the long-awaited sighting

Between last October and July this year it would have been rare for a day to pass at the farm without glimpsing one of three red kites soaring in the sky above. It started a few years ago with two spectacular adults. They initially took a liking to a crooked branch on a gnarly old oak tree that reaches up from one of our hedges. Like vultures perched in an Acacia tree on the African savannah, the pair would sit, huddled up, surveying the valley that drifts down to the bottom edge of the farm. By late morning, (they are notoriously late risers), the pair would launch off their perch and begin swirling over the packhouse looking for tasty bits of carrion to tuck into. In February a younger kite joined the original couple and we would regularly see all three circling the farm. Over the months everyone on the farm and in the pack house seemed to become quite touched by the idea that we were sharing our space with these impressive birds of prey.

Then, in July, all three kites abruptly disappeared. As the weeks went by I began to fear the worst. Historically red kites have been unfairly persecuted by land owners and game keepers, believing them to be responsible for killing game birds. The persecution of these birds pushed their species to the verge of extinction in 19th century. Thankfully changing attitudes and numerous release programmes have brought them back from the brink, but a damaging minority have clung on to ignorant and outdated attitudes. Poisonings and the occasional shooting are still far too common and we inevitably began to assume that this was the fate bestowed upon our own trio.

After a three month absence we were delighted last week to see the original pair back, elegantly sailing over the orchard. I am not sure what they have been up to, but those more informed than me have subsequently told me that it is quite common for kites to embark on an extended summer holiday. I can only assume that the third kite in the group is enjoying the break so much that he has decided to delay his return for a few more weeks.

Rob Haward

summer box customers move to winter

Our potato-free summer box (10 varieties for