The Mournful Call of Red Kite Chicks

Out of the pines tilted on the tip of the ridge

Wheezy cries limp across the heath

Sounds of an aged asthmatic held hostage in a loose bed of twigs

Drawing out creaky breaths in a sickly rhythm

Plaintive, pathetic pleas for attention from a speechless chest

On an open ward where the staff are busy

Taking a coffee, or answering less urgent emails

Where the breathing apparatus has been shut off

And nature’s course is entering the final turn

~

CLP 25/07/2020

On High

Clouds form on warm air

Raptors spiralling upwards

Buzzards high as kites

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n.b. A wonderful scene. Two red kites circling up from the recently mowed field on an updraft. Far above, just visible to the naked eye, three buzzards on a carousel of rising warm air, their random calls of “ke-whee” carrying across the Glaven valley.

The photograph catches the light, not the graceful flight paths of these big birds, nor indeed the birds, but they were there.

The day clouded over and rain came later.

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CLP 15/07/2020

Day 46

Winds from the south-west are more amenable than most. They will make it easier for the swifts to get here. Swifts are the birds of summer for me. I look forward to their arrival in the next few days.

In the interim swallows and martins are becoming more common now. I watched two martins gathering mud from the creek this morning for nest building. As the tide runs out the River Glaven rapidly empties, exposing silty shoals for the house martins to collect mud for their inverted adobe nests under the eaves of the older houses of the village. Sadly, one still hears of some people in the village who knock down the mud nests with a broom in order to keep their house walls tidy.

A red kite circles the village. At one point it turns in a slow gliding movement with wings fully spread. It becomes backlit by the high sun thereby exposing the full beauty of its wing patterning. The bird becomes more than just a shadow in the sky. Each kite’s markings are unique within the natural range of the species and this moment of rare illumination gives a sense of this big raptor being an individual.

Yesterday afternoon I heard one cuckoo, but today, while sitting at the front porch, one calls from a tree just to my right and then another responds from down the lane, toward the church. After a couple of exchanges between these two, a third more distant cuckooing carries down the hill. Was there a fourth, fainter from further? This was the first time that I had heard more than a couple of these birds calling to each other. Their collective presence may not be good news for nest-builders locally, but as an addition to the orchestra of birdsongs here this spring, it is wonderful to hear them.

I stretch out on the wooden bench in the garden during the early afternoon to enjoy feeling the sun heat my bare chest. There is no reason to be anywhere else.

You are busy elsewhere. I am not. I look forward to speaking with you again when the time is right.

.

Christopher Perry

2nd May 2020

Day 14

The wind has dropped and on the way to the shop, the air feels soft. The birds seem to be less agitated in the hedgerows and bushes on the way down to the village shop.

There are still only a few leaves on the thorn bushes and their spikes glint in the rising sun’s light by the main road. A wren hops about inside, quite happily; safe from large intruders.

Not all the reeds on the other side of the coast road have been cut down, so they remain home of small birds who discreetly tweet to each other until they fall silent when a walker’s shadow passes over.

On one of the scrapes of the bird reserve a commotion kicks up.  A marsh harrier’s arrival has taken the curlew, redshanks and ducks by surprise. Travelling into the breeze, between the shingle bank and the road, the harrier keeps low to the inflorescences of the remaining water reeds for cover. A lapwing cries out, all a flap, it creates a scene, tries to distract the ranging raptor, so that all the birds below are shaken up. A whirl of wings and cacophony of calls and the shallow pond is vacated. Regardless, the marsh harrier maintains its hunting, something will reveal itself in an unguarded moment; maybe not a small bird, but a rodent exposed in the goose-grazed grass.

In early afternoon, driving through the woods to get essential supplies we slow to let a small deer clear the road and this disturbs a hare. It leaps up and bounds in a rapid zig-zag through the blue-bell plants that are yet to flower here. The size and speed of the hare is remarkable and unmistakable.  The deer just stepped coolly through the untidy woodland floor, calm as you like.

In the early evening, sat with my back to the shed, facing the sun this feels as it might in summer more than a hundred summers ago. Just the neighbours quietly in their gardens, no sound of motor vehicles, no sight of planes. The largest thing in the sky is the huge red kite, who continues to familiarise herself with the seasonal changes in her recently discovered domain. Protected by statute as she maybe, we’ll see if the game-keeper at the local shoot will allow her to establish herself safely here.

No news from my son, which is good news. He works steadily on.

I am up until quite late, then listen to the latest chapter of the story you are recording for me. It is a long chapter in a long book, in a series of six volumes, (I think). I have to scroll back several times to ensure that I have followed it all. After all the magic I must sleep.

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CLP  1st April 2020

Day 3

Early to the heath accompanied by birds in full song. A red kite hangs above the oak trees trying to get a fix on breakfast despite the gusting northerly.

Three other birds of prey wheel, hover, patrol the ridge.

From the still sodden fields curlews agitated cries cut through melodies of dunnocks and robins; contrast with the squeaky rhythm of great tits welcoming spring.

A Muntjac deer with its back legs caught in the fence wire, hangs head down, front legs limp, its rear torn open by a fox, crimson.

On the way back down the lane my attention is held by a movement on the verge. I see a mouse, its tiny marble-black eyes glint from beneath celandine leaves. We spend moments staring at each other. The mouse loses interest first and scrambles off leaving wavering plants in its wake.

By evening the bitter wind from the north sweeps up the hill from the sea, over the head of a red deer hind with her fawn nibbling at crumbs left by goats from their plastic bucket.

The spectacular yellow blooms of gorse purses are open for business. A bumble bee passes loudly, yet unseen.

I go to bed.

“Night night”

“Good night, dear friend.”

It has been Friday.

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CLP  20/03/2020