Feather perfect, pintail pairs paddle the gin blue water of the East Flood; the males stay close and carefully guard their females. Every now and then the dominant male lifts up out of the water and bows his head toward his partner, and then a few moments later, pitches forward and lifts his pointed tail. A sweet, short burble (Bent describes it as ‘soft mewing notes’) is emitted by the male. The females respond with an occasional, quiet quack but remain inanimate and appear serenely disinterested. Two pairs perambulate together near the water’s edge and the males see off adventurous rivals that paddle over to test the water
A water rail runs across the road, head forward and legs whirring like a cartoon character. Another steals along the strip of land between the East Flood and roadside drainage ditch. The cold weather and frozen water forces these secretive birds from their reed- and sedge-beds to feed in damp ground warmed by the winter sun.
A herd of heavy cattle thrashes through the reeds to drink at the edge of the East Flood; they jostle and jibe then face up to each other with blank stares, no more than bored hooligans looking for something to do.