by Paul Cormacain
I HAVE had two reports of a red kite between Belfast and Lisburn, near the Colin Valley Golf Course.
If anyone else sees these lovely creatures, the Lisburn RSPB would love to hear from you. Call 9260 1864 or 4062 6125.
In some of the older bird books the kite is spoken of as a bird which used to be very common long time ago. When London was less large, less sanitised, and the locals were unaware or unconcerned about cleanliness, that city was a mighty dirty city. Kites thrived on the garbage in the streets, and history tells us they were very common then.
London, and other cities, started to clean up and the red kite gradually decreased in numbers. The bird fell out of favour with the shooting classes, for it was capable of scaring off that which the hunters wanted to kill. It would even breakfast on that which the hunters wanted to kill.
By the 1880s the bud was extinct as a breeding bird in England. By the 1890s the kite was extinct as a breeding bird in Scotland. There was only the odd migrant in Ireland, and about a dozen birds left in Wales.
Bird enthusiasts took up the cudgel, planned and preached the saving of the red kite. Much time, effort and money were utilised, and by the mid twentieth century there were estimated to be 55 kites in Wales. What a breakthrough!
The preferred habitat in remote parts of Wales was mature oakwoods on steep valley slopes, and this is where the kites nested.
The birds had a bad habit of deserting the nest if there was any disturbance in the vicinity. This meant much protection, trying to educate people and trying to keep them away.
If a red kite turned up in Ireland it was usually an inquisitive bird, or a lost bird, or a bird on passage perhaps from Wales, perhaps from Europe.
I seem to remember seeing one bird south of Lough Neagh a few years ago, otherwise birds spotted were in Europe. But we can live in hope of seeing more in the future.
Folk are now more educated, more civilised, than to go around shooting these rare birds. a, Besides they are afforded special protection in Great Britain. In Ireland, both north and south, it is highly illegal to harm these birds.
The kites have moved into a few sites in south-west England, notably in Devon, and there are hopes this trend will continue.
An on-going replacement programme is under way in Scotland, which means there are more kites in the vicinity then of late. Time will tell if this scheme will be successful, and we can only hope that it is so.
In the meantime, perhaps we should all keep our eyes peeled for sightings of this bird. Because of the proximity of Scotland, we should see more in the future. Perhaps a pair will happen upon a nice site near Lisburn some day, and decide to set up home there.
Monday 27 October - Lisburn RSPB and visitors will hear about Archaeology of the Birds of Ireland, at 7.30 in Friends School. Details from 9260 I864
Thursday 30 October - Birdwatch Morning at Castle 5spie, more from 9187 4146
Friday 31 October - Wildlife and spooky stickers at Castle Espie, details from 9187 4146
Sunday 2 November - Gorse Grappling, the Wildlife "rust calls it, and the Trust is looking for help in clearing Inishargy Bog, why not call Malachy Martin on 4483 282.