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Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Baikal Teal

Baikal Teal: 22nd – 24th December 2002

I visited Dix Pit near Stanton Harcourt at lunchtime on 22nd December 2002 to count the wildfowl having noted a significant influx of dabblers in recent days. There were again large numbers of duck present and whilst working my way through the flock I noticed a bird with a prominent white vertical stripe between the breast and flanks. My initial thoughts were of Green-winged Teal, but at distance the head pattern didn’t look right for this species and the undertail coverts were wholly black and separated from the rear flanks by another prominent white vertical stripe.I then recalled a recent article on the Minsmere Baikal Teal which I thought also showed a white foreflank stripe so made a couple of phone calls, eventually finding Steve Heath at home to whom I could describe the bird whilst he checked a field guide.

As I ran through the features it became clear that these fitted Baikal Teal, and whilst clearly a drake, at this stage I thought the subdued nature of the head pattern was indicative of a first winter bird moulting into adult plumage. After research the plumage best fitted an adult male moulting out of eclipse - eastern ducks typically emerge from eclipse a month or two later than western birds.During the course of the afternoon the bird attracted a small crowd of interested locals and drifted a little closer to allow better viewing on this day and also on 24th December. Despite searching on 26th, 27th and 28th I did not see the bird again. It is likely to have departed as it arrived with the influx of Teal and Wigeon.The bird kept in close company with the mixed flock of Teal and Wigeon, was wary and kept away from the banks. When preening it gave the occasional wing flap and was seen to be fully winged and unringed. The record was accepted by BBRC in 2010 and is the third British record, following on from the first, shot in Essex in 1906, and the Minsmere bird in 2001.

Stuart Thomson

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