For our familiar mallard ducks the breeding season starts early, long before the welcome warmth of spring arrives to take the chill off the land.
As early as October they begin to pair up, the males displaying enthusiastically despite the driving rain and freezing winds.
Today on a relatively warm and sunny day in February I witnessed a pair mating down on the water, the male still looking somewhat scruffy as he moults into his fresh breeding plumage.
The pair performed a ritual of head bobbing, each extending and lowered the neck in turn before the female lowered herself down and allowed the male to clamber onto her back.
One aboard the male seized the female by the back of the neck with his beak to keep his balance.
Mating is brief, which is fortunate for the female, who is almost entirely submerged by the weight of the male during the process.
All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2018 ©
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