When sightings of rare birds are reported, the birds are usually in out-of-the-way locations that are difficult to access by public transport so I can’t go looking but yesterday was different. A ‘scarce and very secretive’ duck had been spotted at Roath Park Lake, my old stomping ground, so I hopped on a train and was there like a shot.
The bird was a Garganey (Anas querquedula) and it was certainly living up to its reputation: I spent 30 minutes or so walking and looking and couldn’t spot it (though the Teal and Shovelers were an added bonus amongst the resident water birds). A fellow birder told me he’d seen the Garganey briefly through his ’scope but it had then disappeared under overhanging tree branches. So, I went for a walk around the park, watched a young Heron fishing in the sluice and enjoyed the autumn colour, before heading around the lake again on my way back to the train. And there it was!
The female Garganey looks much like a female Mallard at first glance but she is a much smaller duck, the markings on her face are stronger, with the eye stripe giving her quite an exotic look, and she has a bill that shows she’s a dabbler. She was very active, constantly ducking her head under the water for plant material and insects – in fact, most of my photos are of a headless duck!
Garganeys are only seen in small numbers in Britain, as they pass through during spring and autumn migration, so being able to see and watch this beautiful female was a treat indeed!