White frost glistens at our feet, sunlight illuminates the reed beds, like a winter flowering. We walk to the causeway hide beneath a sky of intense blue shading to icy pallor. All this and birds too.
The hide frames our gaze, our focus on the freshwater pool where Ice reaches from the reed beds, slowing the flow. The blue sky is mirrored in the pool until the gleam fades and we look up to see a breath-taking pattern of flowing cumulus, white on blue.
Some pintail are feeding. They're dabbling ducks and often show with heads plunged into the water, tails above the surface. They come up clutching a strand of vegetation, beak spilling water like a sieve. Beads of water stand proud on plumage, on waterproof feathers. The male pintail is a handsome bird, named for its long tail feathers. The speculum shows green.
By mid-February the birds will be resplendent in breeding plumage. I wonder when the changes begin to take place, and how quickly. They'll also be in courtship pairs so transitions of plumage and behaviour will mark the photoperiod, the increasing length of daylight hours.