The day started well, but deteriorated steadily from lunch time onwards. Luckily I had to be in Stratford mid-morning for a dental appointment, and as I walked into town along the river afterwards to meet up with R, I was able to take advantage of the sparkling light. At the time I remember thinking that the warm sunshine would be bringing out a lot of insects to bask and feed, and that it would be worth a mini-beast safari around the garden when we got home, but it wasn't to be: we drove west into gathering gloom, and just as we pulled into the yard it began to rain. By the time I set off out again for choir practice this evening it was wet and stormy, and the journey to and from Chipping Campden was pretty unpleasant. Almost as if it was November.
As usual I havered over my choice of photo this evening; I have some shots of swans and gulls that I like too. But I haven't posted a mallard for a while, probably because they're so ubiquitous that it's easy to overlook them, and I did love the way this drake was gleaming in the low winter sun.
Mallards begin to pair up during the autumn and winter, in preparation for breeding in the early spring, and there was some quite territorial behaviour going on at the canal basin this morning. It's common to see pairs copulating from about now, though the females won't begin to create their nests and lay their eggs until February or March. This very dapper male was definitely out to impress the ladies, and I watched him seeing off several competitors from a little territory he's declared for himself in the basin, but at this time of year the UK also plays host to a large number of the mallards that breed in Iceland and Scandinavia, and I have no way of knowing whether he's a resident breeding bird or a migrant. It's been estimated that the winter population may be as many as 700,000 individuals, but interestingly the RSPB believes that this winter population is now falling, while at the same time the breeding population is increasing.