"Grey" doesn't have to mean "boring"...

November 25, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

I've not had too much time to blog recently what with one thing or another, but thought I'd very briefly put electronic pen to electronic paper (so to speak) today...


Whilst I suppose my blood is at least semi-Scottish (but hardly semi-skimmed I fear) and only days before I got together with my (now) wife I was perilously close to going "back" to Scotland to live and work on the shores of Loch Leven (as a baker), I've always joked about how "grey" Scotland is.

Seemed to me each time I crossed the border from England, everything would go grey.

The roads. Black in England... grey in Scotland.

The granite buildings.

The leaden skies.

The dreary food. (Think porage, haggis or the filling to a Forfar Bridie).

The people.

Even the crows turn grey in Scotland...!

(Apologies to any proud Scots reading this!)

Today I felt like I was back in Scotland...


It's been a grey day in southern England.

A dreich day.

I was working from my Reading office today, right on the banks of the Thames.

I strolled along the towpath on the way to the car and a duck caught my eye.

Not the omnipresent mallards, nor even one of the exotic escapees such as Carolina wood duck or Mandarin that frequent this particular stretch of the Thames, having broken free from local collections such as Beale Park.

Not even a tiny but spectacular teal that I once saw being harangued by the rampant, oversexed mallards at the same spot several years ago.

Something much duller than any mallard, teal, mandarin or wood duck. Well... at first glance anyway....


You'll recognise gadwall because of their grey, non-descript appearance (at least from a distance), white specula (wing flashes) but most of all their jet black backsides. At a distance (how you'll see them most often) they look like dull mallard ducks (rather than drakes) with a black arse.

They aren't rare at all but are often overlooked. 

A mistake.

And we Brits don't like stuff that's TOO showy and exotic do we? We often root for the underdog. Demure is sometimes very attractive, no?!


Now maybe it's just me, but I don't get to see many gadwall up close too often. They tend to be quite skittish and at the first sign of a human approaching, they turn tail and paddle off.

This afternoon in the grey mizzle over the Thames though - this particular gadwall walked calmly towards me down the tow path.

I've never had gadwall down as dull ducks. Every time I have been fortunate enough to see one up close, I've always stopped to admire their exquisite breast feather markings. These markings are almost unnoticeable at a distance, but up close they're something else.

I spent a good five minutes under the grey skies of drizzly Berkshire this afternoon, alongside the grey river Thames, in my grey trousers, with my fast-greying hair and with grey bags (too much staring at a monitor) under my grey eyes looking at a quite beautiful and hugely underrated grey duck.

I would have ordinarily perhaps taken a photo but I'm trying to start painting again at present (rather than take photos) so I didn't have my camera with me.

A shame - a close encounter with such an exquisitely-marked duck could have done with a photo really...

So instead I'll leave you with a couple of photos I took with my old bridge camera 5 or 6 years ago, of the "dull grey duck"...

Nothing dull about the gadwall. 

Nothing at all.



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