible to miss shelduck, writes George Hogg (Hogg Estate Services).

Most frequently seen on mudflats, estuaries and exposed beaches at low tide, this large, predominantly white, bird has a build somewhere between goose and duck.

Unlike the promiscuous mallard of ponds and rivers, shelducks are usually seen in pairs, the larger of the two being the male or drake.

Being truly wild, these birds of wide open spaces will never be seen in the queue for bread handouts. Tiny snails and other molluscs are sifted from the mud by the constantly dabbling red bill, while short and nutritious eel grass is plucked from the saltings.

Strangely for ducks, they will usually nest down rabbit burrows or in the tunnels between stacked straw bales.

Despite being a glaringly obvious species, their coming and goings from the nest are extremely sneaky. A pair will be seen sitting around watching and waiting for a chance for one of them to fly to the nest. Suddenly there will

only be one.

One particular pair which turn up with young most years, has annually foiled my hopes of finding their top-secret nest site.

Talking of shelducks with ducklings, these little family flotillas are a bonnie sight, the ducklings being as pied as the adults.

There is really no excuse for not seeing a white duck which is almost the size of a goose and sits out in the open.

Go on, follow the clues above and make a point of trying to see a shelduck.