Thanks to the most successful raptor reintroduction project in the world, the Red Kite has become a familiar bird for many of us. I live in Suffolk, where these handsome birds have yet to establish themselves, though they are sure to do so soon, as the number of breeding pairs in nearby Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire continues to increase. Though they may not breed locally, I see them regularly in the county, and every year I get an increasing number of records from my patch. The latter is the immediate vicinity of my home: a paddock that I manage for barn owls and tree sparrows, surrounded by arable fields producing onions, potatoes, barley and maize.
It hardly looks the most promising of bird habitats, but in a good year I have recorded over 100 species, while the accumulative total for the 14 years I have lived here is 136. There have been a few goodies over the years, including Wood Sandpiper and Stone Curlew, Red-backed Shrike and Wryneck. Raptors range from Marsh Harrier to Merlin and Goshawk (I do live in the Brecks), but I’m still waiting for my first Honey Buzzard.
However, one of the great attractions of birdwatching is that the unexpected is always a possibility. On 19 April, a bright sunny day with a south-easterly wind, I was involved in a photo session in my field with professional photographer Sarah Farnsworth. Sarah was busy taking photographs when I noticed a large raptor, soaring low over the lime trees that line my drive. A glance suggested that it was a Red Kite, always a good sighting here and one to be enjoyed. I swung my Leica Noctivids on to it, as much to enjoy watching it as to identify it, when I realised that it wasn’t a Red Kite at all, but its close cousin, a Black Kite.
Learn more about the Leica Noctivid here.