I SPOTTED a small group of goldeneye ducks on the River Devon last week that had probably sought refuge here because the extreme cold had frozen over the surface water of the nearby Gartmorn Dam.

These wonderful little ducks arrive in Scotland in good numbers in winter from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

They are skittish birds, and will take to the air at the first sight of an approaching person. Once in flight, their rapidly beating wings make the most unusual and distinctive whistling noise.

Another duck I particularly enjoy seeing at this time of year are teal, which at dusk can often be seen flying-in to settle in the shallow boggy pools that are dotted across the flood meadows or haughs of the River Devon.

Gilbert White, the founding father of modern day natural history study, eloquently described these evening movements of teal: “…'til towards sunset, when they issue forth in little parties (for in their natural state they are all birds of the night) to feed in the brooks and meadows”.

Teal are shy birds, but if one is stealthy it is usually possible to get close enough to see the colourful plumage of the drake.

These striking feathers have long been cherished by anglers for use in trout flies, and the bird is also a much sought-after quarry among wild-fowlers, revered both for the sporting challenge offered and fine table qualities.

Mrs Beeton, the famous 19th century cookery author, advised that teal tasted best after the first frost had set in, and that “the remains of teal make excellent hash”.

My trail-cam has been busy down by the river and managed to capture the photo shown here of a grey heron fishing in a small tributary burn. These little burns are good places for trout and the heron was slowly stalking its way upstream in the hope of snapping-up an unsuspecting fish.