There is something totally mesmerising about watching a kestrel hover – the mastery of the air, the control, the way they read every shift in the wind, while the bird’s focus seems totally on scanning the ground for a meal. How do that stay so still, seemingly fixed to their chosen spot? I can watch for delicious minutes, always wanting to stay transfixed myself until the bird moves on to new hunting grounds.
The black kites of the Kathmandu Valley absorb me in the same way. They patrol the skies over the urban sprawl, forked tails subtly adjusting, wings making small movements so the kites can circle and quarter or join friends moving up in graceful spirals on a thermal they’ve found. They are unpopular – refuse-eaters. Sometimes a crow half its size will take umbrage at its presence and will hassle the kite, getting above it, swooping down on it, mobbing it, giving a ‘you are not welcome’ message. The kites hardly notice.
Last evening, a lonely cry made me take my gaze up. One kite was calling another. As they met, they swirled around each other and the golden sun caught their feathers so they too were burnished. They pirouetted, playing, cavorting, flirting, calling, then locked claws and spiralled to the ground in a crazy spin. I lost sight of them behind a building.
Soon enough though they reappeared, flapping upwards again, circling, maybe to continue their courtship.
The photos below aren't of kites or kestrels but hey, you can't have everything....