Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s Go Fly A Kite

The high winds here over the last week have been brutal and its been hard to do anything outside without worrying that you’re going to end up in Kansas. At the allotment people’s sheds have blown over, greenhouses have moved and crops have been damaged. I’ve been lucky that my allotment has been relatively unscathed and now the weather has settled I’ve spent a lot of my time tidying, mulching, weeding and planning. I have a really useful RHS crop planner (courtesy of my Mum) which tells you exactly what and when you should be sowing, planting and harvesting. It’s stuck up on my pin-board as a helpful reminder about what I should be doing throughout the year.

There were some birds of prey circling above the chicken runs recently. We joked that they were after our poultry but thankfully all the chucks are undercover at the moment due to the Avian Flu outbreak. After watching them for a while I noticed that they had a forked tail, unlike the Buzzards we regularly see who have a fanned tail. After my daughter had confirmed that I wasn’t seeing things I exclaimed ‘Hooray! We have Red Kites!’ And did a little happy dance.

I was a passionate birder when I was a child; spending my allowance on membership to the RSPB’s Young Ornithologists Club (YOC). I used to sit in the dining room, binoculars trained on our bird table and identification book in hand. One of my favourite species were birds of prey. I drew them in my sketchbook, collected ceramic owls and hoped one day to have a Harris Hawk called Harry.

Just thirty years ago Red Kites had vanished from skies in both England and Scotland. The bird of prey had been persecuted to near extinction by the 20th century leaving just two breeding pairs in Central Wales.

Red Kites are impressive looking birds with a wingspan of nearly two metres, deeply forked tail and reddish-brown body. They are mainly carrion but will also feed on small mammals and have been known to hunt live birds and sometimes even reptiles. They have a call similar to the Common Buzzard, although it is less mewling, and more of a piping sound.

The UK now boasts an estimated 4,600 breeding pairs of Red Kites and it is thought that Britain’s kite population could eventually reach around 50,000 pairs. It is fantastic to see that one of the world’s longest running protection programmes has successfully re-introduced the bird to our countryside and it is thriving. I feel very lucky that they have chosen to live near us.