I've had a fascination with flocks of bird kites, since the first time I remember seeing pictures and videos of the black sparrows from China. It was about 1998 when I purchased some 12 sparrows. I tried flying them individually several times. It seemed like a lot of work for minimal return in satisfactory flying. They remained safely stored away, waiting for some magical time when I will actually try to fly a flock of the black Chinese birds.
Along comes a new flock of birds, waiting patiently for the perfect conditions of preparation, wind, supportive friends and weather. The birds are kite kits designed by Robert Brasington. Several years ago Robert designed these bird kites for a project involving the Drachen Foundation and Brolly Arts, based in Salt Lake City. Made of Tyvek and dowels, this kit made a fun educational project for parks and recreation departments, libraries, teach- ers, and even themed party projects. As a part of the original project, Robert came up with 18 American bird designs. He even made a series of the birds out of ripstop and fiberglass spars. For years following this project the Drachen Foundation sold the Brasington Bird kits on their website. Changes in the industry have made it expensive, if not impossible, to get anything printed on Tyvek. Thus ended the production of the original Brasington Bird kit. In 2013, working with Robert and Windlove, a new Brasington Bird kite kit was designed, made of washi paper and split bamboo, and sold by Kites In The Sky.
So begins my new quest for a flock. This time I dreamed of seeing all 18 of the paper bird kites flying together. I colored the kites with crayons, markers, ink and acrylic paint. I imagined how I might do the setup. How to get 18 Brasington Bird kites up at the same time, flying relatively close together? After a few practice runs at a group fly, I was never able to get more than about six in the air at the same time. I wanted to fly them low to the ground, between 15’ and 40’ up. Not only for the visual effect but also just a matter of time and effort. How much line do I really want to deal with? In Oklahoma, the turbulent wind conditions were not going to allow for such a fly.
I set my sights on attempting a fly at the 2014 Dead Bird Buggy Bash. Epic weather conditions prevailed and I knew I had my chance on Friday, November 28. With beautiful blue skies dotted with an increasing number of clouds, steady, onshore winds of 11-14.
Not only were the weather conditions perfect, the campsite was perfect, right next to the dunes. So with blind confidence, even though it was 70° outside, I trusted that the rattlesnakes were hibernating, and set about the business of flying the flock. In and amongst the dunes were anchored 18 of the American birds, plus one rocket and one abstract art, for 20 Brasington bird kites flying together. They flew together in harmony for several hours. After a year and half, the planning paid off. A special thanks to help from my friends at DBBB for helping make sure no bird kites were harmed during flying of this flock: Jim Day, Marty Lansford, and Sarah McGaffey.