Monday, August 4, 2014

Teal Hunting

Okay so I've never heard of this bird or the practice of hunting them but apparently it was quite a sport. But basically it is a small duck. Here is a link to a picture of the bird. Hit your back arrow to return to this post.

TEAL—Although one of the smallest ducks that fly, weighing no more than a partridge, the teal (Qiierquedula creaa) is one of the most attractive of wildfowl to sportsmen, not merely on account of the beautiful colours of the male bird, but because of the sporting shots it affords, and its excellence for the table.
Teal are generally easier to get at than ducks, and as they require but a slight blow to bring them down, it matters little what size of shot is used. Instead of rising head to wind like other wildfowl, they have an odd way of springing up vertically from the surface of the water, no matter what their position may be when discovered, and, the shooter not aiming high enough,(the charge of shot often passes harmlessly below them.
Haunts and Habits—Quiet rushy pools which lie at a distance from any road, turf holes on a peat bog, and sluggish shallow streams with overhanging vegetation are favourite haunts of the teal. Of shy and retired habits, it shuns the more public ponds and rivers, and avoids the neighbourhood of man's dwelling.
On approaching the edge of a pond at a distance Irom a "spring" of teal (as a small flock of these birds is technically termed), they may be seen silently reposing on the water. Immediately the intruder is perceived, a harsh call is heard, and they jump suddenly into the air, wheeling round and about with amazing rapidity, now looking black, now white, according as the upper or under surface of their bodies is presented to the eye. Frequently, as though intending to alight, they fall through the air with a whistling sound, recovering themselves when apparently in the water, and rising again to a height. These manoeuvres are repeated until the eye is strained in following them, and the entire flock at length settles down again in silence and repose as before. At such times it requires no small amount of caution to get near enough to them for a shot.
Col. Hawker, whose practical knowledge of wildfowl has rarely been equalled, has well described the habits of the teal in his Instructions to Young Sportsmen. "If you spring a teal, he will not soar up and leave the country like a wild duck, but will most probably keep along the brook like a sharp-flying woodcock, and then drop suddenly down. But you must keep your eye on the place, as he is very apt to get up again, and fly to another spot before he will quietly settle. He will frequently, too, swim down stream the moment after he drops; so that if you do not cast your eye quickly that way, instead of continuing to look for him in one spot, he will probably catch sight of you and fly up, while your attention is directed to the wrong place. If the brook in which you find him is obscured by many trees, you had better direct your follower to make a large circle, and get ahead of and watch him, in case he should slily skim away down the brook and by this means escape from you altogether."
Description of Plumage—For beauty of colouring the cock teal has scarcely an equal amongst wildfowl. The chestnut head with a patch of glossy green on each side, edged with buff; the neck, back and flanks beautifully pencilled with black and grey ; the bright green speculum on the wing, broadly bordered above and below with velvet black : and the black and buff undertail-coverts present to the eye a perfect picture of harmonising colour which defies the imitative pencil of the artist.
The hen teal, like the females of all ducks, is of the usual sombre colour, her dusky brown and grey plumage being peculiarly well adapted to her concealment during the time she is engaged in incubation.
Nesting—Although usually placed in the vicinity of water, the nest is sometimes at a considerable distance from it, and always rests upon dry ground. A hollow is generally scraped out at the foot of some overhanging bunch of heather, or tussock of dry waving grass, and lined with fine heath stalks and bents. Here eight or ten creamy-white eggs are laid, in April, and as the hen bird covers them, she plucks from her breast and sides the soft brown down which underlies her feathers, and places it entirely round the eggs, filling up all the interstices, thus forming a warm bed for the young as soon as they leave the shell.
The old duck is very attentive to her young, leading them from the nest to the marsh, where they paddle about on the soft ground and shallow pools, snapping up flies and beetles with their tiny bills. They swim and dive well almost as soon as hatched.
Migration—Great numbers of teal pass southward for the winter, returning in the spring on the way back to their breeding haunts. In September and October they collect in large flocks, and, being very sociable in their habits, may often be found in winter in company with wild ducks. But although they mingle together when on the water, on being disturbed the two species always separate, the teal going off in one flock, the ducks in another. During the winter
months teal may be found on the coast, in company with wigeon, but they apparently prefer the neighbourhood of fresh water, especially large quiet pools well sheltered by reeds or trees, to screen them from the wind.
Teal in Decoys—Teal are amongst the tamest of wildfowl, and are generally the earliest to come into a decoy. The decoy-man, aware of their market value (for they are highly esteemed for the table), knows better than to capture the first comers. He allows them to remain undisturbed for some time, in order to attract others of their kind. This policy sometimes proves very remunerative. It is on record that at certain decoys in Essex, from 200 to 400 teal have been taken in one day. At the celebrated Ashby decoy in Lincolnshire it was not an uncommon thing to take 1800 or 2000 teal in the course of a season, and in the winter of 1852-53 no less than 3279 of these little birds were thus captured. Folkard relates that at a decoy pond at Mersea in Essex a flock of about 400 arrived, the greater number of which were taken within a few hours. The Rev. Richard Lubbock, also, mentions an instance which occurred at a Norfolk decoy of 220 teal being taken at once.
Formerly the decoy season was from the ist October till the ist June: the statute 10 Geo. II. cap. 32 prohibited the taking of any wildfowl "by hays, tunnels, or other nets" earlier or later under a penalty of 5^. for every bird so taken, but that statute has been repealed, and now by custom the season for working a decoy is from October to February.
It is true that a few ducks and mallards come into the decoys in July and August, but they are generally birds reared in the neighbourhood, and are left alone to entice others. Teal come in about the first week of September.

Source: Encyclopedia of Sport ©1898

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