On the wild side
Waterfowl was the theme of Graham Bells talk to the members of the Scottish Wildlife Trust in January.
Many species of waterfowl are big and obvious birds and quite a number are quite confiding. There are many species in our area as we have a wide variety of suitable habitats, such as ponds and lochs, rivers, rocky seashore and seaside mudflats.
The talk started with the three species of Swan we may encounter. The Mute Swan is the familiar breeding bird on our ponds and is easily distinguished by its bright orange-red bill, it also has a more pointed tail than the other species and is the one which will swim across the water with its wings raised hissing when agitated.
The Whooper and Bewick’s Swans are winter visitors with yellow and black beaks. They have more rounded tails and can be quite vocal.
The Bewick’s Swan is a rare visitor whereas the Whooper can often be seen by the hundred feeding in oilseed rape fields.
Geese fall into two groups, either “black” or “grey”. The “black” geese are distinguished by their black necks. The most common and the only one breeding here is the introduced Canada Goose. This is a large, noisy, black necked bird with white cheeks. It can often be seen in early summer swimming with a line of goslings behind and will readily come up close for food.
The Barnacle Goose is smaller than the Canada and also has a black neck but its entire face is white. This is a winter visitor and the few we get on stubble fields or lochs are on their way between Svalbard in the arctic and Caerlaverock in Dumfriesshire where a large number overwinter.
The third “black” goose is the Brent Goose. It is a small goose with only a small white mark on its black neck. It visits us in the winter and can be seen on the mudflats around Holy Island, returning to nest in the arctic in the spring.
There are four species of “grey” geese which you may encounter.
Two are common, the Greylag and Pink-footed Goose and they are the ones most likely to be seen and heard flying over in noisy V shaped skenes or are gaggling in stubble fields where they feed. The other two, the Bean Goose and White-fronted Goose only turn up in very small numbers most winters and will mix with the plentiful species.
To be continued!
The next meeting of the Scottish Wildlife Trust is in Duns Parish Church Hall is tonight (Thursday, March 5) at 7.30pm.
Malcolm Lindsay from Galashiels will talk on ‘Moths of the Scottish Borders’. Visitors are welcome.