Red kite back on the wing over Holkham after being saved by conservationists from the Raptor Trust

A red kite was released back into the wild on the Holkham Estate by Raptor Trust volunteer Claire Ha

A red kite was released back into the wild on the Holkham Estate by Raptor Trust volunteer Claire Halls. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

One minute it was giving Claire Halls the evils, looking like it was about to take a chunk out of her arm with its hooked beak. The next it was soaring skywards.

The male bird fledged on the estate last year was dying from an infection when it was spotted in July by gamekeeper Joe Smith, who passed it on to ringer John Middleton, who took it to the Raptor Trust.

Volunteer Miss Halls, 29, from Bowthorpe, nursed it back to health in an aviary on the outskirts of Norwich.

'We think he got a tick bite and got an infection that shut down his kidneys and his liver, she said.

'They love chasing a tractor ploughing and grabbing the worms, they'll scavenge whatever they can find, it may have found a deceased pigeon that died of tick bites and picked it up from that.

'Luckily the keeper picked this one up in time but it was touch and go for a few weeks.'

After a course of antibiotics, the bird began to become stronger.

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'When he was ill, he could barely open is eyes, he could hardly open his feet,' said Miss Halls, who works as a relief foster carer when she isn't travelling to far-flung corners of Norfolk to pick up injured birds of prey.

'Now I know he's ready to go, he's feisty, he's got the hackles up on the back of his neck, the feet have started flailing.'

With a wingspan getting on for 4ft and sharp beak and claws, it looked like a bird not to be messed with, as Miss Halls deftly lifted him from a cardboard pet carrier and launched him back into the wild with a heave of her arms.

A split second, a double take, a beat of its great wings and it was off across a field and into a wood.

As Miss Halls waited for bird ringers Phil Littler and John Middleton and Kevan McCaig, Holkham's head keeper, a pair of kites appeared 100 yds from the launch site.

'That's mum and dad,' she said.

Shortly afterwards, another kite skimmed a woodland ride on the look-out for its lunch.

Mr McCaig said the estate had a clear policy of conserving birds of prey, which all staff signed up to.

The Raptor Trust's volunteers cared for more than 400 sick and injured birds last year.