Bird of the Day: Teal

When my children were younger, we used to visit the RSPB Reserve at Pulborough Brooks, and the WWT Centre at Arundel. I homeschooled my three children, and my family are all keen birdwatchers so a fair amount of their learning revolved around natural history. Arundel holds a special place in my heart as I went there as a child myself, and there is a [deeply embarrassing] photo of me feeding one of the Hawaiian geese when I was about nine. In fact it was visiting Arundel midweek during term time that prompted me to take my children out of school: so much learning to be done and I felt they were missing out on important things by being in school…ironic to some perhaps!

Teal are our smallest duck, and a common species despite the fondness of wildfowlers for these little birds. They have a fast flight, flocking together to evade predators such as the peregrine falcon, and they can spring straight up off the water when alarmed. Teal dabble to feed, collecting seeds and small insects from the surface.

The colouring of the male is distinctive, with the green eye patch and chestnut head. I have added silver to the green and blue of my teal to give an iridescent shimmer to both the eye and wing patch. I enjoy painting birds where their plumage fits like a jigsaw and think these look most effective. Gouache paint is very matte and flat which I love, and being able to show the colours of the bird without worrying about shade, or how light shining on the bird affects what we actually see means I can really celebrate all the intricacies. It is a useful tool as often it is one feature that sticks out, but depending on where and when and how we see the bird, that particular feature will be different, so having them all together in one image can be helpful.

I have also done a bird journal entry. I really enjoy journalling, and birds are such a popular theme it is easy to get hold of material to use. At the moment I am using resources I have to hand to make up a page for a bird, but I would love to produce a proper birdwatching journal with spaces for the date, time, place, and of course a large box to tick with a flourish. The page in the image below is from my Reader’s Digest/AA Book of British Birds – for some reason I find a lot of the birds look rather sinister!

The painting is available in my Etsy shop where you can also find packs for journalling.

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