I ALWAYS enjoy watching shelduck on the mudbanks of the inner Forth because the rapid sideways sifting action of their bills when they feed reminds me of flamingos, which forage in a similar manner.

I was privileged to find a group of shelducks last week between Alloa and Cambus, close to Tullibody Inch, methodically sieving the mud for tiny shrimp-like crustaceans called amphipods.

I knew this was what they were feeding upon, because when researching my recently published book If Rivers Could Sing, I had found an abundance of these tiny creatures at the mouth of the River Devon estuary.

On venturing onto a mudbank, I wrote: “I turned over a stone to reveal a crawling mass of amphipods. I was surprised by their abundance, and every rock I turned held the same large numbers beneath.

"They were larger than the freshwater ‘shrimps’ found in the main course of the Devon and were most probably an amphipod species known as the brackish-water shrimp.

"The estuary was richer in invertebrates than I had imagined, and these greyish, translucent crustaceans – some almost half-an-inch long – were undoubtedly what the shelducks (and the teal in winter) were feeding upon.

“These amphipods would also be eagerly devoured by flounders and sea trout, and as such, represented a fundamental keystone in the food chain that helps support the cormorants, goosanders, and seals on the estuary.”

After watching the shelducks for a while by Tullibody Inch, I ventured further towards Alloa where along the edge of a field a large mixed flock of yellowhammers and linnets had congregated.

Yellowhammers are such eye-catching birds, especially the males with their lemon-coloured heads.

Linnets are also attractive in their own under-stated way, and it is a shame that these bouncy little finches are on the decline.

By the time I reached Alloa, the skies opened and heavy rain began to fall, so I pulled-up my jacket collar and headed back to Cambus, passing on my way the shelducks, which were still busily feeding in the mud, oblivious to the torrential downpour.

Keith Broomfield’s book If Rivers Could Sing – a wildlife year on the River Devon can be purchased at www.tippermuirbooks.co.uk or other online sellers.