Monday, July 26, 2010
The Mysterious Teal and the possibly spurious application of Logic...
Today I visited the patch... of course (!). BUT as it was drizzling and I was seriously short of time, the river, alas had to go begging and so instead I decided to 'do the ponds' at the east end of Moore NR. All, was... well, as it often is... quiet and fairly predictable... until I spotted a small duck. But I'm leaping ahead! First... the build up. As is often the case of late, at Big Hand Ranch a Little Owl was plopped in the recess on the first barn between the peeling sheets of make-shift roofing. Today it was enduring (enjoying? It seemed happy enough...) the mizzle, but nothing else was out and about.
I started here today, for shelter apart from anything else. Parked up and peered out at the murk. Problem with the mizzle was that it kinda fogged up everything. Couldn't really get much of a clear view of owt, certainly not down the far end and everything had that blurry 'steamed up' kind of feel. So much so that I more than once checked to see if the bins and scope had fogged over - they hadn't. It was just a poor visibility sesh. Ah well, didn't stop me squinting through the wildfowl and gulls. There was...
36 Mallard 7 Canada Geese (numbers down - there's usually about 30) 21 Coot 8 Moorhen (3ads+5juvs spread about) 4 Little Grebe (ad+3juvs) 1 Great Crested Grebe 7 Tufty 2 Pochard 1 Grey Heron (subadult) 97 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (including *R285) 22 Black-headed Gulls 2 Herring Gull 5 Magpie 2 Carrion Crow 2 Robin (ad+juv) 2 Bullfinch (juvs) 3 Pied Wagtail (juvs) 1 Blue Tit 1 Great Tit 9 Sand Martin AND... a Teal.
Yes. A Teal. Among the Mallard, roosting. Dinky, rectangular head shape, white tail flash, unremarkable. Now my first thoughts were... 'female' and 'bloody early!'. Quickly followed by 'too dark and plain for a female' and 'there's orange at the base of the upper mandible' and 'must be a juvenile'. Well, that was just odd. First where had it come from? Teal don't breed at Moore. Think they might at Woolston but I couldn't believe juvenile Teal from there would move anywhere before it's mum did anyway. And second, what IS the natal disperasl pattern in juvenile Teal? - I had (still haven't) no (any) idea! My gut told me it should be with others of it's brood and preferably in the company of a responsible adult - but this one clearly wasn't! Next thought. You idiot. It's a trick of the light and drizzle and you're looking at a Mallard or Gadwall DUCKLING. Moron! Next thought. Moron for even thinking THAT - of COURSE it's a Teal! Duh!!! Even in this mizzle. Idiot! It IS a Teal. Right, try logic. Males leave the breeding grounds before females AND during drought conditions (which we're probably in) non-breeders move off breeding grounds even earlier than usual. SO, it's a non-breeding male. Aha! Eclipse drake - sorted! Except... well, it must have flown in. And they drop their flight feathers in eclipse don't they? Doh! BUT wait... they do a full head and body moult (early Jul - Aug) - fits (!) and dump their flight feathers from late July. A-ha! Now to be honest, I'd always assumed post-breeding moult in ducks was one of those things they did after they'd left the breeding grounds and had settled somewhere, in other words the whole shebang took place in... one place, but this bloke seems to have done a bit somewhere else and is gonna finish it off here... or maybe he'll bugger off somewhere else to drop his flights. Time will tell...
44 Gadwall 2 Tufty 2 Coot 2 Great Crested Grebe (ad+juv) 2 Moorhen (ad+new chick)
Reed Bunting and Reed Warbler singing
11 Mallard 21 Canada Geese 1 Grey Heron (ad) 2 Moorhen (ad+juv) 4 Coot (3ad+new chick)
AND... 2 more Teal (same as previously)
95 Coot (up again!) 5 Pochard 2 Moorhen 52 Tufty (incl. female+5 new ducklings) 5 Canada Geese (numbers down) 2 Grey Heron 25 Gadwall (incl 2 x f with broods of well grown 9) 1 Mallard (one!) 2 Mute Swan 19 Lesser Black-backed Gull 15 Black-headed Gull
And that chums... is that!
To the river tomorrow with any luck!!!
PS *R285 - black plastic ring on left leg with R285 in yellow on it. No obvious metal ring on other leg. Anybody have any info. on who's ringing LBBGs???