Sunday, 25 January 2009

Red Kites, Buzzards and a Kestrel

Although rain was forecast for much of the day, I decided to go out for a bike ride and, fortunately, it didn't really materialise. I cycled down towards Whitwell and then stopped by the side of a road going up towards Preston. I had my eye on a sheltered place by some woodland and thought I would just stop and see what happened. It was a quiet road and, as usual I wasn't expecting anything to happen.

As I approached my stopping place I noticed two red kites circling around a magnificent ivy covered oak tree by the side of the road. The birds were very distinctive - large birds of prey with a noticeably forked tail. The peace of the place was disturbed by five rather strung out runners who seemed to take ages to pass me. I just stood with my bike an the grass verge wondering what to do and where to look before sitting down on the ground with my sketch pad. Once the runners had finally passed and my gaze returns to the kites, a car pulls up and a man gets out. He had seen the kites and, as he didn't know what they were, stopped to have a look too. One kite was so close to us, just gliding silently and gently, and only a few yards above us - you could almost count the individual feathers when its tail fanned out. Our talking probably encourages it to leave and it glides off over the fields. The man drives off.

The air is quiet. A few blue tits (?) are in a nearby hedge and I hear the sound of crows and a pheasant in the distance. The westerly wind swayes the woodland trees, I am sheltered in this place. The air is cool, not cold. The sky is heavily overcast and a fine mist fills the landscape as a light drizzle dampens my sketchpad. The kite returns and I watch it circling around the tree, graceful, quiet, delicate - then away over the fields it goes. In the sky I also see seagulls and two ducks flying over far above me.

I cycle on a few hundred yards. A kestrel dives from the top of a telegraph pole into the field only a few yards in front of me just as a car approaches. I have to move into a gateway to allow it to pass. The kestrel flies up and then down again into the tussocky grass. Then up it goes and it lands on a power line about 10 feet above me. Then off it goes and lands on wires over the middle of a field. I turn round and see a buzzard scareing some crow in a distant wood. It flies over the fields and into woodland behind the kestrel. A red kite is also in the sky and I see these three magnificent birds of prey together in the same field of view. Two buzzards appear above the woodland and circle behind the kestrel, still perched on its wire. Their rounded tails, slightly upturned wing tips and less graceful flight easily separates them from the kites.

It was amazing how a seemingly insignificant patch of road could suddenly provide so much activity and interest.

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