Sunday book review – A Sky Full of Kites by Tom Bowser

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


2 Replies to “Sunday book review – A Sky Full of Kites by Tom Bowser”

  1. You’re right Mark, Tom Bowser is a bloody nice bloke. He went to school with my little brother and it was through that and a trip to Argaty that I met him, now we’re face book buddies. If all farmers were like him, or in fact just half as committed to conservation as he is what a wildlife rich country the UK would be! However, he is very much the exception (although that’s something he’d never claim) and it’s infuriating that it’s those that do little if anything that make undeserved claims about their conservation credentials.

    I’ve got this book on order from Waterstones and can’t wait to get it. I’m hoping that Tom hasn’t remained too tight lipped (he doesn’t like to speak ill of anybody) about the Argaty back story. I heard something from one of its volunteers that was very revealing, but I don’t want to repeat it unless Tom would be comfortable with that – it may well be in the book which is another reason I can’t wait to read it. Has the NFU or NFU Scotland ever pointed out Tom as an example of what farmers can do for wildlife when they want too? I believe they never have and just what might the reason for that be I wonder? Tom’s got other things in the pipeline and I hope they go as well as the red kite viewing at Argaty.

  2. Sounds good so I’ve ordered a copy. Are you going to review Ian Coghill’s book on here Mark?

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