The nature of things
ALARGE, twiggy nest high in a tree is the red kiteõs favoured nurseryñperhaps the discarded nest of a buzzard or crowñbut a cushy lining of additional furnishings may be added if this remarkable scavenger can find them. Woolly gloves, furry toys, socks, sheepõs wool, paper, moss, tights, flags, underpants, pieces of sackcloth and hair have all been discovered in the nests of Milvus milvus.
Itõs nothing new. Ôwhen the kite builds, look to lesser linen,õ warned Shakespeare, in The Winter’s Tale. Kites were valued for centuries as Ôstreet cleanersõ, picking over discarded waste, as they still do in countries where waste disposal is haphazard or non-existent. Shakespeare noted London as Ôthe city of kites and crowsõ.
Although kites were subsequently hunted to extinction in England and Scotland and had almost disappeared in Wales (a reintroduction programme was only started within the past three decades), their numbers have increased exponentially, to the delight of some and the equal distress of others. What might be agreed upon, however, is their impressive agility; kites are magnificent aviators, rising with the thermals, diving and swooping, steering with subtle adjustments to the long, forked tail.
A native species, easily identified by its impressive size, distinctive tail, dark brown, chestnut and white plumage, itõs dependably seen along the M40 corridor and on the downs. KBH
Illustration by Bill Donohoe