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Garganey Update

On Monday 11 March 2024 there was a report of a pair of Garganey on the shore at the east end of Auchenhew Bay in Kildonan. This is only the third Arran record of this summer visitor. The last record was on Sunday 3 May 2020 when there was a report of a pair of Garganey with Teal on Sliddery shore. On both occasions these migratory ducks did not linger.

Garganey is a small dabbling duck, feeding mainly by skimming rather than upending. It breeds in much of Europe and across the Palearctic, but is strictly migratory, with the entire population moving to southern Africa, India, Bangladesh and Australasia in winter, where large flocks can occur.

This scarce and secretive summer visitor to the UK is mostly found in central and southern England. Garganey are rare breeding birds in the UK, with most breeding in quiet marshes in Norfolk and Suffolk. They favour shallow wetlands, with flooded meadows and ditches, with plenty of aquatic vegetation - this can make them difficult to see. On migration they can turn up anywhere and whilst the males are easy to identify, the females and young birds are like the familiar Teal. Garganey is smaller than a Mallard and slightly bigger than a Teal. The male is most easily recognized, with a broad white stripe over the eye. In flight it shows a pale blue forewing. The male has a distinctive crackling mating call; the female is rather silent for a female duck but can manage a feeble quack. Like other small ducks such as Teal this species rises easily from the water with a fast twisting wader-like flight.

From the Arran Natural History Society records, the first record of Garganey on Arran was on the 9 May 2012. There was a pair on the lochan at Torr Righ. I was off the island that day but on my return the next day the visitors shared this and together the area was revisited. The outcome of our efforts?  No sign of Garganey and a good soaking.
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