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A flock of kites

April 10, 2011
A Red Kite (Milvus milvus).

Red kite - Image via Wikipedia

I spent yesterday morning sitting in the sun outside our barn making obelisks for an order that needs to be ready this week. The barn begins to double as a workshop very early in the year when temperatures rise enough for it to be bearable and our store of hay and straw for the cattle has diminished sufficient to create some space.

For early April, in southern Britain it was hot. I needed a hat. Spring bulged and there were few places I’d rather be.

About 11am a red kite, Milvus milvus, passed over very slowly, circling the fields, coming into view and disappearing around behind me. A little later I realised there were two birds and spent a while watching them.  The buzzards, Buteo buteo, are almost always noticeable by their call at first, but these beautiful animals were silent and the rooks and jackdaws that habitually chase the buzzards ignored them. Fear or indifference? Probably the latter.

By lunch time, I had finished a second obelisk and glanced across the field, counting kites – three. Four. Now five! I know in the Chilterns there are large numbers and seeing five might be common, but in Gravenhurst I’ve never seen more than a single bird and then rarely.

And now I hear a buzzard. The birds are close enough for me easily to distinguish the two species, even in this bright sunshine. A pair have appeared and seem to be vying with the kites for possession of the area. Nothing violent; more a kind of aerial positioning which reminds me of the start of a yacht race. Each crew attempting to edge ahead of the others at just the right moment. A shout from across the field – David and his son are pointing and making dramatic wing flapping signals. I do the same to say “yes I’ve seem them – fantastic!” 

Watching what amounts to a flock of kites is something I’ll remember for a while. It might become common, but that seems unlikely in a spot so well populated by people and their dogs.

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