Red Kites at Rhaedr

According to the RSPB, the red kite was a valued scavenger during the Middle Ages that helped keep streets clean, and was protected by royal decree. However, by the 16th century a bounty was placed on its head. Kites and other birds of prey were persecuted as vermin. By the the early 1900s red kite were extinct in England and Scotland, and just a few were left in remote parts of central Wales. Conservation efforts have been ongoing since then.

This has been particularly effective in central Wales, helped by the regular kite feeding programme at Gigrin Farm near Rhaedra Gwy (anglicised name Rhayader). The success of the programme has been amazing, and a visit to the farm at kite feeding time sees the amazing spectacle of hundreds of kites converging on the farm. The sky is literally full of these beautiful birds. Amazingly, all are descended from a single female, which shows just how close these birds came to extinction in the UK.

red kite 1

 

This shows just what might be achieved in England, where prey birds (including marsh and hen harrier, peregrine falcon, golden eagle, buzzard) are persecuted to this day, particularly in areas where driven grouse shooting is prevalent. See eg RSPB report.

Red kites are regularly seen throughout this sparsely populated area of Wales. These two were following a farmer’s tractor ploughing a field, along with tens of other kites and seagulls.

 

red kite 2

Note that Gigrin Farm has specialist hides available for the more professional photographers.

Inspiration from North Wales

It’s difficult to recapture that oppressive atmosphere of the early 1980s – Thatcher, Reagan, US missiles in UK, the threat of nuclear winter, Greenham Common, support of unsavoury regimes… A time when things did not make sense. Environment and recycling didn’t get much of a lookin.

Then we took the children to visit the Centre for Alternative Technology in a reclaimed quarry near Machynlleth in North Wales. What a refreshing experience! Here sustainability was king – alternative energy sources, solar panels, windmills, recycling, composting , growing vegetables, conserving energy, explaining nuclear dangers… I still recall the relief that someone was taking these things seriously and doing real practical stuff. I’ve supported CAT and its development ever since.

Research and education have always been key themes for CAT. Leading light Peter Harper gave an inspirational talk as part of our series of  New RenaissanceLectures in Knutsford in the early 1990s. I’ve added used cardboard to the compost heap ever since!

It was a pleasure to recently receive Issue 100 of their magazine Clean Slate, still going strong, with news of the latest developments at CAT. In case you’re not aware, CAT is leader of the Zero Carbon Britain initiative, a source of inspiration to many across the world.

Congratulations to all involved with CAT, and may you continue to inspire us for many years to come. The need for your work is as great as ever.

Incidentally, the centre an excellent place to visit – friendly staff, good displays well explained, water-powered funicular, ‘green’ café, child-friendly, nature walks,…

Featured image of CAT funicular courtesy of Dr Neil Clifton , via Wikimedia Commons