Red Kite roost at Ashley Warren (there are around 70 kites in the sky somewhere, honest!)
Now that Chris is taking the challenge very seriously, I need to keep my motivation on a par with his. So when the suggestion of joining the Hampshire Ornithological Society’s walk to see the Red Kite (click the link they’re pretty awesome birds!) roost at Ashley Warren, I leapt at the chance. A walk with real birders means other people there who are all more experienced, can point things out I haven’t spotted and will let me peer through their ‘scope every once in a while.
When I heard the term ‘kite roost’, I was assuming this might have meant 10 or possibly 20 birds coming to perch for the night. Even when I was told that there were 83 kites seen there the previous weekend, I thought that this must have been a one off. Now that Red Kites aren’t such a rarity you’d think I’d find them less exciting, but they are such beautiful birds that I never fail to be impressed by their aerial acrobatics. Raising my binoculars to a group of birds dotted in the sky, I expected them to be rooks or crows. Instead, I was amazed to see that a mass of kites were gathering around their night time haunt, resting on fence posts and even feeding on the ground- a spectacular sight. My only disappointment was that half of the group had spotted a Short Eared Owl and I’d dipped it. Considering it was only a few months ago that I realised these birds even lived in the UK, I was kicking myself for having missed out. I spent half an hour watching these amazing owls near Arundel in December, dragging my non birding friend Sarah with me. I knew that it wasn’t just me, these really were special birds, when even she was captivated by watching a pair hunting a nature reserve. Having only seen these owls once, I was itching to see them again.
Our walk came to an end close to the kite roost. On the final stage, the birds were out in force: a smart great spotted woodpecker; a field of blackbirds dotted with a couple of fieldfare; and a cluster of goldfinches clinging to the top of a tree. This was more like it, more birds to add to my list.
Catching up with the other walkers, I realised their ‘scopes were all focused away from the roost and wondered what was captivating them. To my surprise, someone had spotted a Short Eared taking a rest on a fence post, and this time I hadn’t missed out. Turning its head from side to side like the crowd at Wimbledon, it was eyeing up dinner. It kept up its scanning continuously, and having had a zoomed in look I could see its lovely running mascara style eyes- what a beaut! The success of the day continued with over 70 red kites circling their roost and a cameo fly by from a lone Peregrine. Joining some true birders was definitely worth doing and seeing so many kites in one go was just unbelieveable.