The Red Kite has been preying on my mind.
After my wife saw it, and after I saw it myself from my car, I just had to get a better view of it. Like I said, it isn’t a great rarity, but it is unusual for this area, and for me that’s a good enough reason to try and track it down. I resolved to get outside and find it.
I’ve got friends who live in the Chilterns who would be perplexed by this. Over there the kites are almost as common as sparrows and it isn’t unusual to have ten or more in the sky at one time.
But as far as I know we’ve only got the one kite around here, and this makes it special. So what are the chances of finding one individual bird? I love a challenge so this is just the sort of thing I enjoy, and it gave me a perfect excuse to get out and about. I was a naturalist on a mission!
Half past seven this morning saw me wandering the countryside, binoculars in hand. I concentrated on the road where I saw the kite, and followed a big loop all around it. The road itself is at the bottom of a broad, dry valley, so I followed the footpaths on either side of it.
Two hours and five miles later my breakfast was calling me, and I conceded defeat. Perhaps looking for a single bird, one that could effortlessly cover a territory miles across, was a bit far-fetched after all.
But the idea wouldn’t go away. By early evening I had finished what I needed to do around the house, so I grabbed the binoculars and headed out for a short walk. It was a beautiful evening to be out, so it seemed a waste to be sitting indoors.
Half a mile or so from my house there is a large oak tree where you can sit and look out across the valley. I sat and scanned the landscape slowly, and there, perched on a tree about 500 yards away, was a large bird of prey. As I watched it slowly flapped off and glided into a patch of woodland.
I couldn’t see the shape of the wings or the tail as it was flying directly away from me, but it was a reddish brown colour with a distinctly pale head. It was my Red Kite. I had managed to find it.
The reintroduction of the Red Kite has been a phenomenal success story, and the rate at which they are spreading across the country means that they are likely to be commonplace here within a few years. Nevertheless, I’ll always be able to think of the time when I tracked down the first Red Kite I saw in Bedfordshire.