Sunday, March 30, 2014

Baikal Teal at Fen Drayton

What a week for fabulous wildfowl! After seeing the Hooded Merganser at Radipole Lake in Dorset earlier in the week a stunning male Baikal Teal Anas formosa turned up at Fen Drayton in Cambridgshire. Having never seen one of these birds 'in the wild' it was an easy decision to go and have a look - a twitch if you will! An hour or so after setting off I was scoping this belting drake Asian Teal. Madge and Burn state in 'Wildfowl' that this is 'An exquisitely-patterned large teal... the male has a striking facial pattern that defies brief description' and you can't argue with that so I wont even try other than to say it's like an abstract of green, buff, black and white. The bird was close enough for good views through the scope but too far away to get any decent photographs. Had I visited the hide overlooking Moore lake and waited long enough no doubt I could have managed to get some decent record shots but I was happy enough just seeing this bird.

So here is an image of the 'exquisite head pattern that defies description!'

Head pattern of drake Baikal Teal Anas formosa

There have been five previous records of Baikal Teal in Britain, one in Ireland and four in England:

2010 Oct 2 Essex 1 1 day Chigborough Lakes, juvenile male, 2nd October, photo.
2010 Feb 19 to Feb 23 Co.Wexford 1 5 days Tacumshin, male, 19th to 23rd February, photo.
2002 Dec 22 to Dec 24 Oxon 1 3 days Dix Pit, Stanton Harcourt, male, 22nd to 24th December, photo.
2001 Nov 18 to Dec 29 Suffolk 1 42 days Minsmere, first-winter male, 18th November to 29th December, photo.
1906 Jan 1 to Jan 1Essex 1 1 day Tillingham, first-winter male, 1st January, collected.
A drake was also recorded at Flamborough on 15th April 2013 and I suspect that this record is still awaiting acceptance/rejection by the BBRC. There will, no doubt, be some debate over the provenance of the Fen Drayton bird. It is currently being posted as a 'Mega' on Birdline but  it is a duck and we know what that means!
 The timing of this bird's arrival is pretty consistent with northward movement of this species from its wintering areas, mainly in the Republic of  Korea. Most birds move north during mid-March and arrive at breeding grounds by early April so a bird arriving in Britain in late March would be considered a worthy candidate for true vagrancy.
Early 19th Century Chinese print of Baikal Teal Anas formosa
So this could be another of those 'Can I, can't I count it?' jobbies. Mmmm...does it go on my list or not?

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