In Britain Red Kites are present throughout the year, whilst the majority of birds in central Europe move south to spend the winter in Iberia.
For more than 400 years the Red Kite was killed as vermin and became extinct in England and Scotland. In the early 1930's only two breeding pairs of Red Kites were known to survive in Wales. Today the Welsh population is between 750 and 900 pairs.
The English reintroduction of Red Kites took place in 1989 in Chilterns. Chicks were brought in from Spain and Sweden and released at specially protected sites. The woodlands, chalk grassland, hills and varied farmland of the Chilterns provided ideal habitat for the birds. The English population increased rapidly as birds started breeding at one year old.
Chilterns is definitely well worth visiting. We have spent several days photographing red kites at this beautiful location.
The first reddish-brown bird with angled wings and deeply forked tail we spotted along M40 motorway between High Wycombe and Oxford. We took a 2-3 mile public footpath. Red Kites were soaring overhead for the biggest part of our journey. We also spotted Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella), while Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Pheasant were more common birds.
Watlington Hill is the best place for red kite photography. It also provides beautiful panoramic views.
For hours we watched red kites soaring and gliding over the fields. Wind direction is very important for kite photography. Kites tend to fly into the wind, so it is ideal if light and wind are in the same direction.
Red Kites can stay in the air with hardly a beat of its wings. Their body is relatively small and surprisingly lightweight but they have a wingspan of 175-179 cm (60-70 in), whilst buzzard - 109-136 cm (43-54 in).
Red Kites are well known for their agility and marvellous aerobatic skills. They make tight turns and sudden twisting dives which we watched with fascination. Photographing this particular high speed moment was not very easy even against the blue sky.
They swoop down the air while twisting their forked tail like a rudder.
There were some frustrating moments trying to track the birds swooping down but we have managed to capture couple of shots.
Watching sunset from Watlington Hill was one of the memorable moments. We used to keep fingers crossed for clear skies so we can make silhouette pictures.
Just after the sunset we used to head home following the same path through the fields and small wood. We would like to say it was a scary and spooky, but to tell the truth we quite enjoyed late walk under the light of full moon and our torch. One late evening we have noticed that something tiny moved on the path. When we got closer and lit the area, we saw a tiny wood mouse. We stood still for good couple of minutes and this little beauty didn't pay a slightest attention to us. Unfortunately we packed away our cameras and didn't have a chance to photograph it.
Overall we have to tell that we had a really enjoyable time photographing distinctive Red Kites. Back in London, for couple of days we couldn't stop looking for Red Kites in the sky. Of course with no luck but it's good to know that once near extinct bird is recovering steadily in most parts of the UK.
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