As I looked out of the bedroom window early this morning, on a cold day with bitter wind and tiny snowflakes falling, I watched a red kite starting to rebuild a nest high in the horse chestnut tree just beyond our garden. A pair has nested there for the last 3 or 4 years so I was not surprised, except that given the low temperatures it seems a bit early. On the other hand the nest building process is a long and thorough one. These are large birds who may attempt to raise 3 or 4 chicks. The nest needs to be strong and securely fixed in the high tree branches.
Red kites are becoming numerous in our area, having been re-introduced between 1989-1992 after a long period of extinction in England due to zealous Victorian game-keepers in the 19th century and the fact that for several centuries before that red kites were classed as 'vermin'.
We see them a lot now, swooping low over our garden or hovering over the roads looking for road-kill to scavenge. They are magnificent creatures, watching their apparently effortless flight using those enormous wings to ride the thermals is a joy. So today in my thankfulness series for Lent, I am grateful for red kites. Along with other carrion feeders they pick our roads clean of dead badgers, foxes and cats. And they are so beautiful to watch, which I am able to do every day, even without going outside our home.
You can read more about red kites and see wonderful photos and video clips at the RSPB site here or at redkites.net here.
Image Credit: Tony Hisgett on Flickr, CC License