Pylon IslandThursday 16th March 2000
Two drake Mallards dabble and upend at the foot of a slender willow sapling which is dotted with pale yellow catkins.
A male Reed Bunting, not quite in full spring plumage, has a black moustache and goatee beard, which give him the look of a Chinese emperor, huddled up in an old brown coat.
A Great Crested Grebe swims by with measured pace, straight-necked and attentive, sporting chestnut cap and sideburns that give him the look of a Victorian schoolmaster.
A Mallard drake sees off a rival and immediately goes into what seems like a ritualised preening session, dipping his head repeatedly in the water head and shaking it down and off his back.
It might be the same drake that swims towards a female on the bank by the pylon, turns his back on her and starts nodding his head, as if beckoning her to follow. The female soon swims after him across the inlet, dipping her head in the same way. The pair come ashore and waddle through the long grasses, then return to the water to mate. The male gives a low bow with his head, and then it's time to wash and preen.
Just across the lane, a solid looking Elizabethan mansion, Ledston Hall looms behind a more natural looking reed-fringed flash, where there are Pochards , Mute Swans and a Heron. The pochard is a close relative of the American Canvasback.