Why I fly

John’s Buzzard Tail No 1

It was a classic soaring day and I was drifting off downwind towards Aby in my Oly 463. Oh! Why did I sell it!

No other traffic around, i was really enjoying it. Turning right in good lift at about 2,000 ft I was surprised to see a pair of buzzards had joined me on the starboard wing tip.

About a minute later, another pair joined in 10 ft off the first pair. We continued like this almost to cloudbase, 3,400 ft.

The first pair then hooked their talons together, closed their wings and spiralled down dumb-bell fashion. The second pair quickly followed. They must have dropped at least 1,000 ft, maybe more. Breaking apart, they proceeded to soar back up to me. By this time the lift was petering out. i think I lost the centre due to watching the display.

The buzzards made off towards Authorpe wood and I returned to Strubby amazed to have witnessed a bit of raw nature.

John’s Buzzard Tail No 2

I was returning to Strubby late afternoon, flying upwind along a convenient cloud street in my Slingsby Swallow. My Swallow is colourful and has invasion stripes on the nose. This might have a bearing on what happened next.

I could have put on more speed but as it was late in the day and they were packing up on the airfield I chose to fly as slowly as possible and use a bit of air brake to stay out of cloud.

I noticed to my right, about 40-50 yards away, a big male buzzard, on the same heading, doing exactly what I was doing. I slid over and positioned right behind him. probably 10-15 ft behind, what could possibly go wrong?

The buzzard had a beady look at me over his wing and peeled off to the right. Oh bother, I thought, or words to that effect, I’ve scared him off. A minute later he appeared at about 11 o’clock slightly higher than me. Closing at speed he tipped back, wings out to brake and claws out. Before impact he skated just over the canopy and down to the right.

This put my heart rate up a bit as I was thiking of a cockpit full of perspex, blood and feathers, and maybe a semi-conscious, slightly angry eagle. well he repeated the whole process for a second time a short while later.

I read up about this and they can fly at 60+ mph if ,say, mobbed by other birds. I also found that Ray Ash, an Australian vintage glider man had a very similar attack from a wedge tail (Aussie buzzard?). His friend who was flying nearby reported that while the bird was attacking Ray at the front, its mate was sat on the tailplane pecking the rudder!