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Black Kite- Bird of Prey

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A first hand account of my battle for territory with the visiting Black Kite and its brood!

This gorgeous creature is no stranger to me. In fact, we’re engaged in a bit of a tango. This juvenile Black Kite, like the rest of its family and friends seems convinced, the house we live in, is actually its own! It isn’t that our house has invaded an area which may have been the traditional habitat of this bird. It’s just that we’ve kept our surroundings greener than the neighbours, which gives them plenty of perches from where to survey the lie of the land as it were and to add to that our home happens to have a large terrace with one section raised higher, with a water tank atop it. This area has been conveniently appropriated by the Kites, leading them to wonder if ‘we’ might be the unfriendly intruders in ‘their’ territory.

So much so, these otherwise magnificent birds have really pushed me to the edge, forcing me to test my resolve about cohabitation. To hell with the idea of ‘live and let live’, I have caught myself saying a lot lately. Of course I enjoy their presence. This display of comfort from them as they sit wings outstretched to the sun, perched on the eucalyptus tree outside our front gates, the morning after a night of rain is proof that they don’t mind me pointing the camera at them to shoot. But we both know we’ve had our fair share of encounters. Till a couple of months ago, I used the terrace as my open-air gym. I’d spread my mat, carry my weights and other equipment there and park myself in the shade each morning till done. But I was shocked when one day, these birds decided to turn aggressive. One unguarded moment and I’d have one of these huge things fly straight at me. They’d swoop down from behind when I least expected, strike me on the head and disappear. Not a friendly hello, I can assure you! One after another, they’d come for me, always striking the top of my head and mostly from behind. Their deadly talons would leave tell-tale signs. Once I ended up with a cut on my forehead and another time a scratch on my head. It got so unpleasant, I started to carry a long stick with me to scare them off. A running, screaming, freaked-out scare crow of sorts!

I knew they had a huge nest up in one of the tall eucalyptus trees nearby. I noticed that when the attacks became more frenzied, there were more of them rushing off to the nest, taking turns. I guess they had little hatchlings at the time and were feeling particularly vulnerable with a potential predator my size, at an elevation, on their beloved terrace. This was them working overtime and going overboard to protect their young.

By then, I had become quite paranoid about them. I wouldn’t even step out of the main gate on the ground floor without stick in hand, because they would attack all and sundry without warning. But I was also feeling somewhat belligerent and unwilling to cede space to them. So, I’d go up to the terrace each day and waste half the time meant for my workout, fending off these fiendish dragons in the air. I suppose what I lost in terms of exercise, I gained in honing my sixth sense, learning to read the bird’s shadow to predict where the next strike was coming from, developing what I thought was a third eye… well, I guess I was preparing for a full-blown battle for habitat. If it’s going to be about me or you, it’ll be me, I said. But I wasn’t all that methodical, precise or successful. I’ll admit I was simply no match for them. The truth is, I could hear myself screaming at random birds in the air daily, challenging them to come get a piece of me!! I think I nearly lost it 🙂

Then, in self-interest, I decided to become a bit more reasonable. Turning into a screaming banshee was plain foolish. Thank goodness no one was around taking pictures of me in action! I made a tactical retreat from the battle-terrace. I wondered secretly if there was some way I could get my hands on an air gun perhaps. Taxidermy crossed my mind too. I felt somewhat like a character from Alfred Hitchcock’s horror film, ‘The Birds’.

But that was then. Several months down the line, I’m back to liking the ‘Birds’ again. More recently, this juvenile Black Kite landed on our grape canopy. It sat there quite a while posing for pictures etc before taking wing. Must’ve made its peace too!

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It’s a good thing, I don’t need to fight for the terrace with my winged visitors anymore. I’ve moved to Yoga, which only needs me to find enough space to lay my mat, and I’m quite comfortable indoors. Quite likely, this was one the juveniles that was being protected all this while, because now that its out and about, the birds have all calmed down. For all you know, this is only a temporary truce… until the next breeding season!

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Author: Elizabeth Jane

I am an India-based freelance journalist. When I'm not busy being a mum, I sometimes pick up the camera, cook up a little something in my head or the kitchen, potter around the plants, roll around with the dogs, ponder about things, pick on many others or stretch out on the yoga mat. At other times I like to document things in no particular order of significance...

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