5 Mar 2024

Green-winged teal from the window!

When we bought this house in September 2016 I had no idea there was a pond in the field opposite what ended up being our study window. Its not really visible from the road as the water level drops during the summer and for a few months we can't even see any water from our elevated window position It fills during the winter but its extent varies depending on how wet its been This year has been particularly wet! 

Over the years its attracted a small number of wildfowl with Pink-feet, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Pintail, Shoveler, Shelduck and Mute Swan all being recorded at some time or another. Teal numbers in particular can be impressive with a record count being 80+ birds. These birds don't stay long as this pond is used as a flight pond and there is another much larger pond, surrounded by trees, in a nearby private garden that they all tend to fly to. I keep hoping and looking for something rarer and Garganey, Goldeneye or Green-winged Teal have always been on my birding radar.  Throw in the possibility of a wader or two and its understandable, to me at least,  that the first thing I do every morning before making a brew, is check the pond through the scope. The wader list is equally impressive with Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Green Sandpiper, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Redshank, Lapwing, Woodcock  and Snipe all being on the house list. Add Little Grebe, Mediterranean Gull,  Cattle Egret and Little Egret and the list get even more impressive. See here for some previous sightings.

Recently we've had a small group of Shoveler and Gadwall frequenting the pond on a regular basis. They're occasionally joined by a small number of Teal from the larger pond. Checking the pond Sunday morning there was nothing new but later in the afternoon I noticed a greater number of Teal than usual and checked them and literally the first bird I looked at through the scope was a Green-winged Teal. I hadn't even got my phone with me so dashed downstairs to get it to get the all important digiscoped 'record' shot. The pond is 210 metres from the house so I've found taking short videos is a better way of getting a record than trying to take a photo.

I needn't have worried as the bird showed well for at least an hour before the whole flock flew across the wet field to the main pond where they disappeared. 

Green-winged Teal in flght - just above the Canada geese

Video above and below. Green-winged Teal, Mollington, Cheshire 3rd march 2024

                                       Above: Shoveler and Gadwall, Mollington, Cheshire

An hour later they all waddled out through the hedge and started feeding much closer than they had been
As the birds were a bit closer I got a couple of photos using the DLSR with a 100-400 mm lens and 1.4 teleconverter that are heavily cropped! 

Aware of the spectre of a hybrid I was able to check out all the relevant features. Apart from the obvious white shoulder stripe, the breast is more mottled than Eurasian Teal with a vineous hue whilst the head pattern is less well defined. Eurasian Teal usually show a buff border, top and bottom, to the green eye stripe whereas this is less well defined in Green-winged Teal with the top border almost missing. Of course there is individual variation but I'm happy this is a pure Green-winged Teal with no hybrid genes. 

It's amazing what even a small wet area can turn up and the anticipation keeps me looking for another new species to add to the already house / garden  impressive list that currently stands at 125 species.

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