Monday 5 September 2016

On the Trail of Red Kites

We spent much of our recent trip to Dumfries on the Galloway Red Kite Trail!

Red kites used to be incredibly common throughout the UK but had become extinct in England and Scotland due to egg collecting, hunting and pesticides. In 1989 a reintroduction programme was started. The programme in the Galloway area of Scotland focussed on secret cages in the middle of the Galloway Forest. As their purpose has been served these cages are no longer secret

It's a lovely and interesting walk through the forest (just follow the kite signs!)

 and there's plenty to see, including displays of the beautiful Blechnum spicant ferns

and then in a clearing we came across the cages

This is where the first introduced birds were kept to let them get used to being in Scotland before being released into the wild.

From the cages we continued our walk up to the viewpoint, which looks out over Loch Ken

a helpful information board notes all the important features of the surrounding landscape

We didn't see any red kites on this particular walk but we did see a very friendly robin, who dive bombed us and wouldn't leave us alone. We suspect that the local Forestry Commission staff feed this bird at lunchtimes....

The place where you are guaranteed to see red kites is at the Ballymack Hill Farm feeding station, which is where we'd been the day before.

Visitors are greeted by a rather battle scarred but very friendly cat

The feeding station has a cafe and opens at lunchtime and there's time to claim your viewing space before the crowds start to gather

The crowds do gather too! There was a very friendly and helpful member of Royal Soviety for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) staff around to tell us about how the birds are fed and to answer queries. It was good to see a lot of children there including one budding young ecologist and a budding young nature photographer. We all sat and watched the red kites gathering before the food was set out - unlike many other birds of prey they are very sociable

then the farmer came out and scattered some meat round the field (the meat is mostly road kill or comes from other sources that are not part of supply chain destined for human consumption).

She also covered the food table with meat, this is the focus for the red kite feeding. At first the kites were wary but eventually they started swooping down for the food, both from the field and the table. We were able to watch them for over an hour!

It's an amazing sight to see so many of these magnificent birds all together. They have a wonderful whistling call too, which is very impressive when they're gathered in a large flock!

For Nature Notes.


Janneke said...

Thank you for this interesting post, we don't have kites in our surroundings, but when we were in England staying in Shropshire we saw one red kite. Someone pointed us otherwise we had not seen him.

Jenn Jilks said...

Is that ever wonderful!!!!

Caroline Gill said...

We had a Red Kite fly over our home in Swansea some years back, and miss the presence of these birds now we live in Suffolk ... but we see them occasionally on our travels. Always such a joy. And such a success story. Strangely, we have seen one Black Kite here in Suffolk!

Lowcarb team member said...

There's been a lot about kites on the TV recently ...

I just love the photo of your friendly robin - dare I say it - it reminds me of Christmas cards!!!

All the best Jan