On a calm July day in 1975, my mother and I were driving through mid-Wales in search of one of the rarest and most highly desired birds in Britain. This bird was still teetering on the edge of extinction in this area.
While driving on a forested hillside, we came upon a bend and I spotted a sizable bird soaring overhead. Excitedly, I got out of the car and used my binoculars to get a closer look at the buzzard. This was a rare sight for me, as I had only seen one other of these birds before.
As I looked up into the bright blue sky, I spotted another bird flying above: it was sleeker, with longer, curved wings and a clearly split tail. Could it really be? To my surprise, it was indeed a red kite, soaring high in the sky.
For nearly 25 years, I did not encounter another red kite. However, due to a successful program to reintroduce them, they have become abundant in certain areas to the point where they are often overlooked or even disliked by some individuals.
In the Somerset Levels, the presence of this particular bird is rare and I typically encounter it on pleasant spring days as it migrates northward. However, when I travel to the more mountainous regions in the east, I consistently spot it – unlike other birds of prey, it appears to be gliding instead of soaring. Each time, my heart is filled with excitement as I recall my initial encounter with this extraordinary bird almost 50 years ago.