We're lucky enough to live close to the initial release site of the project to reintroduce Red Kites to the Chilterns. It's been such a great success that these days it would be more unusual not to see a Red Kite when you look out of the window, than to see one. Many people feed them (which is part of the reason they've done so well), including my parents. Every now and then we sit in their garden and enjoy the spectacle of these fantastic birds taking food from the lawn, a few metres away from us.
As soon as they spot some food they start to circle, attracting more birds until there could be 20 or more Red Kites overhead.
You can feel the tension build as they circle lower and lower.
Then suddenly one will make a move and dive, triggering them all to go, swooping down from all angles. For big birds they are incredibly agile and can maneuver between tall trees, snatch the food from the lawn, then they're off again, dodging the garden hedge and the trees on the other side of the garden. It's all over in a second and they're incredibly quiet when they dive, with you often only hearing a whoosh and feeling the breeze as they shoot past your head. When one manages to get some food, the others often chase after it and try to snatch it away from them in mid-air.
Up close you can see the amazing range of colours in their plumage. There's a patch across the top of their wings that looks just like leopard skin!
They quite often have to avoid each other, as shown by this sequence of shots. They do occasionally clash, but usually manage to miss each other and always seem to get out of it unscathed.
A wonderful experience to see such beautiful birds right in front of you! The kids love it, although you have to hang onto the youngest one to make sure he doesn't join in!