It is surely too early in the year for this sort of behaviour in mallards. What's more, KenPetch witnessed a pair of teals engaged in exactly the same activity when he was in the Causeway Hide at Leighton Moss on Wednesday this week. I also saw a pair of mallards mating that day from the same place, so it could be this pair are mating repeatedly at the moment. Will we be seeing ducklings as early as February?
It always looks like a form of tough love when ducks do this. The female duck is pushed underwater by the drake, and she cranes her neck up for air. At least this was consensual. Not all mallard ducks are so lucky, and it's not unknown for a gang of males to drown a female as they compete to get their wicked way. This pair spent a minute displaying to each other with bobbing heads before she gave the male the signal.
After another damp and cloudy start to the day, it came out fine in the afternoon. I spent some of the morning reviewing my vegetable seeds, and thinking what we could usefully get at Sunday's Potato Day, and what we need to order from Real Seeds. Then as the day brightened, I went to Leighton Moss.
As the sun lowered in the sky, the Causeway Pool was beautifully lit. There were at least 4 marsh harriers quartering the reedbeds in front of us (and someone told me there are 10 birds on the Reserve at the moment). A peregrine made a rapid circuit over the pool, and there were lapwings jostling for position with the cormorants and great black-backed gulls on the small island. There were water rails squealing and I saw my first snipe of the year motionless and cryptic at the reedbed edge.
I am still feeling fatigued, though definitely better than the last two days. And the weather forecast for the weekend is good.