Harford History

Winged visitor

September 23, 2007

One of the earliest-arriving migratory waterfowl in the upper Chesapeake area each fall is the teal. These small ducks appear in limited numbers, and consequently have not been the subject of local decoy carvers as often as the canvasback, bluebill or redhead.

The rare antique decoys that have been found are up to 11 1/2 inches long and painted with distinctive blue-green wings. Some of the best examples were produced by John Holly and his son, James T. Holly, between 1850 and 1920; and by Robert F. McGaw in the 1920s and 1930s in Havre de Grace.

A mention of teal hunting appears in the journal of the Havre de Grace gunning boat Rough Ashlar for Sept. 23, 1889. The entry notes that the boat "put out early in the morning ... and had very pretty shooting up to 9 am - the wind went down and the tide fell so the Flats were all bare ... Blue wing teal 16, Sprig tail 4, Willet 1, Baldpate 4, Marsh 2 Total 27."

[Source: Waterfowling on the Chesapeake, 1819-1936 by C. John Sullivan; research by Harford County Public Library]

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