Balmaghie | Dumfries & Galloway
We stopped off for a day in the Balmaghie area of Dumfries and Galloway on our way up to Mull a couple of weeks ago with the sole aim of trying to see and photograph Red Kites. These beautiful and graceful birds were reintroduced back into this area between 2001 and 2005 as a joint initiative between the RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Forestry Commission. They used to be a common sight here, but in Victorian times they were persecuted to extinction. They’ve done well since release and are now breeding in the area and starting to spread across the region.
I was aware that there was a designated Kite Trail, being a circular 24-mile route around Loch Ken with an additional 14-mile loop into the Galloway Forest Park along a seasonal forest road and, consequently, expected to have to drive most of this route to have any chance of seeing them. However, we started spotting kites as soon as we were in the general vicinity, which was great. Whilst we followed the trail, we concentrated our photography efforts in the Balmaghie area, which encompasses the villages of Glenlochar and Laurieston, where there’s a particularly quiet back road that winds through farmland, with plenty of places where you can pull off the road to both view and photograph the kites. We also visited a feeding station at a private farm, which provided additional photographic opportunities with numerous birds flying around and swooping in to pick up small pieces of raw meat.
Unfortunately all the originally released birds were wing-tagged. In certain circumstances I can understand why this is done and, perhaps, this is one of those situations, but personally I feel that the general practice of tagging and ringing is unnecessary and something we should not be subjecting the birds to. Kites turn and twist before diving down to feed, and to see one with these large bright red and green wing-tags flapping about as they do so surely makes you question how they don’t affect their maneuverability and aerodynamics. They also look bloody awful in a photo so, despite having some really good shots of birds with tags, I deleted all of them.
The photos I’m posting here are just a few from the Thursday afternoon when we arrived and the Friday so, as you can see, this is a really good area for Red Kites and one I would recommend visiting if you can.