Sunday, 21 April 2013

Baikal Teal

Last Monday I went to Flamborough Head to see the Baikal Teal that had been found there mid-morning. When the news came through of the birds presence I was immediately excited, surely a fantastic candidate. On arrival the bird was out on the bank but then went down to the pond and proceeded to give excellent and enjoyable views. A superbly stunning duck, the plumage was more striking and handsome than I had imagined it was going to be.

But what about its credentials? Well, that’s an interesting one. Because I have seen it, of course it is wild! I have my reasons why I believe it to be wild, so enjoy my waffle:

1)     The bird has turned up on the east coast.
2)     The bird is fully winged, regardless of damage.
3)     The bird turned up during a visible and clear duck movement.
4)     Other vagrant ducks were on the move, consider Lesser Scaup. Even though they are from NA they were still moving along with other ducks.
5)     Damage is on both the primaries and the secondaries; it is not isolated to the primaries. Why would a keeper of such an attractive species clip the secondaries? Given that this is one of the most attractive aspects of the bird you wouldn't expect these feathers to be clipped.
6)     I am reliably informed that wings are clipped in late summer after a ducks moult. These feathers then do not regrow until the next moult.
7)     The damage therefore looks to me (personally) like it is more due damage from habitat or from a predator. I do not personally think this is down to the bird attempting to be shot at, which has been suggested on a well known birding discussion site.
8) The bird was seen to fly in off the sea with a good carrier species (Wigeon).

The fact the secondaries look damaged is the clincher to my mind that this bird cannot be written off as just a fence hopper, these feathers just would not logically be clipped. It would make more sense that this bird has received habitat or predatory damage to its primaries and secondaries. Given all the other strong points I imagine this bird will be moved onto category A soon.

(Baikal Teal - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Baikal Teal - Andrew Kinghorn)

Until next time, Foghorn out!


  1. "imagine" ? Don't you mean "hope" !!

  2. Well I hope you get your bird mate but there is a potentially big spanner that I haven't heard mention of yet, there is a small zoo with collection of exotic ducks just 3 or 4 miles to the south of Flamborough called Sewerby Hall ( ... be interesting to see if they have a missing one!

    Timbobaggins Abroad

  3. I have spoken to Sewerby Hall and they have 3 Baikal Teal in their collection, and have never lost any of them.

    In my opinion I would say that the credentials of this bird are excellent and see no real reason for the BBRC not to accept the bird in Cat A. If the rather 'chunky' Minsmere bird can be accepted, then surely this one can! Probably the most likely candidate for being the 'real deal' out of all the accepted records yet, how many others were seen to fly in of the NE Coast?

    As the blog reads this bird has so much evidence to suggest its wild origin;

    - Seen to FLY IN OF SEA on the E Coast whilst Brett Richards was on 'seawatch'
    - Landed very soon after reaching dry land
    - Very flighty during its stay
    - Flew in with perfect carrier species (Wigeon)
    - Fully Winged and Unclipped (regardless of damage)
    - Only Stayed the one day, before flying back out to sea with the same two birds
    - Turned up during a visible and very clear duck movement (e.g. Lesser Scaups)
    - Damage to mid secondaries as well as primaries (on just the one wing). It would not be logical for a keeper to clip the secondaries, so my thought would also be that this was caused by a natural predator.

    I personally really like the style and timing of this bird and the fact it came in with Wigeon clinches it for me.

    Martin Garner; "The feel of this bird is therefore to me, spot-on for a pure Baikal ".

    Pete Smith also makes a very good point on Martin Garners blog: "The arrival of the Baikal Teal coincided with a large departure of wintering dabbling ducks, particularly Wigeon, in the Wakefield area. 92 Wigeon at Anglers CP on the 14th April had dropped to 13 by the following morning. Similarly at Pugneys CP 46 Wigeon on the 14th had dropped to 8 by the following morning. It is conceivable that it could be the Tacumshin bird of Early February migrating along the coast with Wigeon back to Russia in the favourable weather conditions prevailing that night".

    RBA; "So this bird shouldn't have too much trouble in being accepted"

    Cheers Chris.