Today I spent a lot of time in the garden staring skywards. British Airways kindly made it possible for me to be at home this bank holiday weekend rather than abroad as originally planned, which meant I was able to engage in one last push for treble figures before I shut up shop for the summer and join the odonata-loving hoards.
So after I had mowed the lawn and weeded a couple of flower beds I plonked myself in a garden chair for some well earned relaxation and started to read my phone about the continuing chaos at Heathrow that I had thankfully only minimally got caught up in yesterday. Who needs Florida anyway? Red Kite used to be a difficult bird here, although in late March and early April local birders' chances increase as birds start to move around a bit. As with Peregrine I missed all the early action, but I was confident that it would come good. All it needed was a bit of monumental IT failure karma.
And so five minutes after I had sat down in my chair I espied three very distant and high dots. Two were Buzzards and the third was a Gull. Whilst I was unsuccessfully trying to alert Bob to the former, a nearer bird caught my eye....
I raced upstairs, grabbed my camera from my as-yet unpacked hand-luggage and dashed back downstairs again to find the bird still on view. Most satisfying, and most importantly has allowed me to notch up three figures on the patch before June. Without this bird today I was probably looking at Spotted Flycatcher in August for #100. Anyway, here it is. I've gone for the more authentic "back of camera" approach as the photo is so rubbish.
After social media-ing this bird to the max I settled back down in my chair, content in a good job done. Basking. About 50 minutes later, ever alert, blow me if another one didn't sail across the sky. Given it was heading the opposite direction to the first, I assumed it must be the same bird coming back, but the photo tells a different story. This bird has a less ragged tail, and appears to also have a better set of wings, as well as two distinct notches in P7 and one in P8 that the first bird doesn't have. It was also a lot lower which resulted in a photograph that was inexplicably equally as naff, thus:
A bit more pottering in the greenhouse, a spot of lunch and some more sitting, all accompanied by the inner glow which only comes from the realisation that in 13 years of skywatching in the garden, including two years of domestic godliness, I'd only ever seen two Red Kites and had now doubled that number in under an hour.
I had joked online about the hat-trick being 'on' without really believing it, so when this flew over about two hours later I was genuinely surprised. Inspecting the photo it looks to me like this is a third bird, and one that is progressively in finer nick than the first two. Look at the tail on that!
And so despite having my holiday plans trashed by corporate ineptitude that borders on gross negligence, I reckon I can say have had a pretty decent day, unlike many people still gamely trying to go on holiday (my trip was only four days, I've simply binned it). Three Red Kites over the same small patch of airspace in one day is superb, and I can head into the summer period pleased with a good job done.