Garganeys At Hayden's Pool

The Garganey is one of our rarer ducks. It is a summer visitor, and only a few hundred pairs visit the UK every year to breed. It is also one of our smallest ducks, being a member of the Teal family.

So, when I heard that a pair of Garganey had taken up residence at Hayden’s Pool near Marbury Country Park at Northwich in April this year I had to go along to investigate.

I arrived early in the morning, settled into the hide, and located the birds immediately. It is only a very small pool with an island in the middle, and the two birds were sitting in full view on the island. Only problem was – they were asleep!

It was a very frustrating morning for me. These must have been the most immobile pair of ducks in Cheshire. Almost nothing disturbed them from their slumber. Occasionally one or other of the pair would wake up for a few seconds and have a quick look round, giving a very limited time to capture the photo.

However, with patience I managed to get some photos of the male showing his head with the resplendent white crescent over the eye. The male Garganey in full breeding plumage is unmistakable! The female on the other hand is a rather uniform brown, rather similar to a female teal.

Eventually the Garganeys were forced to wake up from their sleep and to move on by the arrival of some Black-headed Gullls from the colony on the far side of the pool. It must have been hard to sleep with the cacophony of noise produced by the gulls. The Garganeys slipped into the water and disappeared into the reeds, so ending the sightings for the day.

I believe they remained on the pool for about 3 weeks in total.

[click on a photo for a larger view]


Above is the view as I first saw it. The female is asleep on the left and the male on the right. Even so, you can still see the white crescent on his head.


A close-up of the male, still asleep.


The male has now woken up for a few seconds. You can now appreciate the full extent of the white crescent. Note - this is a supercilium since it passes above the eye. An eye-stripe passes through the eye.


A pair of Mallards have displaced the female while the male sleeps on. Note the relative size difference. The Garganey is slightly larger than a Teal.


Another indication of the small size of the Garganeys relative to the Mallard.


The Mallard has now woken up the male. However the female is now off to sleep.


The male quickly settles down again next to the female.


The two Sleeping Beauties together.


An Oystercatcher wanders by. However it doesn't disturb the Garganeys. Black-headed Gulls have now arrived as well.


The Garganeys still look small next to a Black-headed Gull.


It must be difficult trying to sleep with a Black-headed Gull screaming in your ear. They are not renowned for their quiet voices!


Looks like the male has given up and is ready to go.


He's moved a bit, but not very far. The gulls are still there though.


Both birds have now decided to move on and have taken to the water.


Swimming along in front of the island.


The male continues out into open water.


However the female has stopped and climbed back onto the island again.


The male returns to see what the hold-up is. Plenty of gulls still about.


Both take to water now and head off across the pool watched by the gulls.


The pair crossed the pool and disappeared into the reeds, presumably for a bit of peace and quiet.

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