Blue-green water, flecked with floating particles, sparkling in the late afternoon sun, and rippled by a sketchy breeze. A Great Crested Grebe makes a slightly grotesque, hunched shape on the water, its head pulled down on its throat, its chest a bulging white prow, prodding bluntly into the gently slapping waves. A half-closed, beady red eye is the only clear sign of life.

A little later and this compact bit of feathered flotsam is somehow in the company of another, identical vessel, the two moving in approximate unison, subtly keeping time and moving strategically around the centre of the inlet.

Later still, as the day cools, the wind stills and the sky slows and glows, the real grebes emerge. They morph smoothly into elegant, sleek-necked dancers, blessed with balletic poise and timing, and clad in strident, art-deco plumage. Moving sinuously together, they enact an ancient courtship, each a daring mirror-image of the other, and each performance as steeped in passion as it is engrained by time.

Angular and sleek, richly patterned and with the most brilliantly concise choreography, they paint their perfect love on the water.


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