Walking round Linlithgow Loch the other evening, Jennifer and I stopped to watch two lesser black-backs acting oddly. They were gently chatting, stroking necks, raising and lowering heads, giving crooning calls. Obviously some sort of courtship ritual.
After several minutes the male walked behind the female and clambered clumsily up onto her back.
He had his wings partially unfolded and she took small circular steps, both in an effort to maintain their piggyback position. It reminded me of the bareback rider in my childhood pop-up circus.
After a minute or so of balance the male fell off without successfully having mated. Having fallen he immediately plucked up a bundle of dried grass cuttings and presented them to her. It seemed to work because soon the head and neck movements restarted, and soon after that he was back on top.
Again he stood, again he fell, again the whole process repeated.
On his third time piggybacking (since we'd started watching) the actual act of mating took place - he lowered his tail and rear end, she raised hers... a brief shaking... and off he stepped to stand again beside her.