On a warm mid-September afternoon I'm watching a family of great crested grebes out on the lake.

Both parents are with a single fledgling who is not much smaller and is constantly uttering a shrill squeak demanding to be fed.

The male has found a shoal of fish near the margin and with body and long neck extended just clearing the surface he is peering below before diving.

I'm amazed to see that he remains under water for up to thirty seconds before re-surfacing many metres away, his large powerful webbed feet designed to propel him rapidly along.

In fact, with legs placed so far back at the rear of his body he cannot walk on land and would topple over onto his tummy, so spends most of his life on the surface and builds his nest there.

The male catches a fish about every fifteen minutes, holds it in his beak and paddles towards the squeaking youngster, every few seconds dipping the fish in water presumably to keep it supple.

On one occasion the female and fledgling have moved to the other side of the lake and the male searches for sometime before locating them.

The youngster grabs the fish but continues cheeping for more.

The summer plumage of great crested grebes is very colourful and in Elizabethan times the birds were killed for their showy feathers which were used to decorate fashionable ladies hats to the extent that the grebes were almost exterminated.

However, they became protected just in time and now most large water bodies and stretches of river boast a pair or two.