Category Archives: c) Dabbling Ducks

Pallid Swift at Flamborough

What happened then!

Today. 31st October 2015. That was some morning. Brett R and Andy M. kicked off with  a very early swift sp. from the fog station at Flamborough. Finally as you can see it resolved. Craig T and John B around and the blooming thing resolved right in front of us!

Awesome. I need a sleep after that.

Super captures by Craig Thomas. More on the days events on the Flamborough Bird Obs. website later. Don’t’ miss it!





Juvenile Garganey

The Subtle ID challenge

Why does it stand out- just. At the same time easy to overlook. Last Wednesday 26th we had our final Spurn Migration Festival meet. Mark Thomas had found a juvenile Little Stint on Buckton Pond so figured I would swing by en route home. No Little Stint. Maybe it’s at Thornwick Pool ?  Nope. But beautiful juvenile Whimbrel and Little Ringed Plover, and more wildfowl than usual. Mostly Mallard, a pair of moulting Gadwall, some Teal and a…

I know what that’s going to be!  Fired off this shot:

Garganey 18 first pic (1 of 1)


There is something about those orange brown tones and the shape of scapulars long, warm brown, with crisp white fringes. And why do the ones I see look orange on the breast on underparts (does it say that in ‘the book’). It’s fast asleep. No real view of the head pattern. But I just ‘know’ it’s going to be a Garganey- presumably a juvenile.

So I speed around to our magic photo pod. It’s still there, still asleep This is the first pic from the pod:

Garganey 19 next first pic (1 of 1)

OK little missy- time to wake up. please.


Garganey 14 (1 of 1)

LOVERLY! Kinda final confirmation A baby Garganey has arrived in a little influx of wildfowl to our special conservation site at Thornwick Pool. Only the 3rd Garganey record at Flamborough this year and a Patch tick for me 🙂

P.S. perhaps not conveyed in these pics, but the head pattern is not always so ‘obvious‘. Rather easy to pass over at times actually.

Garganey 9 (1 of 1)


She heads onto the water feed. Not so likely to up-end like the Teal, she prefers to just submerge head into water and keep most of body afloat.

Garganey 12 (1 of 1) Garganey 13 (1 of 1)


Let’s have some detail:

Garganey have narrower specula than Teal. Silvery whiteness going on in the outer wing. This one has pretty plain brown wing coverts. Guess that makes it a female, though notice how the width of white borders both above and below actually appears to vary and the overall width of the specula appears to vary from narrow to broader- curious!

Garganey smaller one (1 of 1) Garganey smaller two (1 of 1) Garganey 33 (1 of 1) Garganey 32 (1 of 1) Garganey 31 (1 of 1) Garganey 30 (1 of 1) Garganey 29 (1 of 1)


Tail Feathers

Juvenile wildfowl (most/all?) wear in such a way that a V wedge forms at the feather tip and the shaft pokes out down the centre. Adult tail feathers don’t do that.Garganey 28 (1 of 1)



The Whimbrel was very smart-looking

whimbrel 2 (1 of 1)

and the Mark’s Little Stint hung around for me to see it the next morning:

litle stint juv 27aug (1 of 1)



Green-winged Teal – Advanced Identification

Still Looking…

Martin Garner, Ian Lewington and James Lees

Occurring in small numbers each year  the North American Green-winged Teal ‘carolinensis’  has only ever been identified in Britain in male plumages. Female are surely overlooked. Here’s a fresh look at some of the characteristics with downloadable material and some potential new features from Slimbridge. Plus a bunch of stuff about female Baikal Teals too!

GWTeal Baikal teal Ian Lewington

female Baikal Teal, Eurasian Teal crecca and Green-winged Teal carolinensis. Plate by Ian Lewington


“The Green-winged and Baikal Teal are an intriguing brace of dabbling ducks. While the female Green-winged Teal teeters at the edge of the realm ‘unidentifiable’, the Baikal Teal teeters on the brink of ‘unacceptable’. Being a natural optimist I want to haul both of them back from the edge. Some female Green-winged Teals can be identified as well as eclipse drakes.  A number of Baikal Teal in the Western Palearctic have been genuine vagrants and what a ‘beautifully formed’ (Latin: formasa) vagrant duck the males are!

For those how want to take a longer look at wildfowl in the hunt for these things, a female anas sp. at Seaforth, Merseyside in May 2006 provided a salutary lesson that there is much to be discovered. Quickly heralded as a female Baikal Teal, it soon became evident that while the face pattern seemed exceptional, the overall structure and plumage were closer to Teal (indeed Green-winged Teal). While the identification of this particular bird may never be unequivocal, it provided the necessary perspective that female Teals, though rarely studied, may contain much-sought vagrants and that knowing speculum patterns is a key to correct identification.”

Above is the intro to the chapter on Green-winged and Baikal Teal identification from the book, ‘Frontiers in Birding’. You can download the full chapter here:

PDF_logo Green-winged and Baikal Teal from Frontiers in Birding (2008)

adult female Green-winged Teal (above) and Eurasian Teal (below)captive adult female Green-winged Teal, Slimbridge WWT, James Lees

Since then we have been exploring more potential characters for identifying female Green-winged Teal. Compare features visible in the photos. This is not a large sample size- just two birds. However keeps us looking into more characters 🙂

adult female Green-winged Teal (above) and Eurasian Teal (below)

adult female Green-winged Teal (above) and Eurasian Teal (below)

Undertail region: Eurasian Teal (left) with Green-winged Teal (right)

Undertail region: Eurasian Teal (left) with Green-winged Teal (right)

Head patterns: Green-winged Teal (left) with Eurasian Teal (right)

Head patterns: Green-winged Teal (left) with Eurasian Teal (right)

Baikal Teal – First for Gambell

Alaska, 31st August 2013

Paul Lehman has just taken up his annual 5 week visit to the NW extremity of the North American recording area. He sent this message through earlier this morning:

“…guess what I photo’d today (31st August) at Gambell… A nice BAIKAL TEAL in the ‘northeast corner marsh’. First found by Wilderness Birding group. First Gambell record.”  Paul Lehman

BATE 2 083113 PLanother photo and bit more info on the ABA blog