On Saturday morning, while I was playing fetch with Bill's dog, Skip, I heard a strange bird-call. I scoured the neighbouring copse with my binoculars for ten minutes before I tracked down the exotic creature: a great tit. Oh, well. Great spotted woodpeckers were drumming incessantly on tree-trunks and calling loudly, establishing their territories, but I only snatched a couple of glimpses of them as they flew through the trees.
Meanwhile, upstairs, Jen threw back the bedroom curtains, only to see a stag of some sort ambling across the field. Needless to say, I didn't see it.
A short while later, a red kite circled overhead, on the look-out for carrion. It was only then that it occurred to me that I should have had my camera ready, as you're practically guaranteed to see a red kite or two at Bill's.
Having learnt my lesson, I had my camera ready next morning, as I played ball with Skip once more. So, of course there was no sign of any red kites. Then, as we were packing, I glanced out of the window and saw three of them soaring together. In a blind panic, I fumbled my camera out of its bag, threw open the window, and managed to fire off a few shots before the kites disappeared.
Never, ever put your camera away! You should know that by now, Richard!
By a serendipitous coincidence, two of my best friends were both staying in or very near to Grange-over-Sands last weekend: Mike until noon on Sunday, and Stense on Sunday evening and Monday. So I invited myself over to Mike's place to kill two birds with one stone.
The weather, it must be said, wasn't much to write home about, but I did manage to get a hill-walk in with each of my pals: Hampsfell with Mike, and Whitbarrow Scar with Stense. Both of them brought black dogs named Milly along. In between these walks, I even managed to slot in a solo trip to Coniston Water on a brief literary pilgrimage.
In Berkshire, visiting Bill. Fifteen minutes ago, I was playing ball with Skip the dog, when a red kite drifted by, low above the adjacent copse. It was silhouetted against the early morning sun, twisting its body, as kites do, to adjust its flight-path. It was clearly searching for carrion.
Red kites are doing pretty well down here. We almost always see one or two when we visit Bill: a conservation success story (red kites, that is, not Bill). They haven't managed to re-establish themselves in West Yorkshire yet. Perhaps one day. If the local gamekeepers will let them.