I try hard to move silently along the edge of Fairwood Lake. There are always ducks here in winter, but getting close is not easy. It’s just after first light, and through the trees I can make out shapes on the water; definitely mallard and teal, and I think gadwall as well. It takes just one snap of a twig underfoot to send moorhens scurrying away from the bank, and spook the ducks. They don’t fly far, just to the other side of the pond behind the island, but destroying any hope of a decent photograph. I try to sit perfectly still and wait, hidden in the middle of a willow tree by the edge of the pond. It takes time, but slowly the mallard drift out again to the centre of the pond, followed by the gadwall, but the shy teal stay hidden by the bank. As the light improves, shovelers, a pair of tufted ducks and several moorhens inch closer, but all seem to be aware of my presence, and keep a safe distance. My only chance is a little grebe, diving continuously only a short distance from the shore. He seems not to know I’m here, but my photographic skills aren't good enough to catch the moment when he bobs up, always in an unexpected place. It’s not just the water that holds life here; there are birds moving about in the willows and alders by the lake. I sit motionless as they pass by, mostly blue and great tits, but chaffinches too.
The light gradually improves, the moorhens settle and finally get closer, and at last I'm able to get my hard-earned photograph, which in no way compares with the dozens of amazing shots taken by by son Chris.
To my right a lichen covered wooden fence marks an old field-boundary, and I hear a rustle among a tangle of hawthorns; a fox that had got close before seeing me, was off like a flash. I’m not sure who was the most startled.