Sunday, 19 August 2018

Reports from latest meetings and activities of local clubs and community groups

ON November 29 a coachload of society members went up to London to see 42nd Street at the Drury Lane Theatre.

Because of the traffic, the chance of a leisurely lunch proved out of the question but most of us managed something to eat before the afternoon performance.

42nd Street is the story of a dance group performing in Broadway, and elsewhere, in the Great Depression of the early Thirties.

The storyline was thin but the stage setting was cleverly done and the dancing and routines were breathtaking in their sheer energy.

Whether or not folk were enthusiastic about musicals, this show was well worth seeing.

On December 6 we had our usual Christmas festivities — this year an organ recital, interspersed with Christmas carols and readings — followed by a most enjoyable feast of Christmas nibbles and a wassail cup.

Those who attended seemed to appreciate the time and effort that had been put into making this such an enjoyable occasion.

The first meeting of 2018 was held on January 3 when Carl Feltham, of the Reading branch of the RSPB, gave us a most interesting and informative talk on red kites.

Their history dates back to the Middle Ages when they were used as useful scavengers to clean up the detritus left by humans rather like the vultures of Africa and India today.

The gradual decline of the birds meant that by the end of the 19th century they had become virtually extinct in England and Scotland, except for six pairs, but some breeding pairs still survived in the mountains of mid-Wales.

The reason for their decline was that they were perceived as vermin, along with herons, which killed too many fish, and foxes and buzzards, which killed too many pheasants.

During Georgian and Victorian times farmers and gamekeepers were encouraged to shoot them.

A penny was given for every head of a red kite that was presented to churchwardens who logged their demise.

In the early 1990s a decision was taken by various conservation bodies, including the RSPB, to try to reintroduce red kites into this country, starting with the Chilterns National Park.

The reasons why the Chilterns were chosen is because of the suitability of the undulating countryside with a mixture of different woodlands and the arable farms which provided the ideal foods for both red kites and buzzards, which have also made a remarkable comeback.

The first attempt at
re-introducing red kites was by using chicks that had been hatched in Spain and reared here.

Unfortunately, these attempts failed because once the birds were large enough they flew back to Spain!

Further attempts were made using red kites from Sweden and some from mid-Wales.

In 1992 there were just four pairs but by 2005 their numbers had increased to 250 pairs and by 2016 to about 600.

The result is that the Chilterns have the highest concentration of red kites of anywhere in the world and Reading has more of them than any other town or city, especially on a Sunday when they descend on the town.

The reason is that too many people are feeding them with the leftovers from Sunday lunch.

Unfortunately, there are downsides to this practice because the female red kite is larger than the male and needs roughage and bones to help build up calcium and other minerals to feed the chick embryos.

If the shells are insufficiently strong then the chicks will die.

The message is by all means feed these magnificent birds but leave them carcasses and bones as well as meat.

Carl’s talk was illustrated with many beautiful photographs which added to a memorable evening.

The society meets on alternate Wednesdays in the hall of Caversham Heights Methodist Church on Highmoor Road. Coffee is served from 7pm and the talks begin at 8pm.

New members are welcome. For more information, email contact@cavershamheights.org or visit cavershamheights.org

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