Driving home from the west country towards Oxford from Bristol we saw 3 kites today. I only very rarely see kites in Ashcott and then flying high with the buzzards.
On the M4 however I saw all 3 low to the ground, clearly recognisable with their red brown plumage, forked tails and deliberate movements. I have previously seen them from the M3 hunting low over Salisbury Plain but when I used to drive the M4 regularly 10 years ago I don't recall seeing kites, just the ever present west country buzzards sitting on the roadside posts and tree branches. The kites move in a different way from buzzards, more mechanically with clear lifts and tilts evident in the wings and tail, unlike the buzzards with their slightly more lugubrious and relaxed attitude. I also saw a buzzard above the trees near Thurton in Norfolk and although common in the west country they were not something I saw in Norfolk as a child.
This all fits with the increase in raptor numbers across the country as populations climb after a reduction in pesticide use and cases of poisoning and persecution. A man on a radio 4 programme recently was explaining that although some people read the 'sudden' increase in birds of prey as a problem and 'out of control' it is infact a gradual rebalancing of native populations in recovery. The attendant, but apparently low level and largely localised, taking of farm bred and abundant pheasant chics is of course an inevitable side effect of this recovery and no doubt a motivation for those who have tragically been using poisoned baits to kill birds recently, a crime that is apparently increasing.