I was more than usually pleased to capture a few shots of this red kite up in the Cotswolds this afternoon, because a few minutes earlier I’d slipped on a treacherous bank, and fallen heavily on top of my camera.
The owling forecast for this afternoon was that we might get a couple of hours of broken cloud, and as it was a balmy 14° and sunny down in the Vale I thought it was worth zooming up the Edge to take a look and see if any owls were about. By the time I reached Broadway Tower however, the temperature had dropped to 10° and I was driving through cloud – which was the point at which I should have acquired some sense and abandoned the trip. But I didn’t, and when I arrived at the owl field, although the sky was definitely clearing, it was blowing a hoolie and the ground was absolutely saturated from several hours of heavy rain.
Parking carefully with two wheels on the tarmac, I walked across the verge and up the low bank, slipping a couple of times but managing to stay upright, and reached The Wall, where I was standing completely still, examining the field, when both feet suddenly slid backwards down the bank. There was absolutely nothing I could do to right myself, and it was just luck that by the time I lost my balance completely and tipped over forwards I was far enough away from it not to have smashed face-first into the dry stone wall. As it was, the lens hood of the 100-400 hit the ground first, embedding itself in the mud, and I landed on my sternum on the back of the camera, then tipped over sideways and slid gracefully down the rest of the bank on my back.
Despite being very definitely not pleased, I was too shocked to do more than mutter a comment – I think the word I used was “Excellent!” – as I gingerly peeled myself and the camera out of the slime and got to my feet. I was covered in mud right down my back and both shins, and my hands and elbows were filthy. The camera (and my phone, which was in the back pocket of my jeans) looked as if it had been dipped in chocolate – or something worse – but to my surprise nothing appeared to be broken.
The habits of motherhood dying hard, even when your Offspring are 28 and 25, I carry wet wipes in the car, so I minced across to it and rummaged messily in the boot until I found them, and then cleaned my hands and the camera and lens as well as I was able. There was no point at all in trying to clean the rest of me, which looked as though it was going to need to be boiled.
It was then, with the camera lying in the boot alongside a growing pile of filthy wipes, that I spotted the kite over the road. I think this is the same bird which tries its luck quite regularly over the owl fields, but which is firmly shown the exit by the owls if they happen to be out hunting themselves; but today, with the owls hunkered down, it had a free run over their territory. I just had time to pick up the camera and rattle off a few shots before it moved on, and pleased as I was to have captured a couple of decent ones, the real thrill was the fact that the lens focused with no more than the usual difficulty of picking up a brown thing against a brown background in poor light – rendering me slightly weak at the knees with relief, if I’m honest.
I was still standing there, photographing a flock of golden plover displaying over the nearby farm, when the farmer arrived to ask if I’d seen the raptor well enough to identify it. He examined me up and down and front and back, and said, “You’ve done yourself good and proper, haven’t you?” – a judgement I found it hard to dispute. His dog, which is normally super-friendly, sniffed at me delicately and elected to keep his distance, which though slightly hurtful was, again, probably not unreasonable.
I’ve put five shots of the kite here, if you’re not too exhausted by this saga to care.