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'Two chicks about the size of a fist'

HIGH over the Wicklow mountains, there's a couple of anxious parents nervously fretting, circling hundreds of feet above their home.

The pair of adult red kites are in a flap because a volunteer with the Golden Eagle Trust, Mark Lewis, is climbing the tree on which their nest sits to see if there are any chicks. There are.

"Two chicks about the size of my fist," he calls down. "Their down is very developed, they're quite contented and warm. They're about four days old."

Manager of the Red Kite project, Damian Clarke, is delighted. This means there are now seven chicks, the first to be born here in more than 200 years.

"The mother will fly around and give out but she won't abandon the nest because she's sat on the eggs for 34 days and fed them for the last couple of weeks," he said.

"You could watch a kite fly for hours and they'll barely move their wings. These exaggerated long beatings mean they're anxious but they're tolerant enough."

Chicks grow at an astonishing rate, going from 50g to adult-sized 700g in the space of a couple of months. After eight weeks, they leave the nest.

Anyone who spots a nest is asked to contact the Golden Eagle Trust at www.goldeneagle.ie.

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