A dull, dreary winter's day. Not a breath of wind stirs the surface of the sluggish Thames shining dully like black treacle.

An icy chill seeps into every corner and crevice. Contrasting sharply with the water, gulls loaf, hunched up, their plump white forms reminiscent of a plateful of meringues. Flocks of tufted ducks and coots dive to bob up with open beaks clamped to what appear to be water snails which are swallowed after painful looking gulps.

No rising fish dimple the water as most surface feeding species like dace and bleak hug the river bed in listless shoals. Cormorants, with an angular almost prehistoric look about them perch in bankside trees occasionally swooping down to swim in characteristic waterlogged fashion, heads erect, backs scarcely visible (pictured).

A pair of great crested grebes cruise by taking turns to dive and reappear many metres away, fishless. The whole scene conveys a state of quiet suspended animation, a feeling of resignation to the rigours of winter as nature rests before the first warmth of spring triggers a new beginning.

Suddenly the silence is shattered by the clamour of a squadron of Canada geese, football hooligans of the bird world. They have spotted someone throwing bread and arrive at the same time as the gulls which quickly spring into life to fight among the crusts.

The tufted ducks move away from the melee while the gulls gorge. Two swans sail majestically by creating battleship-style bow waves ,wings raised aloft in aggressive posture . But they are ignored by the throng as satisfying hunger is a priority on such a cold day.

Their offering exhausted, the people stroll away and very soon the birds settle again on their previous stations, silent, somnolent, replete.