This is the story of the Argaty Kite project, based near Stirling, and that itself is an interesting story, but this book is more than that, in that it is a tale of Red Squirrels, Pine Martens, dragonflies and a host of other creatures, and a tale of a place and a family. I liked it.
There are many historical quotes, some so anti-wildlife that they would only nowadays be heard emanating from the mouth of the most backward-thinking gamekeeper but these are handy reminders of how nasty, and I think nasty is the right word, we have been to much of our wildlife over the years. And how prejudiced. The idea that Pine Martens were serious predators of sheep was new to me, and totally ridiculous, but clearly it was believed by some.
At Argaty, Red Kites are fed so that they can be seen in numbers, and close up, by the public. This is a moderately controversial activity, practised elsewhere in the UK too, including in many private gardens, but it has certainly brought many people to a greater knowledge of, and admiration for, Red Kites than would otherwise be the case.
There’s a tale of intimidation by gamekeepers in these pages which will probably surprise those readers of this book who are not close to the subject.
I liked this book for its fresh and conversational tone – I felt I got to know the author through his words and I thought I’d like him if I met him face to face. I also learned some things including that the surname Gladstone may have come from the old name for the Red Kite as a glead and meaning the place of the kites. I wonder what the Grand Old Man of Victorian politics and four-times prime minister thought about Red Kites – some of the most vitriolic quotes against the Red Kites in the book come from his time.
A Sky Full of Kites: a rewilding story by Tom Bowser is published by Berlinn Ltd