Red Kites over the Wensum Valley

(This article was first published in this month’s Elmham News, and is reproduced here with their permission and that of the author)

In April this year, we were delighted to see the Red Kites return to County School. They had been here about 3 years ago, but decided not to nest. This year was different, we watched as their work began, putting together their nest at the top of a tall tree in the Forestry Commission’s Bintree Woods above the Wensum Valley, and overlooking the Billingford Parish Lands.

The Kites circled above us carrying twigs and sticks. There were several noisy aerial battles where the local buzzards and rooks took on the intruders on their territory, but those of us who live in the houses here were delighted to see our new neighbours hold their ground and hang on to their treetop home. In the springtime, our Kites could regularly be seen soaring above the Valley. I am sure our neighbours in Elmham enjoyed the sight of these majestic birds as much as we did.

The introduction of Red Kites has been a great success. They mainly eat dead carrion, and occasionally small living animals, voles, mice, earthworms, and frogs. In 2012 the RSPB reported that a Kite snatched a sausage from a barbecue, but they present no threat to farmers or gamekeepers rearing pheasants to shoot, so it makes no sense for anyone to wish them harm. Claire from The Raptor Trust told us that many game keepers are very pleased to have Kites on their land to deter the crow family of birds, rooks, magpies, jays, etc. from raiding nests.

We knew that the Kites were doing well, as one parent stayed with the nest, whilst the other searched across the valley for food. In late June my neighbour was walking his dogs, one went off the path, through the woods, he followed, and found the Kite’s nest shot to ribbons, and the female Kite stunned but alive, the male bird circled above crying out at the loss.

My neighbour called the Raptor Trust, who arrived promptly, and were soon on the phone, reporting the incident to the Police. It is a serious crime to kill, damage or disturb these protected birds of prey, and it is inconceivable that the nest could have fallen from the tree by accident, there was no wind at that time, and even if the nest had fallen there is no way that the Kite would have fallen with it.

The Raptor Trust rescued the female Kite, looked after her until she was fully recovered, ringed and recorded, and ready to fly again. On Sunday 6th August a small group of us joined Claire from the Raptor Trust as “our” Kite was released back beneath the tree from which she had fallen nearly two months earlier. The Police have not managed find out who was responsible for this incident. Claire from the Raptor Trust says that it is quite likely that the Kites will return here another year, and we would of course be delighted to see them again, but fear more for their safety. Our Kite was last seen circling above the valley, crying out to find her family again, we hope she finds them.

Matthew Synge

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