Eleven years ago the Harewood House Estate re-introduced Red Kites onto their land just north of Leeds as part of a scheme involving themselves (with an long established interest in bird conservation), the RSPB, English Nature and Yorkshire Water who own a large swath of forestry adjacent to the Harewood Estate.
The birds have thrived and especially in recent years, until recently you would commonly see one or two Red Kites only if you were close to the Harewood Estate, most memorably on the day of Chris’s funeral we all gathered at his golf club at Sandmoor and while we stood on the balcony for an hour or so a Red Kite circled slowly around for much of that time, a beautiful sight.
Just recently though I have been able to sit in the comfort of my own living room and watch these huge birds of prey as we seem to have a pair in residence in our very own district now, they are unmistakable even when flying quite high in the sky as they are much bigger than anything you’d normally see and of course their distinctive forked tail gives them away.
I say “fly” because actually they barely move a muscle, they soar and thats another thing that makes them stand out in the sky against other bids flying by who seem to have to work hard to stay aloft, Red Kites don’t flap their wings too much, I’ve sat and watched them for ten minutes sometimes with barely a movement from their wings.
Yesterday a pair appeared into view while I was sat watching TV, they seemed to be interested in something within a small clump of mature chestnut trees that are 100 yards or so away from our window and they drifted down and down closer to the tree line until suddenly the pair were attacked by another pair of smaller darker birds, probably Jackdaws as we have dozens of them around here, in fact one pair nests in one of our chimney pots every year.
The fight was on and for ten minutes or so the Jackdaws defended their territory fearlessly, flying straight into the Kites, breaking them apart and them harassing them singularly, the Kites simply whirled away and came back for more, there was obviously something there that the Kites were wanting very badly because they were not backing down even though they themselves were not acting aggressively towards the Jackdaws – is it too early for Jackdaw chicks in a nest ? Probably.
A pair of gull tried to join in at one point but quickly grew bored and flew on, maybe deciding that it wasn’t their fight after all and these big red birds were, well, big.
Amazing sight right outside the window and in the days of my childhood when we prowled this district looking for unusual birds (some of which are now gone for ever) the Kites would have fascinated us, now I don’t even have to go looking for them, they come almost into my living room, perfectly framed in the bay window, pull up a chair and pour a cup of coffee, its natures own entertainment.