Environment news

Suffolk Community Barn Owl Project manager Steve Piotrowski returns barn owl chciks to their next box after they were fitted with lightweight leg rings to monitor their movements

Gallery: Delight at soaraway success of Suffolk’s barn owls this year with more than 1,000 chicks born

Barn owl conservationists are celebrating a bumper year for the species – and have been astonished by one bird’s “quite remarkable” long-distance “flight of fancy” out of Suffolk.

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Red Kite

Time was when the only place in Britain red kites could be seen were the wooded valleys of mid-Wales. Thankfully, that is not the case today. Far from it. These large, spindly, angular and impressive birds of prey, once widespread over much of Britain and useful as cleaners-up of street carrion in less hygienic times, were wiped out from the majority of their range in the 19th Century by the gun and by poison. Those mid-Wales valleys were their last stronghold. Until, that is, a welcome comeback brought about by an official re-introduction programme involving the RSPB and the then Nature Conservancy Council using birds from across Europe.

Red Kite

After the early days of the scheme in 1989 they have spread out from the programme’s heartlands of the Chilterns, the east Midlands, Yorkshire, the North-East and parts of Scotland. The species now breeds in small numbers in some areas in the eastern counties, although colonisation of Suffolk is proving a slow affair, with only a handful of nests reported.

Nevertheless, experiencing a thrilling encounter with a red kite virtually anywhere in the county is now much more likely than it has been for decades. Whereas for years it was purely a rather scarce passage migrant to and from the Continent, mainly in early spring and late autumn, the species is now a fairly frequent sight, especially in the Suffolk Brecks and along the coast.

It is larger and more attenuated than the stocky common buzzard, for example, its long, relatively thin wings and long, deeply forked and “twisty” tail, together with its bright russet tones, are the key identification features. On any warm, sunny day this spring – over almost any Suffolk field, wood, heath or reedbed  - the red kite may well be lazily flapping or majestically soaring. It is certainly worth looking up into the wide blue yonder occasionally. The comeback kite is a sight worth seeing.

Have you spotted a Red Kite this spring, or in previous years. Share your photos with our readers.

Email us with any spottings of the rare creature or send us your photos via iwitness.