Red kites are fly­ing high again

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

I WORKED in Scot­land for a year. No­body un­der­stood a word I was say­ing – or so they pre­tended.

When Eng­land won at football I would an­nounce that it was a ‘great day to be English’ to much mut­ter­ing. To be fair I al­ways cel­e­brated any Scot­tish vic­tory with ‘it’s a great day to be Bri­tish’, but the mut­ter­ing con­tin­ued.

Any­way, be­fore I was chased back over the bor­der I wrote a num­ber of sto­ries about red kites be­ing in­tro­duced into Dumfries and Gal­loway.

Red kites van­ished from our coun­try af­ter per­se­cu­tion by hun­ters who claimed they were eat­ing all the game, and spoil­ing their fun be­cause it gave them fewer an­i­mals to shoot.

The rein­tro­duc­tion came af­ter some ed­u­ca­tional work when landown­ers were per­suaded that red kites don’t kill their game birds but are scavengers pre­fer­ring car­rion (dead stuff), scraps and smaller prey, like rab­bits.

A few birds were re­leased in Scot­land, Wales and York­shire in the 1990s and then it was fin­gers crossed.

Some 15 years later I was al­lowed back over the bor­der on hol­i­day, and we fol­lowed the Red Kite Trail in Gal­loway, end­ing up at a feed­ing sta­tion. It was an ex­pe­ri­ence I will never for­get. As the own­ers laid lots of chicken on a ta­ble in the mid­dle of a field, we stood be­hind a wall and watched.

At first one or two of these mag­nif­i­cent birds ap­peared then... it was like a Spaghetti Western and more than 100 red kites were cir­cling above us.

The birds swooped in and grabbed the chicken be­fore fly­ing off to eat away from pry­ing eyes.

Red kites are pretty easy to iden­tify be­ing a large bird of prey with a long, forked tail. They also make a dis­tinc­tive mew­ing call as they fly grace­fully above our heads.

A red kite has an­gled, red wings that are tipped with black and have white patches un­der­neath. They are pretty easy to spot. These are timid birds de­spite their size and not re­ally ag­gres­sive at all.

The fan­tas­tic news is that red kites are now be­ing spot­ted over Lan­cashire and Greater Manch­ester. We be­lieve these are some of the off­spring of the early York­shire re­leases com­ing over the Pen­nines look­ing for new ter­ri­to­ries.

It won’t be long be­fore they are nest­ing here again af­ter a gap of more than a cen­tury.

To sup­port the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lan­cashire, Manch­ester and North Mersey­side text WILD09 with the amount you want to do­nate to 70070. The Wildlife Trust for Lan­cashire, Manch­ester and North Mersey­side man­ages around 40 na­ture re­serves and 20 Lo­cal Na­ture Re­serves cov­er­ing acres of wood­land, wet­land, up­land and meadow. The trust has 27,000 mem­bers, and over 1,200 vol­un­teers.

To be­come a mem­ber of the trust, go to the web­site at www. lanc­ or call 01772 324129. For more in­for­ma­tion about Cheshire Wildlife Trust, call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewil­dlifetrust.

●● A red kite fly­ing over fields

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