September 30th- red kite

A look around around my moorland patch this morning yielded some good sightings. I had my best ever view of a red kite as it perched on a fence post. I had time to make numerous sketches. They are only just starting to populate this area. I was instantly reminded of a time in the 1980s when red kites were very scarce as a small population in mid Wales. On a long car journey on our way to a family holiday in North Wales we stopped in a layby surrounded by big hills.

As I recall we hadn’t long been out of the car, stretching our legs when a red kite drifted out over the ridge in front of us. It remains one of the best bird sightings I have ever had; at the time the red kite was rare enough to be almost mythical to me. I dreamed of seeing one as I pondered over illustrations in my first bird books. Here in front of me was a red kite, its shape was so beautiful with long wings stretched to the full and forked tail spread to take advantage of the lift off the slope. My brother and I ran as fast as we could up the hillside, soon breathless, but it had gone back over the ridge and we never saw it again.

The next time I saw a red kite was about twenty years later after introduction schemes in Central Southern England. This morning’s sighting gave me a chance to study the beautiful russet colours of the bird’s underparts and the silvery grey head markings. As it took to the air, a chance to paint sky, moor and kite to place the bird in its habitat.

The morning was also notable for the large numbers of mistle thrushes seen. They congregated around well laden rowan trees on the moor edge, one flock about twenty strong. With them sizeable flocks of starlings, soon to be swelled further by Continental birds. Crossbill calls were heard often. One pair crossed a remote section of moor completely devoid of trees, heading purposefully south west. They seemed likely to be migrants as some coastal movement of the species was observed today. 

A pair of stonechats seemed settled in a winter territory on the moor; definitely a subject I will return to, but today was all about the kite, simply sublime.

2 thoughts on “September 30th- red kite”

  1. I can empathise entirely with respect to the influence of first bird books. For me, it was the beautiful illustrations by John Leigh-Pemberton in the Ladybird ‘Birds of Prey’ and in particular the Kite which was to be seen ‘Only in central Wales..’, which lit the fuse for a lifelong interest and for Kite-related holidays in Ceredigion. Wonderful to encounter Kites in Norfolk these days.

  2. My first sighting of a Red Kite was not dissimilar. I think it was in the early 1980s, we were just starting a return trip from a holiday in West Wales. Taking the ‘scenic’ route’ near Llandeilo, which at this point meant driving along a narrow rural road with towering hedgerows on either side. I was a less experienced birder than now, of course, but there was no mistaking the deeply forked tail as a kite crossed over the narrow strip of sky visible in front of the car.

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