Bulletin No. 7 September 2013.
This bulletin complements the Yorkshire Red Kites Newsletter Issue 15 now available at: www.yorkshireredkites.net
We continue to remain confident about the long term success of the East Yorkshire Red Kite population, being pleased to report that 11 breeding pairs were known to have been successful this year, an increase of 3 from 2012. As in previous years, monitoring showed a tendency for several established pairs to ‘up sticks’ and move to new nest sites. A further pair deserted their nest site after apparently being disturbed. Although they remained in the area, we were unable to locate their breeding site.
As we do not have access to three known nest sites, we have had to resort to observing from the public highway. As in 2012, the regular presence of birds at two of them and the sighting of fledged young indicated that both were successful this season. We are also grateful to the people who informed us of 4 new nest sites.
Nest sites are numbered, starting from the oldest/ first discovered in East Yorks and running to the most recent, hopefully adding as we go!
Site EY1. Occupied initially in 1999 by a single bird which was joined by another in 2000 – both from the first phase of releases at Harewood. First bred in 2001, raising two young, the first in East Yorks for 150 years! Successful in all but one year subsequently. This year yet another new nest was built, again proving very difficult to find and observe, so rather than risk disturbing the birds, we waited until any young would have been close to fledging and are happy to report 2 young were raised.
Site EY2. Occupied in 1999 by a single bird from the first Harewood release. Breeding not proven until 2004 when this bird is believed to have paired up with a bird raised at Site EY1 in 2002, raising three young and have been successful each year since. One of the 3 nests is the highest recorded Yorkshire nest - 80’ up in a Lime tree. This year the pair led us a merry dance as they had moved into a 4th nest that took some finding from where they raised 3 young.
Site EY3. Two untagged adults occupied this site in 2003. There is speculation that they may have been the two young raised at Site EY1 in 2001, breeding between siblings having been known. They raised 3 young. Sadly, the following winter, the top of the nest tree blew down in gales making the nest too exposed for future use. This pair successfully raised 2 young in 2010 in a new nest. Unfortunately, in 2011 the birds were disturbed and deserted. Although there were sightings of kites in the area this year, we had no evidence that there was an active nest in what could be one of the largest woods in East Yorks.
Site EY4. First occupied in 2005 by two birds which arrived from Harewood, one being a Chilterns bird released there in 2003 whilst the other was raised in a nest at Harewood in the same year. They raised two young and have been successful each year since. A site where we have no access so as in previous years, we were only able to observe from a considerable distance but are confident that the pair raised at least one young.
Site EY5. Established in 2006, the pair at this location produced young in subsequent years. This season, instead of rebuilding any of the previous nests the pair built a 4th in the same wood and 3 young were raised.
Site EY6. Established as a breeding site in 2007 but failed. A new male, Orange/Green 10 (raised at Site EY1 in 2006) and new untagged female formed a pair, successful in 2008, but not at this site since then. For the next development in 2013 please see Site EY10.
Site EY7. Another site where we have no access. First occupied in 2007 but deserted. The same thing occurred in 2008. Observations from afar showed that at least 1 young was raised there in 2013.
Site EY8. On an estate where we had seen birds infrequently in the previous year, we were delighted to find a new nest in 2008. In 2012 the birds were another pair to ‘up sticks’ and build a new nest in the same wood and we established they raised 2 young. This site in 2013 proved to be frustrating to the author as despite being told and being shown a picture of a large structure in a different wood, in winter when the leaves were off the trees, it escaped his notice! Therefore, when the pair were ‘on territory’, but the 2 previous nests weren’t active, many hours were spent observing until the new well decorated nest was re found. Not an easy nest to view, hindered by a bull in the adjacent field, at least one new young was fledged.
Site EY9. A new location in 2008. Unfortunately, another site where we have no access. Observations from afar have failed to show if this nest has since been active. It is possible that it might be this pair which has moved to the new site at EY15.
Site EY10. A new nest for 2010, located because of the much appreciated assistance of the local landowners and access to the nest site.
A situation we just don’t have answers to occurred at this site in 2011 where the tagged male from Site EY6 took up residence. We have no way of knowing which female he mated with, but the successful outcome was 2 young raised in 2011 and 2012. We have reason to believe this pair were disturbed early in the 2013 breeding season and deserted this site. Most frustratingly the tagged male bird has been seen right across the season, even carrying prey, but despite full access in the area we never managed to find an active nest.
Site EY11. A new nest for 2011, located just approx. 30yds from the owner’s house! As in 2012, this pair once again successfully raised 3 young. There can’t be many other kite nests where the owners can watch the sitting female – in turn observing them - from their upstairs rooms!
Site EY12. A new site for 2013 located because of the much appreciated assistance of two local landowners and access to the nest site. A relatively small nest from which one young successfully fledged.
Site EY13. A second new nest site for 2013, located by sheer good luck when an adult kite was spotted taking prey into the wood. Access was most appreciably granted and we observed 2 young successfully fledged.
Site EY14. Persistence proved rewarding for the observer when he located a third new nest site for 2013. With excellent views available, the pair were seen to successfully raise 3 young.
Site EY15. The fourth new nest for 2013, reported to us by the head keeper who said that 2 young had been raised and had fledged.
This brings our total of known new young Red Kites in our area to 22.This means that more than 60 young birds have been raised in recent years. Moreover, it is highly likely that there are breeding pairs which we aren’t aware of, so we would be grateful for any further sightings of birds – particularly in areas in which you haven’t seen them previously. Of interest is the fact that some kites have moved off the Wolds with its sloping ground and are breeding in woodland on the flatter lands of the plain of York. We have received information of several birds, particularly further to the East of our county and are always grateful to receive regular sightings. East Yorks is a big area! With this in mind we would welcome any new observers who have both the time and genuine interest to assist us in tracking the population of Red Kites in our county.
Despite the recent bad winters, a communal gathering/roost in one particular area continued with a record max. of 45 birds at any one time. From approx. early October to February, as the light fades kites begin to appear from all directions to gather and ‘play’ is often common before the birds finally roost. Maybe the ones that have found sufficient food earlier in the day and are ‘fed up’ have time on their hands. Play can be seen as carrying objects, twigs etc, dropping and catching them with others joining in. There are often aerial chases and mock fights, especially on windy days when not much energy is expended, giving young birds the chance to learn and improve skills. It may be that, come the following day, hungry birds can ‘share information’ and follow other individuals to a known food source, sometimes called ‘network foraging’. It is also likely that unpaired young birds may find a mate in the opportunity to socialise at the communal roost. Of course, we have no way of knowing which birds attend and it may be that some remain at their own territory.
Primary and Secondary Poisoning. Primary poisoning occurs when a kite has fed directly on a poisoned substance which has then caused its death eg a poisoned bait placed in the open countryside, possibly targeting crows or foxes. It is an illegal method of attempted vermin control, being indiscriminate in its effects. There have been two confirmed primary poisonings of Yorkshire Red Kites since the previous EY Bulletin was published.
Secondary poisoning occurs where a kite has fed on something, which had previously been poisoned. This usually involves a bird having fed on rats which had been legally poisoned by rat poison. The recent analysis of a kite which had died from primary poisoning revealed that it had traces of no fewer than four different rat poisons in its system. It is imperative that manufacturer’s instructions are followed. Rats poisoned by rodenticides should be regularly collected up and safely disposed of to prevent them entering the food chain of kites and other scavenging species.
The Rehabilitation Pen has once again proved very useful. Having the pen makes the care and observation of sick or injured birds much more straightforward than it would otherwise have been.
Other species. I hasten to add these are purely our own observations but would welcome comments from anyone interested to reply:
With spring arriving late the delayed early spring flowers then bloomed at the same time as the later spring flowers and we were treated to wonderful floral displays of numerous wild flowers all out together. Orchids this year have been superb and have attracted a profusion of butterflies and moths. Common blue butterflies and marbled whites were the first to take advantage of the orchids and they were followed by the six spot burnet moth. The small skipper butterflies appear to have had an excellent year and have been seen mainly ‘nectaring’ on thistles. The small tortoiseshell is happily making a comeback and the peacock butterfly is having a wonderful year. Also seen, commas, red admiral and painted lady butterflies but so far (early Sept) not in high numbers. What are missing this year are ladybirds which, from our observations are very few in number. It’s been an excellent year for all our trees with dense foliage, including the ash, but who knows how long this will last for this species. It does look as though this is going to be a good year for berries, acorns and soft fruits which bodes well for our foraging mammals and birds this winter.
It seems to have been a better year for cuckoos, hearing the first cuckoo at the end of April just a week later than previously. Larger numbers of swifts, but poor numbers of swallows and house martins, at least in most of the areas we cover, but we do know of some areas where there were big numbers. We were made aware of groups of marsh harriers roosting in crops around harvest time. Curlews have also been seen and heard in large numbers this year. Very few bats at dusk compared with other years. An unusual sighting was of a grass snake agreed by 5 of us to be approx 4 to 5ft long, that slithered across a lane, then 10min later came back again.
Acknowledgements. Special thanks to Doug Simpson, MBE, Yorkshire Red Kite Co-ordinator, who was involved in the release programme at Harewood, near Leeds for his continued advice and support.
Yorkshire Red Kites much appreciates the ongoing support from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. This will enable monitoring of the progress of our expanding Red Kite population to continue. The assistance of landowners and their representatives, gamekeepers and farmers over a wide area who have Red Kites on their land is readily acknowledged, as is the care provided for sick and injured birds by several veterinary practices, rehabilitation centres and the RSPCA.
Reports of Red Kite sightings received from the general public are always welcome. They help us keep track of the expanding population, a number of new breeding pairs having been located through such records.
More detail and information about Red Kites can be found on our website at: www.yorkshireredkites.net