Each year toward the end of July most South African birdwatchers scour the skies for Yellow-Billed Kites in anticipation of their return to our part of Africa to breed. Facebook is full birders announcing their first sighting for the season.
Today I was with a group of birdwatchers at Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve, the first topic of conversation was who had seen their first kite.
Every year it was a tradition for my father and myself to compete as to who would see the first Yellow-Billed Kite. Dad always won. He had retired in Scottburgh and would go walking twice a day. Often he visited TC Robertson a nature reserve nearby. I was working and stuck in an office, so my only opportunity was the weekends. For all those years, Dad would phone and announce he had found “his” kite and I was still trailing behind looking for “mine”.
When my Dad grew older he moved to a retirement home near where I live. So the race was now on for a kite in the same area. I honestly thought I had a chance as he wasn’t walking that much anymore. No such luck. His verandah where he spent most of his time overlooked Burman Bush. He won the competition hands down.
Never once in all the years did I win. It became a standing joke and a tradition in the family. Often times if one of my siblings saw their “first” kite they too would inform Dad. But he always had his bird under his belt.
Then in January 2015 my parents had to move to frail care. Dad insisted both his bed and his chair faced the window – which overlooked Burman Bush. This was the first year I beat my Dad. In November my father peacefully passed away and the competition finally came to an end.
This competition has however left a legacy for our family. Two Yellow-Billed Kite seasons as have passed since Dad left us. Now, whenever they arrive not only do I welcome them even more warmly, my siblings are reminded of my Dad and even some of my friends who followed the competition much to their amusement.