Please note that many of these articles were originally written for the old GB Wildlife site in between 2008 – 2010 and organisations may have changed since then.
Wildlife Blogs – Argaty Farm Red Kites
Few birds rival the red kite for beauty and natural grace. Famed for its rusty-red forked tail, long elegant six foot wingspan and agile flight, the kite is wonderfully adapted for life in the mixed woods and open country of Central Scotland.
Until a few years ago, kites in Britain were confined to one remote area of Wales, where the population had dropped to just five pairs. Kites had once been common throughout the British Isles, but were trapped, shot and poisoned almost to extinction during the 19th century, mostly by shooting estates.
Due to weak genetic diversity and a low rate of chick production the Welsh population seemed unable to spread out of Wales; but with the spread of more enlightened attitudes and the huge growth of public interest in wildlife, the option for a successful reintroduction seemed possible. Starting in 1989 the RSPB and environmental government agencies, in collaboration with landowners and farmers set out to reintroduce the Red Kite into several areas throughout Britain. As a result, kites are once more flying wild in many areas of the UK, including Central Scotland.
Working with other European conservationists, 20 young birds were brought to Scotland in 1996 and released into the wild at secret locations near Argaty. Over the next four years, another 83 birds were imported. Breeding occurred for the first time in 1998 when two pairs raised five young, the first kites born in the area for 118 years. In the first decade since reintroduction the birds have continued to go from strength to strength, with 46 pairs producing 78 chicks in 2008. The young Red Kites are fitted with coloured wing tags and in some instances radio transmitters, so their movement across the country can be carefully monitored.
There continue to be setbacks, especially from illegal poisoning in some areas, but Central Scotland’s Red Kite population is gradually expanding in size and range. Although increasing in number the Red Kite remains vulnerable to disturbance, particularly throughout the breeding season. It is therefore essential that people who want to see the kites do so in a way that maximises their enjoyment but also protects the birds.
Situated two miles north of the village of Doune, the farm at Argaty has become the spiritual home of the Central Scotland Red Kite population. These sociable raptors, released nearby, gathered on the farm attracting bird watchers from far and wide, so in order to let people see and learn about these wonderful birds the idea of the Argaty project was born.
Since the project officially opened in 2003, with help from the RSPB, it has attracted thousands of people from all over the world to enjoy the spectacle of seeing these graceful birds soaring overhead. A purpose built hide offers great close-up views of the kites coming down to the daily feed, whilst the project centre offers a flexible exhibition space, used for an array of activities and events. It is also available to hire for meetings, functions, training or whatever, with the added bonus of a visit able to watch the kite feeding in the afternoon.
As well as viewing the spectacular Red Kites, visitors can participate in guided walks throughout the summer. Over one hundred different species of bird have been recorded around the area. Mammals such as red squirrels and roe deer are regularly seen making Argaty a wildlife hotspot. The bumblebee garden and wild flower meadows contain many species of bumblebees, butterflies and moths, whilst orchids are a particular feature in early summer.
The viewing hide and project centre are accessed via an all abilities footpath from the car park. Facilities include; tea and coffee machine, wood burning stove and toilet facilities. There is a small fee to visit the farm, which helps cover the costs of providing these facilities.
Winter is an ideal time to watch red kites as they form large flocks. To witness large numbers of these beautiful birds together is truly spectacular.