Today was a good day to fly! Our work department had the pleasure to be using a meeting facility at a local farm for a team planning "away day" - that farm is at Argaty outside Dunblane, north of Stirling. Argaty hosts the Central Scotland release site for the red kite reintroduction programme in Scotland and the family who own the farm have opened a really excellent visitor centre with a bird hide and a feeding station for the kites. The feeding programme is part of the RSPB's release process and the birds are given a minimal amount of supplementary meat. The website for the Red Kite Centre is here. They have already achieved a Gold Award in the Green Tourism Business Scheme, the national sustainable tourism certification scheme for the UK, as well as 3-star visitor Attraction and Wildlife Experience awards from the Scottish Tourist Board:
Highlight of the day for me was the mid-afternoon feeding time, where a couple of small handfuls of meat were put out for the kites. I managed to take the following, which I am quite pleased with:
The staff advised me that the two red tags on the elbows of the wings indicate that this is a male bird released here in 2003, making it one of the oldest red kites in Scotland. They don't develop their beautiful silvery heads until they are over 2 years old. They also afforded another opportunity for photos and I managed to sneak another one (this is amazing, as I have totally failed, up until this point in my life, to take a single successful photo of a bird in flight! Red Letter Day!):
In both pictures, you can see the silver head, large pale underwing patches and long, forked tail so characteristic of this species.
I'm very happy to have made it up to Argaty at last and I can thoroughly recommend it as a wildlife experience - these are definitely wild birds - although some were released here, there are now also many wild-bred kites around and they are quite magnificent when you see them this close up!