Black Kite – Dunberry Hill, Hampshire

Three hundred or so birders stood at the base of Dunberry Hill on the Saturday morning, I was still asleep in my bed in Poole. When I got up I was sort of relieved to see that the bird had not been seen and with the days running out before I went back to work on Monday I was not hopeful of seeing the kite.

I was surprised and excited, however, when the bird was relocated at 10am over Braemore Wood just over the border into Wiltshire and fairly soon I was on my way. Apparantly most birders where happy to watch the kite at a range of 1 mile or so. It was particularly difficult to navigate the windy country lanes and not easy to assess whereabouts the bird was in relation to the roads. Several birders, however, managed to track it down and it was watched closely alongside the A338 just south of Downton.

I was well on my way by now and so I headed directly towards Downton. The pager indicated that the Kite was still present and being viewed at relatively close range from a lay bay on the A338. I got to within 10 minutes of the lay-by before the pager reported that the kite had disappeared off to the west again. This was extremely frustrating and I spent half an hour or so in the lay-by hoping it would return. It didn’t and in the end I decided to head back to Dunberry Hill via Braemore and Whitsbury. Birders were spread far and wide hoping to catch a glimpse of the Black Kite as it drifted overhead. It was clearly covering a large area and so you had to trust to luck.

After a period of driving around aimlessly I headed for the highest point in the area and hoped that might help. Many other birders had the same idea and I joined a largish group near Manor Farm north of Whitsbury. The views of the bird, if we had any, would be panoramic but distant. We were looking south east towards Braemore Wood hoping that it would reappear with buzzards on the thermals over the wood, it didn’t and after an hour several of us decided to head around the corner and view the western area.

This was the direction that the bird had reappeared from on the two previous afternoons. This seemed hopeful and our spirits began to rise as a raptor began to approach from the west, it was still distant but it looked good. Several birders then began to seem certain that this was it and some began to celebrate. It was getting closer and closer and we would get excellent views. As it approached I began to doubt that this was a kite and sure enough the bird suddenly began to look like a Common Buzzard, it really did appear to change. It is amazing how wishful thinking can cloud your judgement. I was now beginning to lose hope, it was close to 3pm.

As things seemed bleak another raptor suddenly appeared over the sheep near the haystack at the base of Dunberry Hill. We were about 300 yards away and the bird was very near the plantation. Almost immediately it was obvious that this was the Black Kite. I waited to get some better views but in the end I decided to risk it, I ran back to the car and drove as fast as possible back to where I had originally been on that foggy Thursday morning.

The risk paid off and the kite was still present drifting over the haystack, it made several passes and I was able to get excellent views as it passed right over my head. What an incredible relief! Dad couldn’t make it on the Saturday but had good views on the Sunday and the bird was seen periodically until Friday 10th September. The Black Kite turned out to be the longest staying ever in Southern England, it was present for 16 days.

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