Monday, 19 November 2012

Best Laid Plans

At this time of the year, it can be a good time to see the local Red Kites as they make the most of the short days but also because of the communal roosts where they all gather in the evening.  I hadn’t tried to photography this spectacle before partly because I figured at dusk, at this time of year, the lighting would be too dark, but I thought I would at least be an event to watch.

I waited for a day that promised wall to wall sunshine and decided to make a day of it by taking in some of the other sites this part of the Derwent has to offer and where the Kites gather.  It can be a bit ‘hit and miss’ this section when it comes to wildlife – off the main track, an ex-railway line, nearly every person has a dog or two (or three, four, five) and the air is full of the sound of barking as dogs, off the lease going for other dogs (or people), so it’s not really conducive for wildlife.

It was a bit of a surprise then that, in the middle of the day, whist walking off a side lane that I saw a couple of Roe Deer browsing on the outskirts of a wooded area next to a field.  Luckily I saw them first and ducked behind a wooden fence than ran along the road and field and was able to be hidden for the most part. 


Expecting them to either pick up on me or be spooked by another passer by, I quickly got my camera and lens out and took some make shift photos, hand held and through the fence and long grass.  After these initial shots and as they settled, I had time to attached my monopod and take a bit more time over the images and move slightly to get a better vantage point.  Inevitably somebody came walking down the lane which got the deer's attention.  Soon another couple of people were walking up from the other direction and the Roe Deer disappeared back into the wood.


I decided to follow the river up to the viaduct which is were I was expecting the best vantage point to see the Kites.  Little else to be seen along this part.  A Dipper was flying backwards and forth, but always stopping in an area too dark to get a decent image.  Kingfishers are quite common here during the summer but by now they have moved to their winter areas further down stream.  Sometimes you see scenic image which you think might look good in print or converted to black and white.  The image below I thought might work either way, the contrasting colours of green mosses and reddish brown leaves with the bleak mono tones of trees and branches.  The black and white version didn’t work but I think the colour one’s ok.


I arrived on site, and although only around three in the afternoon, it was already getting dull, partly because it was becoming overcast (so much for the all day sunshine promised). After about half and hour the first Kites started to arrive, flying past but too high to get a decent image.  I had hoped they would roost in the nearby trees, but instead were flying off and gathering on a pylon and a couple of trees off in the distance.

Too far away to get any worthwhile images and with the light fading fast, I decided just to watch.  Quite a few Kites ended up gathering on the various roosts.  I counted twelve on the pylon, another ten in or around a tree and another four dotted around – at least twenty-six.  Not bad for a bird that only a few years ago was all but extinct from the UK except for a few locations in Wales.  Thanks to their reintroduction they are becoming common in many areas.

It’s a shame that many birds of prey are persecuted – mostly out of ignorance and even now this magnificent bird is.  Amazingly even some dim witted locals believe that this bird can swoop down and take off with the darling little pooch!  Only a Golden Eagle would have the power to take dog and there’s not too many of them around!  The Kites diet is much the same of that of a Buzzard with the biggest animal preyed upon being a rabbit or hare or otherwise they feed a lot off carrion.

For more information on Red Kites in the North East of England see



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