I soar on broad wings over the forest. Far below, the tops of the trees move to the same wind which ruffles my feathers and lifts me high into the vast sky. My wings are patterned black and white, the rest of my feathers are a burnished bronze and burning mahogany in the sunlight.
I open my sharp beak and release a piercing cry, a celebration of freedom, of joy, of life.
The cold air rushes past me, clean and crisp. I adjust my forked tail minutely, tilt a little to the right and drift over towards the lake.
My keen eyes identify the pair of storks standing at the water’s edge. Like me, they are recent additions to this land, although they tilt their heads to survey their surroundings as if they have always been entitled to exist here. Perhaps they have.
Like me, they were hunted, driven out and now have returned.
I too soar through the sky as if I have every right to be here. The wide expanse of blue surrounds me, bright and pure, only a few grey clouds hover over the coast some distance away.
As I circle, I spot five other birds like me, gliding through the sky, circling far above the ground. Once, there were so few of us that I could fly for days alone. Now, we flock as if we are not noble, solitary, avian predators.
Now, we are abundant and I am filled with joy to see my brethren soar beside me.
I flap my strong wings, gain more height until the lake becomes a shimmering puddle. For a heartbeat, I hang on the highest thermal, weightless, unbound. The earth is laid out far below, any concerns about mate and nest, prey and performance are far distant insignificances.
I draw my wings back and my perspective shifts. I swoop down, the cold air rushing past me, ruffling my feathers. I squeeze my eyes closed to mere slits, solely focussed upon my goal. There is only this moment, this breathless, joyous freefall.
For a heartbeat, this all I know, then I snap out my wings to their fullest extent, feel the air pressure pushing against my skin, my bones. I brush the treetops and soar up again, a fierce cry escaping my throat, a cry of joy, of freedom.
The story of the recovery of the red kite in Britain is an incredible story of dedication and sustained hard work. In the early 1930’s, there were only two breeding pairs in the British Isles, as they had been hunted to near extinction because, although they are mainly scavengers, they do also prey on domestic and game fowl like chickens and pheasants. Protection of key sites in Wales, as well as reintroductions in Scotland and England have increased numbers to more than 10,000 across Britain, with almost 2,000 breeding pairs.
Like the red kite in this story, sometimes we need to zoom out a bit and take a look at the bigger picture. Then we can refocus on what’s important and swoop down towards it.
Links to further information:
https://community.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/f/all-creatures/8984/21-facts-about-red-kites Facts about the red kite.
https://birdsofbritain.co.uk/features/red-kite2.asp Further information about the red kites in Wales.
https://www.british-birdsongs.uk/red-kite/?type759 Here you can listen to the red kite's call.