Thursday, 30 May 2013

Baikal Teal added to your list?

The Baikal Teal at Flamborough – Brett Richards
On the morning of 16th April 2013 I was seawatching as usual from Flamborough Head, when, at 0949 hrs. I noticed three ducks flying North just above the horizon. As I swung my ‘scope round onto them I expected to see the three Wigeons which had just flown south, but it was immediately obvious that these were different. One of them showed extensive pale on the side of the head, but views were not good and I could not make anything out clearly. Thoughts of Baikal Teal flashed through my mind, but I knew that Garganeys can at times look pale-faced, and Baikal Teal seemed pretty outrageous. As the birds swung round over Selwick’s Bay, I saw a broad white trailing edge to the secondaries of the pale-faced bird, and Garganey seemed the default choice. Were they all Garganeys?  A quick look at the other two before they disappeared from view showed that they lacked this broad trailing edge, and as they all seemed similar in size, I thought a Garganey and two Teal, and they all appeared to be female-types. I put out news on the radio that a female Garganey or Baikal Teal had just flown inland with two Teal, and could be heading for North Marsh. 
Garganey seemed the most realistic possibility, but I was worried that the outer wing of the interesting bird had not appeared palish as in Garganey, so I hurriedly left seawatching and hot-footed it to North Marsh, thinking that if it were a Baikal Teal, it would be difficult to prove the ID of a female. I arrived at the hide alone, and in just a few seconds I located the bird, but not a Garganey, and not a female – a superb drake Baikal Teal!  I took some quick digiscoped shots, while putting out the news to astounded locals, and then to the pager services.
The drake Baikal Teal at Flamborough - Brett Richards
I kept taking shots while waiting for others to arrive. Suddenly the bird took to flight, in company with two female Wigeons and a pair of Shovelers, just as three friends stepped into the hide.  We picked the birds up in flight, but it was not easy to pick out the Baikal Teal from the Wigeons, as it was only slightly smaller. Luckily the birds came down on Old Fall flash, on the south side of Lighthouse Road, and the Baikal Teal soon revealing itself to be un-ringed. It remained there for about an hour until flushed by two large dogs. It then returned to North Marsh and was still there at dusk, giving many people a lifer and or a good Yorkshire tick. It had disappeared by the next morning.
Martin Garner asked me if I were sure the two birds it had come in with were Teals, as the Baikal Teal was definitely consorting with the two Wigeons, and not with Teals. I replied ‘yes’, but then on reflection how sure was I?  I had barely looked at the other two birds, and had assumed they were Teals because they were about the same size as the ‘Garganey’. In retrospect they were almost certainly Wigeons.
Brett Richards, Flamborough.
The drake Baikal Teal at Flamborough - Brett Richards
There has been some debate about the origin of this bird, largely because of the displaced secondary on the right wing, but this is far from unusual as looking at wildfowl on your local wetland will soon reveal. The occurrence during mid-April fits nicely with the passage of wild birds as they return from Korea (where most of the world population winters) northwards to their breeding grounds where they usually arrive in late April.

The Baikal Teal in flight at Flamborough - Dave Mansell. 
Given the overall circumstances of this bird we feel there is no reason why this bird should not be counted for the purposes of the Yorkshire Listers League with immediate effect, so if you were lucky enough to see this bird please let us know now so we can add it to your tally. Baikal Teal should be added to your copy of the Yorkshire list after Gadwall.    

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