Spring behaviour is everywhere to be seen on the blue waters of the reservoir from the Layer Breton causeway. Two ganders, a white and a grey greylag come to blows in a ‘no holds barred’ settling of the hierarchy. Beaks bite into wings and necks and both then hang on, eyes bulging and necks ruffled; then wings smack bodies that transforms into an intimate embrace. The white gander has a bloodied and damaged alula but comes out on top. Immediately after the darker bird concedes and leaves the bout in a flurry of flapping wings, the two birds settle seamlessly back into the flock.
Two drake smew, in immaculate black and white plumage, and six females, or redheads as they commonly called, move around the reed-fringed island near the causeway. They dive strongly with stiff tails much like a goldeneye. A pair appears to steal away and the female lies prostrate on the water perhaps to entice the male to mate but he maintains his distance.
On the water, drake goosanders and goldeneyes are also in bright breeding plumage and pairs should soon move north to breed. The latter’s wonderful design looks as though Pablo Picasso had a hand in it. A single black-necked grebe is still drab and untidy; it repeatedly dives for fish close to the causeway on the wind-tossed water to the east then comes through the passage under the road into the sheltered waters of a small reed-fringed lagoon. It is a rare species that is becoming increasingly common and so perhaps will stay to breed. I hope so; it is a bobby dazzler.