With the Chilterns Tourism Network
LATE autumn is the best time to see the red kites as they soar over the Chiltern Hills. They have finished moulting and are looking very smart, especially on bright days when the sun lights up their rich russet feathers.
From Wendover and Princes Risborough and south past High Wycombe and into South Oxfordshire there are many places where there’s a good chance you’ll see them.
Once common across Great Britain, red kites were ubiquitous scavengers that lived on carrion and rubbish. In the mid-15th century King James II of Scotland decreed that they should be ‘killed wherever possible’ but they remained protected in England and Wales for the next 100 years as they kept the streets free of carrion and rotting food.
Under Tudor ‘vermin laws’ many creatures were seen as competitors for the produce of the countryside and bounties were paid by the parish for their carcasses and by the end of the 19th century, just a handful of birds remained in Wales.
It wasn’t until the early 1990’s when the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and English Nature led a programme to re-introduce red kites to the Chilterns. It was so successful, there are now an estimated 300 breeding pairs and kites are once again a common and much-loved feature of the area and birds have been relocated from the Chilterns to others parts of the UK to establish new breeding colonies.
There are a number of places to see the kites at this time of year, but my favourite takes you through the heart of red kite country, in the secluded Radnage Valley near West Wycombe. There is a downloadable guide for this route from the Chilterns Conservation Board website: www.chilternsaonb.org/uploads/files/Walks_ and_ Rides/Red_ Kite_Walks.pdf
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