(3) Male Female
Another migrant to our shores is the colourful Wigeon. This duck arrives on our shores in their thousands from Iceland, Northern Europe and Russia from October onwards, and leave in the springtime.
Bute gets about 1,500 on its lochs and another 500+ on its shores. The shore count could be well underestimated as it is hard to count the entire coastline in one day. I find that the ones that settle on our lochs very shy and take flight easily, whereas the ones on the shores are more tolerable to humans and will even come up on to the grass verges to feed on the grass when the tide is high. This happens quite often at Kilchattan Bay, so the lucky people there can bird watch without leaving their homes.
Their usual diet is eel-grass, but takes to the fields to feed on the lush grass on Bute's fields. They can be seen as a marching army, moving up a field in a broad line, feeding as they go, making room for the ones behind. This can go on for, say maybe an hour or more, and then the whole flock will take flight and head for the loch or sea. This is their routine most days, but sometimes they just seem to stay in a tight flock on the lochs for hours at a time, moving slowly up and down. This seems to be more noticeable when there is a good moon, enabling them to feed at night and rest during the day. Geese also use this system to their advantage.
From a distance they just look like a medium to light coloured duck with a dark head, but in close up, the male has a buff coloured head with a yellow forehead, a buff chest, white under parts and a short black tail.
They have a short thick bill for cropping the grass, and a lovely whistling call, once heard never forgotten.
Once again, my photo is of a male. The female is still a fine looking bird but lacks the fancy headgear and the prominent white patch on the upper wing of the male.
When they are spooked their complex Ariel manoeuvres are a sight worth seeing. The agility of these, not so light ducks is amazing, with their tight formation and speed of flight.
The British breeding population rarely exceeds 500 pairs, so we were lucky recently to have a pair nesting on Bute. They had 4 chicks which disappeared very quickly but as the adults are still about I am hoping that they breed next year with a better success with their brood.
This article was written many years ago but never finished, as I had never managed to get an image of one. The nearest I got to getting a good one was at Kilchattan Bay when I was returning from Glen Callum Bay, when the feelings of impending flu bug hit me like a ton of bricks, so I headed for home, passing these birds on-route, which were feeding on the grass on the embankment, but stopping was not on my agenda, as getting home was a priority.
Well it is now March 2013, and I managed to, at last get to get a fairly good image of a male which you now see. Plus a female
First Published in the Buteman 03-05-2013.