This year we've started to see a few red kites just outside Kirkcudbright on several occasions which suggests that the reintroduction program in Galloway is going well. The red kite had been extinct in Scotland since 1879 (1871 in England) and it was just in Wales that it managed to cling onto existence - there were at most 20 breeding pairs there until the 1960s. During the middle ages they were looked kindly upon, as scavengers they kept countryside clean and there are reports of red kites among rubbish in London, but by the 15th century opinion had shifted. James II said that they should be killed where ever possible and there were similar attitudes in Tudor England.
The reintroduction has been countrywide, including Wales where the gene pool had become somewhat depleted. The population in Galloway dates back to 2001 where around 90 birds were introduced over a couple of years. The current population is thought to be around 360 - 390 birds with 70 breeding pairs.
The Galloway kite trail was set up in 2003 to help people see the birds and, for anyone interested, there can be no doubt that the highlight of the trail would be a visit to the feeding station at around 2 o'clock in the afternoon That's where I was this afternoon where for a small sum (£2.50) you can watch the birds being fed. It really is very spectacular. I arrived around 20 minutes before feeding to find several trees around the feeding site full of kites and many arriving from all directions. A chap from the RSPB was there and was answering questions. He estimated that today there were around 100 kites, mainly due to the cold weather - on a good Summer day around half that number would be expected. Our Kirkcudbright kites are unlikely to be here, it's just a little bit far - they'll be finding their tea elsewhere.
Once the meat had been brought out, all became much more hectic.