Friday, February 20, 2015

Teals & Toads!

A walk along the Western Yar Estuary this time of year will inevitably be accompanied by a sound similar to sonar pinging....revealing the presence of good numbers of our smallest duck, the Teal. This video shows a small 'spring' of Teal feeding early on a few days ago:

For such a small bird this species has real pizzazz, the male sporting those wonderful reddish-brown colours on the head, with yellow borders and a splodge of green! Then there's that distinctive triangular yellow patch at the rear. Between the two there's a wonderful example of vermiculation (from the Latin for 'worm') with all of those delicate 'squiggly' lines running down the flanks. Brilliant!!

The Teal is a dabbling duck that needs shallow water to feed, like this one, on the weed just below the surface. This is the reason why large numbers of Teal head to our relatively mild Gulf Stream-affected shores in the winter from as far away as Scandinavia, and even north-west Siberia!

Just how mild it is at the moment was emphasized this afternoon with the arrival of a couple of Toads slowly making their way across the front lawn and road to some local pool to breed.

I love those them a reputation in times past of having the 'evil eye'. Look at that wonderful red-gold colour of the iris with the darker markings. This was no doubt the reason for the ancient stories of a mysterious 'golden pebble' with miraculous powers found in the Toad's skull

The harm caused by the 'evil eye' may be fanciful, but the glands in the skin can certainly do you a bit of damage with several toxins including powerful hallucinogens, which is why it's a good idea to have a swill under the tap after handling them!

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