Juvenile male Garganey

With most having long departed for Africa, there are probably fewer than ten Garganeys left in the UK at present. I first found this one at Ravensthorpe Reservoir on 20th September and, though not reported for a couple of weeks in late September/early October, it has a poorly marked face pattern and is readily identifiable as the same individual. It was still present yesterday. Juvenile male Garganey, Ravensthorpe Res, 19th October 2015 (Mike Alibone)

To my eyes, juvenile Garganeys stand out from the crowd of Teal – with which they often loosely associate – even when the face pattern can’t be seen. That combination of dark, oily-rust breast and flanks, contrasting sharp, whitish edges to the tertials and no white line along the outer edge of the under tail coverts is really quite eye-catching. The feeding habit of swimming around with the head partly submerged and rarely up-ending like Teals do is also a useful initial pointer. Garganey - Copy (2)                                                                                                  This particular individual is clearly a juvenile based on plumage tone and the solid dark belly (female and eclipse drakes have a whitish belly) but a quick flap of the wings, revealing a greenish speculum bordered by very broad white borders, was enough to sex it as a male.

In the accompanying, rather ropey, video there also appears to be the beginnings of a male breast band – demarcated from the belly – coming through. This does not appear to be mentioned in the literature as appearing quite so early on in the autumn but I guess it has to start sometime.

As it’s been present for a month it will be interesting to see how long this bird stays around. Wintering birds are rare but not unheard of!

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