viernes, 2 de diciembre de 2011

Blue-winged Teal

On Nov 30, during a visit to an irrigation pond in Las Martelas, I discovered this rather drab duck among the group of 10 Coots (Fulica atra) currently overwintering at the site...

By this time of the year, the first migratory flocks of Teal (Anas crecca) have usually arrived on the island, but this bird, although roughly the same size, was no Eurasian Teal: the unusually long tail, and uniform grey bill were conspicuous differences, but the overall drabness made identification difficult...a Garganey (Anas querquedula) perhaps?

No helpful speculum or wing-bars were visible as the duck placidly dabbled around the pond, but the thin eye-ring and pale loral patch were useful clues...

Finally, after a brief session of preening, a small, turquoise blue patch came into view on the bird's flanks: a female, or juvenile Blue-winged Teal!

 Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors)

 Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors)

Not the best pictures of this unexpected American visitor perhaps, but strong, gusty winds make photography difficult on the west side of the island at the moment.

The Blue-winged Teal is widespread in North America, from Alaska to Newfoundland, and in the centre of the United States. As with the European Garganey, it is more migratory than other Anatidae. Wintering grounds extend along the southern coasts, from California and North Carolina, throughout the Caribbean, Central America, and a large part of South America, where some individuals occasionally reach northern Chile and Argentina. The predominance of spring sightings in Europe, together with other evidence, suggests that many birds spend the winter in Africa, and only pass through Europe on migration, with their spring routes being more easterly than their autumnal ones (Eduardo de Juana, Aves Raras de España, Lynx, 2006).

Up to 2003, there had been 32 records of this species in Spain, 5 of them on the Canaries. It is interesting to note that, of the 5 Canary Island sightings, 4 were in winter (December-February). Consequently, de Juana postulates that "perhaps the islands are located only a short distance from the areas in Africa where most of the Blue-winged Teal visiting the Old World spend the winter".

More recent figures for this species are included in the SEO Rarities List of 2006: 35 records, 39 birds, nationwide.

This sighting will be submitted to the Spanish Rarities Committee in due course.

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