Red Kite Diary

Friday the 13th. An ominous day for some, but a good day for me. Not only did I meet some new friends, I also spotted this red kite’s nest. As always with nature spotting, dozens of people will have had this nest in their line of vision but only a few actually noticed it. We were lucky enough to see the nest visited by a pair of red kites and I’ve frequently seen the birds going to and from it since when I’ve driven on this familiar route to and from work. Like many people, I’m working from home at the moment but plan to get out and watch the birds through the seasons. I’ll be sharing their progress here as and when I can.

Saturday 21st March, 8am: This morning is very windy and I set my spotting scope up on the nest and point my phone’s camera down the lens. The wobble of my sleep-deprived hands, combined with the gusts of wind blowing across the field make a video almost useless so I stick to my camera.

8.15am and the only birds I can see are crows. They are noisily congregating in and around the tree so I assume the kites are nowhere to be seen. I can hear plenty of songbirds and a distant peacock but that is all.

8.30am. In the distance I see a bird of prey come over the hills, it is not flying like a Kite and it’s too far away for me to be certain but it soon becomes apparent it’s a Buzzard. It flies very directly across the field and lands in a distant tree a good way from the Kite’s nest. Another Buzzard appears and this one flies off in a different direction, out of sight behind the village hall.

It’s fairly quiet and a I continue throwing a ball for my dog Blaze, while I enjoy the sound of nature waking up. If you pause you can hear the chorus of life being added to voice by voice. Watching wildlife involves a lot of hanging around. This is the best bit! An opportunity to just “be”. Quietly noticing everything that is happening but not focusing on anything in particular, just being open to what is happening as an observer without needing to get involved in thinking about it or naming it.

Blaze is not happy. I pour myself some tea from my flask and unpeel my banana. Then I make a mistake… My banana is in my right hand and Blaze’s ball in my left. I see which is in which hand and concentrate really hard…And throw the banana across the field with all my strength! This is one of the joys of my sensory processing – my proprioception is dreadful – the mistake I made was not swapping the ball into my right hand that I normally throw with. My eyes saw the ball in my left hand but my brain decided that I always throw right handed and nothing was going to change that! Blaze takes a while to find it and goes off sniffing all over the field. She must look threatening because a greylag goose flies over and noisily circles us honking a loud warning in our general direction before disappearing in the direction of the castle.

Both Red Kites in a pair will help build a nest and this is what we were witnessing last week when we first noticed the activity down in the bottom field. Red Kite nests are usually built of dead twigs and lined with sheep’s wool. A fitting insulating fabric for such an iconic Welsh bird. A few days prior to egg laying, the birds will adorn their nest with decorations. All sorts of items have been found in a Kite’s nest – everything from crisp packets to underwear and toys!

The birds will add new material to the nest during the breeding season and nests that have been in use for years can grow to a considerable size. If nesting is successful, then the birds will use the same nest the following year. Occasionally Red Kites will use an old nest that a buzzard or raven has stopped using.

8.46am and I spy my first Red Kite. It is nowhere near the nest and comes over the hill from a similar direction to the buzzard. I’d been hoping to see it and hypothesising whether the noisy peacocks would draw its attention. They have a similar cat like whine to a kite. I don’t think the peacock’s calling had any influence on the kite but by this time the valley is waking up properly and the field of sheep start bleating and looking in my direction – hoping I have a bucket of food I expect. The noise around me grows and the nearby sheep trigger a chain of loud baaing up and down the valley.

I watch the Kite for around half an hour as it circles and swoops down low looking for food. They are scavengers but will take the occasional mouse or vole but prefer carrion. Red Kites don’t have the strength, speed or power to hunt as effectively as other birds of prey. I only see the single bird today and decide to head for home. I hope to stop near the bridge because I’d seen around a dozen Little Egrets roosting in a tree when I was on my way out to visit the Kite’s nesting area but they have moved on. It’s sunny today and the Kite that flies over my house regularly is calling and putting on a fine display for me to enjoy before heading indoors for a coffee and snack – which I won’t throw away this time!

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