The title of our September talk was The Red Kites Return, and the speaker, Mr Harold Dobson, is an enthusiastic volunteer for the Friends of Red Kites.
He gave a brief history of the red kite in the UK, including the fact that the word kite originated with the bird and that the flying of intricate pieces of paper, wood and fabric became known as flying a kite in imitation of the flight pattern of the bird. In Mediaeval times, they kept the towns and villages free from meat debris from butcher’s shops and homes, and scavenged in the countryside for any carrion. Later however, with the growth of shooting parties on the big estates throughout Great Britain, the birds became persecuted by farmers and gamekeepers in the wrongly-held belief that the kite kills the young game birds and lambs. The result was that the kite became extinct in England and only a pocket of the birds remained in Wales.
Re-introduction of the bird has taken place in other parts of England and Scotland with a high degree of success, and over the past ten years we have seen the introduction of 94 birds into the Derwent Valley, close to the Gateshead conurbation. This work has led to the creation of the Friends of Red Kites, which has co-ordinated the releases and monitors the breeding progress, which has seen birds producing many offspring. Much of the work of the Friends is in association with local schools, who adopt the newly hatched young and name them.