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Let's go find a kite

Of the red type

Location – The Chiltern Hills ,Oxfordshire

A booking to speak to the RSPB local group at Didcot on this Monday evening took me to this part of Britain . The topic was to be ‘ Costa Rica’-Pura Vida . So with an overnight stay already booked in Oxford I decided to spend some time both viewing and hopefully photographing these wonderful birds. As it turned out the weather on the Monday deteriorated into rain, rain and more rain. But a trip round to check out the sites proved to be invaluable .On the Tuesday morning with a substantial improvement in the weather I set off for Watlington some 30 minutes away on the fringes of the Chilterns.


The Autumn colour in the trees had to be seen to be believed , with the maples and beeches at their very best . It soon became apparent that this was’ THE’ area with Kites already hugging the hillside in their characteristic flying pattern .I first chose to view down a tree lined valley having put out a local road killed pheasant to see if this would attract them , it did to some degree but not to get them down to the ground , it was however very misty until mid morning . 

I then decided to go out onto Watlington Common which is owned and managed by the National Trust ( NT ) , this proved to be very fruitful as the birds were hugging the hillside with the local up draughts allowing their languid style of flight to be observed . It also occurred to me just how much the birds use their tail as an in flight rudder. Some of the birds were showing signs of moult , with one particular individual looking in outline only like a swallow tailed kite from Costa Rica featured as an image featured in the previous nights presentation

With several NT benches placed on the hillside the weather and the birds made for a most enjoyable day with distant views of Oxford and Didcot for good measure .From a photography perspective a blue sky background seemed to show off the birds to best effect and it really was most important to watch the birds to get an idea of their behaviour in order to anticipate their movements before tracking them through the air before squeezing the shutter button .

Several other species were seen with numerous buzzards , a single stonechat , a small party of redwings , linnets , bullfinches and several species of tits . A rather interesting sight and sound was of a Raven overhead adding further evidence to the theory that they are spreading evermore eastwards in their range.

Of particular note were the mature specimens of Juniper which the NT are working hard to preserve in this part of the Chilterns. The Chilterns really is the place to see Red Kites, it is now their stronghold after being released locally in 1989 . Overall they are expanding their range from here, although there are still sadly one or two isolated cases of persecution due to poisoning. Another good site to observe them locally is at Aston Rowant national nature reserve just 6 miles down the road from Watlington