Ever since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated by Lake Baikal, in southern Siberia. With a surface area of over 12,000 square miles it is only the seventh largest fresh water lake in the world, but it is thought to be the oldest, with an estimated age of 25 million years, and with a depth in excess of a mile, also the deepest. It holds approximately 20% of the worlds unfrozen fresh water and boasts a vast array of wildlife, more than 80% of which is endemic. This is the home of Baikal Teal, an exquisite endangered duck, which is rarely seen outside Russia.
On Monday, a male Baikal Teal was reported on the Lancashire coast, at Banks, near Southport. By Tuesday evening, after some initial discussion about it’s identification and origins, it had been declared ‘the real deal’, so on Wednesday we went for it. We arrived on site at about 10.30, the bird having been seen three quarters of an hour before, but not now on view. Crossens Outer Marsh is a desolate place and with the beginnings of the strong north westerly winds, later causing so much havoc on the east coast, whipping across the raised bank where the small crowd of hopeful birders stood, it wasn’t long before we were absolutely frozen. We’d decided to retreat to the car and find some lunch when, 200 yards away from the dispersing crowd, we heard a muffled cry go out and an arm raised. We hoofed it back and there at some distance across the marsh was the Baikal Teal, tucked up asleep! A quick tactical relocation to the other side of the inlet and we secured good views of this strangely exotic looking Anas – well worth the 350 mile, eight hour round trip!
Our initial views weren’t that great, though good enough for a ‘Life tick’! But then we were able to get considerably closer..
With only five previously accepted records of this species in the UK since 1900, hopes are riding high on this bird.