The humble teal
Sporting Shooter|December 2020
They may be tiny, but as far as Rupert Butler is concerned, the appeal of this little duck is huge. He recalls some of his most memorable nights in pursuit of these aerial acrobats
RUPERT BUTLER

One of my favourite ducks on our quarry list are teal, and although small in stature they more than make up for this in their aerial ability. None of our other duck, residential or migratory, have that explosive turn of speed once disturbed. Although they breed here, they do so in relatively small numbers, probably a couple of hundred pairs or so and mainly confined to the north-west of our wee Isle. That said, I have, on occasion, come across small family groups hereabouts from late August onwards, which I’m pretty sure must have bred locally.

From early September onwards, depending on weather conditions in Scandinavia and other northern climes, winter migrants will flock to our shores to overwinter. They are normally the first of our migrants to arrive and, probably due to their smaller size, are more susceptible to extremes of weather. One can almost tell what the weather is like further north by what numbers arrive and the timing of such arrivals.

I am always quite amused by game shooters hereabouts and their attitude to teal. While some travel far and wide to locate these wonderful aerobatic ducks, others are quite nonplussed, preferring their larger cousins at every opportunity.

I for one will always be a fan, and any night spent in their company is always eventful and exciting. What better way to spend a winter’s evening than nestled among some reeds awaiting that tell-tale pipping which signifies that the first battalions are on the way. Once the pipping stops, ready your gun for within seconds they will fill the sky all around before departing once again with even greater gusto.

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