Red Kites provided the prologue and the epilogue to our holiday in Wales and home trip via Reading.
I‘d booked two weeks’ leave but we hadn’t planned where to go. We then received an invitation to a wedding in Aberystwyth; so a holiday in Wales beckoned.
My first encounter with Red Kites was some 40 years ago in October at Cors Caron, otherwise known as Tregaron Bog, one of two remaining large tracts of raised bog in Wales. In October the reserve holds a good variety of birds and I recall seeing Red Kite, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel all within a couple of hours.
Reintroduction of Red Kites into Britain started in 1989, since which time there have been a number of separate schemes with the result that, between 2008 and 2011, the British Trust for Ornithology found 700 ten kilometre squares with breeding Kites.
Our first base in Wales was near Aberystwyth, not far from the area in which the remnant population of Red Kites survived prior to the re-introductions. From the evidence of our two days’ stay in the area it’s clear that they’re doing very well. The rest of our time in Wales was spent along the coastal region near St. David’s and down towards Tenby. Once we'd moved south of Aberystwyth we saw no more Red Kites in Wales.
Our next stop was at Reading, to see my sister and brother-in-law. Their garden has had over thirty Red Kites in view at a time. Someone nearby has fed them regularly. There are various feeding stations across the country; most of them officially sanctioned, that obviously help to settle newly introduced birds and to sustain existing populations. There seems to be evidence that Kites in some areas are not spreading much beyond their release areas. Whether feeding inhibits the expansion of breeding areas is something that may only become clear over time.
On this two day visit to Reading we saw no more than two Kites at a time and probably the same two. There’s a favoured tree behind my sister’s garden in which one bird often sits and cries almost pitifully. Red Kites are very vocal and in a built up or wooded area are often heard before they're seen. Compared with many other raptors, they're sociable birds and their aerial acrobatics and graceful buoyant flight make them very entertaining.
Other raptor highlights in Wales were Buzzards, my favourite bird, which were almost everywhere that we went and a Peregrine that sat for fifteen minutes on a rocky stack no more than 100 metres from our viewpoint on cliff top at Broad Haven near Stackpole.