There were plenty of mallards, gadwall and nine shovelers (three drakes, six females/juveniles) on the Lower Lake at Nostell this morning, but it was this little duck, which didn’t look much bigger than a dabchick, that had us puzzled. It’s a teal, and the conspicuous triangular pattern on its back suggests that this is a female in breeding plumage. Juveniles have dark feathers on the back, with just narrow, lighter margins.
The note I’ve written on my sketch, that the female should always show a speculum, is something we read (or perhaps misread) on the Internet, but it’s incorrect according to Noel Cusa’s illustration in The Birds of the Western Palearctic, which shows the female with speculum completely covered by the surrounding breast and back feathers. I’ll go with that as you can’t get any more authoritative than The Birds of the Western Palearctic.
The female was on her own but when we returned forty minutes later there was no sign of her. Although this duck looked so petite compared with the nearby mallards and gadwall, the teal is in fact about 25% bigger than a dabchick.
We saw just one goosander this morning, a drake on the Upper Lake.