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As well as some of the smaller wildlife this is also an excellent time to appreciate some of the birds that benefit from the woodlands and our coastline. Firstly - one of the shore birds.

The stretch of coastline that fronts Dalgety Bay from the west end of Hopeward Wood round to Braefoot and beyond, along with many other areas of the Forth, are Ramsar sites. That means they are designated as Wetlands of International Importance for Waterfowl. Most of the birds that use the shallow waters of Donibristle and Dalgety Bays are decked in camouflage colours of greys and browns, but one bird stands out from these - Shelduck. These colourful birds are often seen around the shores, especially close to high water when they will be feeding within easy sight. There are many to be seen during the winter months as they gather in our bays to feed on invertebrates on the mud surface. One of our members, Nigel Duncan, counted 50 and 60 on two dates in January. To feed, they sweep their bill from side to side over the mud in a crescent to collect tiny snails and other diminutive creatures that are feeding on the biologically rich surface layer.

The big winter gatherings have now departed to other sites in Scotland, where they will breed using underground chambers such as old rabbit holes. Nigel took the photo of one of the remaining pairs a few days ago. Come the summer there will be none to see as almost the whole population of NW Europe, around 180,000, head to the vast mudflats of the Heligoland Bight off the coast of North West Germany. There they can be safe during the period when they moult their feathers and for a brief time cannot fly.

Thanks to Nigel for the interesting insights into this special bird for which the sheltered waters of our bays are one of the important sites for them during the winter months.

There will be some coverage of the smaller birds that make good use of our woodlands in a future note.

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