Red Kite project a soaring success

ROCKINGHAM Forest now has at least 400 red kite birds flying its woods thanks to their successful re-introduction into the area.

Described as the UK's most spectacular bird of prey, the presence of the red kite, with its two-metre wingspan, is making Northamptonshire one of the best counties in the country for wildlife.

The chestnut red bird, which displays white patches under its wings, was almost extinct from British shores after being culled in the late 19th century because farmers were concerned they posed a threat to livestock.

But after a partnership between English Nature, the Forestry Commission and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), red kites were reintroduced seven years ago in a "very successful project".

About 30 birds from Spain were reintroduced into the forest and the RSPB now estimates there are hundreds throughout the area.

Andy Waters of the RSPB said: "Northamptonshire is a very good county for wildlife. I cover 14 counties and with the exception of Oxfordshire, no other counties have anywhere near the number of red kites that Northamptonshire has. It's something county people should be very proud of."

The forest will now feature for 10 minutes on the BBC1's Nature of Britain programme on Wednesday at 9pm.

The documentary, by The Open University and the BBC, is an "epic" journey across the length and breadth of the British Isles to explore the diversity of its nature.

It will include an exploration of Rockingham Forest, which is made up of a patchwork of ancient woodlands spread between Kettering, Corby and Peterborough.

As well as red kites, other rare species are also trying to make a comeback in the area.

Dormice have been reintroduced into some of the woodlands, helped by the Forestry Commission's policy of planting a mix of broadleaf trees and plants which provide a variety of food for the tiny mammals.

n The RSPB is launching a series of red kite guided walks around the forest, starting on Saturday, November 24, which will run every Saturday, except December 29, until February.

Places are limited, so advance booking is essential, with tickets costing 4 for adults and 1 for children. To book your place call 01780 444691.