ESTUARIES are addictive places with their wide, open horizons and the bewitching music of nature busy at work, including the honking of geese, the piping of redshanks and oystercatchers, and the soft, flute-like whistles of teal and wigeon as they dabble in the shallows.

Not too far from Clackmannanshire, just beyond Culross, lies the wonderful sanctuary of Torry Bay, nestled between Newmills and Torryburn.

It is one of my favourite haunts, and on each visit, I quickly become immersed within its wonderful wildness.

Torry Bay is a rich haven for ducks such as mallard and wigeon, as well as greylag geese. Curlews and and redshanks also abound, making this a place that continually absorbs the mind and refreshes the soul.

The wigeon are especially appealing, for they are skittish ducks and endearingly shy. However, at Torry Bay they have become tolerant of people because of a busy shore path, and it is usually possible to achieve good views without disturbing them.

When it comes to beauty and elegance, the drake wigeon is right there at the top, with his puffed-up lilac breast, burnt-sienna head and yellow, tufted fore-parting.

Wigeon are noisy ducks and their long, musical whistles drift across this part of the Forth like haunting laments.

Small numbers of wigeon do breed in Scotland, but most of those found on our winter estuaries and lochs are visitors from Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia.

Some even hail from as far afield as central Siberia and one can only imagine the dangers faced during such a daunting migration.

Safe stopover points are crucial during these mammoth journeys and this is why nature conservation really does need to be an international affair.

Many migrating wigeon spend time on the Pripyat River floodplain in southern Belarus on their way to western Europe and the protection of such areas is just as crucial as the conservation of our own wetlands if these ducks are to thrive.