To mark our selection as a Finalist in the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015 we’re embarking on a unique and ambitious tour of the country – the Dodo Roadshow.
Beginning at Land’s End on 8 June and concluding in John O’Groats one week later, the famous Oxford Dodo will visit more than 20 museums and galleries along the way. At each stop the Dodo will ‘interview’ one of the venue’s star objects.
Tullie House: Portinscale Red Kite
So, tell me about yourself – who are you and where do you come from?
I’m the Portinscale Red Kite and I’m Cumbrian, born and bred. I live in Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle.
What is it that makes you so special?
I was one of the very last native red kites in Cumbria. We suffered intense persecution from humans in the 1800s and were driven to extinction in the county and then England. I am the oldest mounted bird specimen in the Museum here in Carlisle.
Who looks after you in this place?
I’m looked after by the Curator of Natural Sciences. Information about me and other biological specimens, as well as other historical and modern records of Cumbrian wildlife, are looked after by the Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre. This is the Local Environmental Records Centre for Cumbria, which is based here at the museum and managed by Teresa Frost.
Do you remember life before the museum?
I can remember in the late 1800s the Rev. H. A. Macpherson visiting me whilst researching his book, A Vertebrate Fauna of Lakeland. He wrote “Mr. Sawyer of Threlkeld showed me a fine kite, which he bought for £2 at a sale. This bird had been shot by John Pearson at Portinscale near Keswick, in 1840, and is perhaps the last of the indigenous race of Kites that inhabited the Lake District from prehistoric times.” I can’t remember exactly when I moved to the Museum, but Macpherson campaigned for natural history to be a part of the then new Carlisle Museum and encouraged people to give their collections here.
What does the future hold for you?
I’ll be kept safely here in the Museum and be a reminder of how persecution can drive birds of prey to local extinction; sadly something which is not completely in the past. But the future for Red Kites in Cumbria is looking much brighter these days. Thanks to historic records like mine showing where Kites used to live, 90 birds were released in the Lake District between 2010 and 2012 as part of a nationwide reintroduction programme. Last summer we had wonderful news – 3 chicks hatched from a nest in Grizedale. This was the first confirmed breeding of Red Kites in Cumbria for around 200 years.