A Red Kite Saga

 from Allan Hale

It was before 7am on Tuesday 26th April and I was fast asleep when the telephone rang. It RED KITE 1359 smallwas Ashley Banwell wanting some urgent help at Nar Valley Fisheries. Ashley explained that he had found a Red Kite hanging from a tree by a quantity of fishing line, as shown on the first photograph. I was requested to drive to Cockley Cley to collect Ashley’s large landing net to aid in the recovery of the bird and make my way to the Fisheries with some urgency. Half way through getting dressed the telephone rang again. This time it was to explain that the tree was a big one and that he would need a double length ladder as well.

After fitting the roof bars on to my Land Rover and securing the ladder, I made my way to Cockley Cley to pick up the landing net. Ashley’s wife Claudia was just leaving with daughter Alice and explained that she was late and couldn’t stop to chat. Neither could I so I quickly loaded up the landing net and sped off (nearly legally) to Nar Valley Fisheries, slowing down to the speed limit only in Narborough where I had recently (and unjustly!) received a speeding ticket.

My haste was clearly not enough for Ashley who telephoned my mobile to ask where I was. He seemed almost satisfied when I explained that I was only two or three minutes away. Arriving on site we unloaded the kit and set about the job in hand, with Ashley complaining bitterly that he should have been at work and he predicted that some of his blood would be spilt and most of his body would be wet by the time we had finished. Note that this was more or less what he meant but in fact his language was much more colourful than I could possibly print.

RED KITE 1376 smallWe extended the ladder to its double-length and Ashley positioned it so that he could get up the tree. For this to happen it was necessary to anchor the ladder in the water, making the whole operation a good deal more precarious than either of us would have liked. Ashley took hold of the net and after much leaning out over the water it was evident that this strategy wasn’t going to work. The handle of the net just wasn’t long enough to get close to the bird.

We then searched the area for a ‘more or less straight’ branch which we lashed to the handle, thus extending it by several feet. Yet it still wasn’t long enough to reach the bird, despite Ashley hanging precariously over the water which was very deep indeed. Time was passing quickly with Ashley regularly reminding me that he should have been at work long ago. I made sympathetic remarks which fell on deaf ears.

We considered our position. I mentioned that I had a tow-rope in my Land Rover which we could perhaps use to snag the fishing line since it had a metal hook at the end of it. We lengthened the rope by attaching a length of twine and tried again. There were many failures as Ashley threw the rope towards the hanging fishing line time after time but we still persisted as we felt that this was the last option open to us.

Then finally it worked. The tow-rope snagged the line and Ashley gently pulled the kite in towards the net. Surprisingly the bird did not put up too much of a fight and it was safely gathered in (see second picture). We returned to the Land Rover and with a penknife we carefully removed the fishing line which was extremely tightly bound around the kite’s outermost two primary wing feathers. The whole operation had taken one and three quarter hours.

RED KITE 1389 smallFinally we gave the bird a basic health check and despite its ordeal it seemed to be in remarkably good shape. The last picture shows the bird looking angry and ungrateful! We added a ring just in case it was found again some time in the future. The ring was inscribed ‘Inform British Museum, London’ with the serial number GV08180. It was time for its release and with fingers firmly crossed we (very gently) launched it into the air. We were mightily relieved to see it fly away strongly. We shook hands on a job well done and feeling pretty pleased with ourselves and especially for the Red Kite.

Ashley then left for work, still muttering about being late and left me to retrieve all the kit that was spread about the bank side. He did ring me at home an hour or so later to make sure I had got back all right. After all, that water really was very deep


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