The red kite had been extinct in England for much of the last century. It had managed to avoid complete extinction in mainland Britain, however, with a few pockets of population grimly hanging on in rural Wales. Over the last 24 years or so, red kites from the Welsh populations have been introduced at various locations in England, along with red kites from Spain and some Scandinavian countries to maintain a healthy gene pool. For more information on the reintroduction efforts, see the RSPB’s page here.
The reintroduction appears to have been successful. It is not unusual for me to see five to ten red kites during the eighteen-mile drive to and from my workplace in Newbury. As big as a buzzard, and strikingly coloured, the red kite is always a pleasure to see.
One of the areas in which I most often see red kites is a small village on the A4 — on my way to work — Froxfield. At weekends, one of the stops on my photography trips is Froxfield, as it has a stream running through watermeadows, and a watermeadow pond — all likely to attract birds, and, hopefully, rare ones at that. It is, for example, home to two or three little egrets, birds that are successfully introducing themselves to the country.
Yesterday, I went out for the first of my usual weekend recreational photography sessions, but because I was tired, I couldn’t really “see” anything, despite, at last, bright, warm spring sunshine. On my way home, as I was passing through Froxfield, I saw, swinging low over the stream, a red kite.
At closest approach, the kite was in its own shadow, and, frustratingly, I had at first an issue with my camera being set up slightly wrong (I had been photographing something else previously). It was so low, it could have nested in my hair. It slowly circled upwards, drifting on thermals, until it was mobbed by rooks. Then it drifted back down again, lower and lower, and circled overhead, before again rising on the thermals. This time, it sailed over a field in which there are nesting lapwings, and was mobbed and finally chased away by them.
This last photograph isn’t really as sharp as I would want. But I like the kite’s attitude, its “pose”.