One evening a few weeks ago, while those fierce winds were raking across our hilltop, we spotted something taking shelter by the hedge that runs along the field beside us.
A closer look revealed that it was not, after all, an adventurous chicken from one of our neighbours seeking shelter, but rather a young (yet already impressively large) bird of prey. We watched, fascinated, as it huddled beneath the hedge for a time, before venturing further into the field with a short flight.
We willed it closer as it sauntered about the pasture, turning over the ground beneath its feet, or standing to survey the landscape that falls away into the valley, but it seemed quite content to shuttle about the same bit of ground, and we continued to watch it for some time.
For a couple of days we were thrilled to find it returned to the same spot, and from its markings and the forked shape of its tail (not evident in these shots) we identified it as a juvenile Red Kite.
It seemed equally unfazed by the inquisitive cows, by other (much smaller) birds swooping nearby, or by the occasional traffic rattling along the lane on the other side of the hedge.
The last time I saw it, early one morning, it finally flew low over the hedge, across the lane and out of sight.
Persecution drove the Red Kite (Milvus milvus) to extinction in most of the UK in the 1930s, with the last few pairs restricted to Wales, but a breeding programme was successful in restoring them to our isles, though they are still on the RSPB’s Amber list.
We haven’t seen our visitor again for a week or two; I wonder how far it had flown from its birthplace, and where it will make its own territory. It made an interesting change from the ubiquitous buzzards, with their distinctive cry, that tend to patrol our skies.
Most of these pictures were captured by King of The Hill.