Once upon a time in a galaxy far far away…. well actually Great Britain in the late 18th Century. At this time you would have been extremely lucky to have seen one of the most beautiful birds of prey in the British countryside. The Red Kite. Persecuted throughout the 17th and 18th Century, only in mid-Wales did this magnificent bird hang on although numbers were down to just a few pairs. Even by the late 1980s the number of breeding pairs in Wales was in the 50s, and still none bred in England and Scotland.
Today, driving round the twisting turning roads of mid-Wales, up and over valleys a million shades of green, and against a deep blue sky it seems every few miles a bird will appear from behind a tree line, from behind the steep sides of a valley, or over a distant ridge. With long slender wings and finger tips spread, a deeply forked tail and reddish brown feathers with striking white patches under the wing and a silvery grey head, there is only one bird it can be. The success of the red kite recovery means that today these special birds are seen not only through mid-Wales, but also in the flat landscape of eastern England, through the mountains of Scotland and from the motorways of southern England.
|The magnificent red kite returned to the skies of Great Britain|
The recovery is down to a dedicated group of people and organisations; to a re-introduction programme, protection and to monitoring breeding birds. Just one example of how a species can be brought back from the brink by passion and dedication.
Today the programme of monitoring red kite nests continues, with as many chicks ringed and wing tagged as possible. It’s not every bird ringer that gets to sit in the cool shade of oak woodland, looking out across fields and valleys, with a red kite chick sat in their lap. I certainly feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to go ringing with Tony Cross who monitors the nests in mid-Wales.
|One very happy ringer|
Up close the chick is stunning. Piercing eyes watch your every move, brilliant yellow feet with sharp talons flex beneath your grip, silky chestnut feathers cover the body with just a hint of the white downy feathers beneath.
|Superb red kite chick|
It won’t be long before the chicks we ringed today will be soaring gracefully through the Welsh skies and hopefully in a couple of years setting up new breeding territories with a mate for life, continuing the success story of this beautiful bird.