RSPB report shows North Yorkshire again the worst region in the UK for the persecution of birds of prey.
"The RSPB's Birdcrime report summarises offences against wild bird legislation that are reported to the RSPB each year. We have published the report annually since 1990: it is the only centralised source of incident data for UK wild bird crime.
For the first time we are presenting the Birdcrime report data in an interactive online format, to make them more accessible than ever before.Keep scrolling down to see headlines, incident maps and case studies for 2015"
With the confirmed shooting of six Red Kites in Yorkshire and the death from rodenticide poisoning of a thirteen year old female kite tagged in 2004 as Orange/Yellow 6 (O/Y6), it looked as though the figure ‘6’ was going to be our unlucky number for 2016. We had not, however, reckoned on a chance discovery and incredible coincidence involving another number 6.
(Picture of O/R6 by Maggie Bruce and O/R7 by Charlie Wright.)
In September 1999 I released a kite at Harewood which was probably 2-3 years old. We didn’t know what sex it was – in fact all that we knew about it was that it had been rescued from illegal captivity where it had been kept after being retrieved, apparently unharmed except for a soaking, from a Chilterns cattle drinking trough. After what was, in effect, its second rescue, it was taken to London Zoo for assessment – they dealt with all health issues relating to the re-introduction of Red Kites into England. It received a clean bill of health and we were asked if we would take it, in the knowledge that it would be fitted with a transmitter, enabling us to check that it was managing satisfactorily in the wild after its lengthy spell in captivity.
Following its release, it stayed around Harewood for a while before starting to venture further afield. It spent the best part of three weeks in the Lower Derwent Valley, not far from Wheldrake. There was no shortage of food, there having been a serious outbreak of Myxomatosis in the area. This was bad news for rabbits but Christmas come early for kites! It then moved north of Harrogate before moving off southwards again. The last signal received from its transmitter in 1999 was on 30th November and suggested that it could well be heading back towards the Chilterns, from where it had originated.
Ever hopeful that it might return, I kept checking the radio-frequency of its transmitter and in early 2000 detected a faint signal, still in a southerly direction. It got louder and eventually the bird made its way back to Harewood Estate, where it settled. During late April and early May I could tell that, though active, it seemed to be spending an inordinate amount of time in a particular area. On investigating, I found that it was sitting on a nest and by the end of May two chicks could be seen. This was extraordinary as it meant that we had young kites in a nest less than 11 months after the release of the first 20 birds into Yorkshire in July 1999. That the older bird should have turned out to be a female was a double bonus, the sexes of the first 20 young sourced from the Chilterns having been subsequently determined from blood samples as being 14 males and only 6 females!
The male of the pair was one of the young released in 1999 which had bred at less than one year old. One of the young raised took after its father and also bred the year after its birth. None of the other reintroduction projects in the UK and Ireland have had such early successful breeding.
To return to the number ‘6’ story referred to above, this pair of birds continued to breed together and in 2003 they produced two young which were tagged as O/R6 and O/R7. Records of these two birds showed that O/R6 remained in the Harewood area whereas O/R7 moved out to the Yorkshire Wolds where she was detected in the company of O/R23, a kite of Chilterns origin which had been released at Harewood. They settled and bred on a Wolds estate.
On 28th November this year, whilst on a visit to Harewood, a lady who is a member of an East Yorkshire group – Birding with Flowers - took a photograph of O/R6. Just a few days later, by a remarkable coincidence, that group was visiting a Wolds site when they saw O/R7 – creating an intriguing link between two birds which were raised in the same nest more than 13 years previously.
The ‘Sixes and Sevens’ connections don’t end there. O/Y6, noted above as having been poisoned by rodenticide, and her sister O/Y7 who nests in an adjacent wood, were also raised by the same pair of adults.
Doug Simpson Yorkshire Red Kite Co-ordinator December 2016
The seventeenth year following the initial release of Red Kites in Yorkshire has been something of a mixed bag. It wasn't possible to check all known breeding sites and the table below shows the confirmed 2016 breeding figures for those sites which were actually monitored. The figures in brackets show the 2015 equivalents for the same territories checked, several of which were unoccupied this year.
Average young raised per successful pair = 1.82 (1.88)
2016 has seen an unprecedented number of Yorkshire kites falling victim to various forms of human intervention. Confirmed incidents are as follows:
One of the shot birds recovered and was released. The others were fatalities. A post-mortem examination of one which had been shot whilst sitting on its nest showed that it was just hours away from laying its first egg. One poisoning victim tested positive for no fewer than five primary poisons ingested from an illegal bait. Another was killed by rat poison, our thirteenth confirmed death from this cause. It is highly likely that there were many other victims which were not found. Other confirmed shooting incidents in Yorkshire in 2016 have included Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and Peregrine Falcon. At least eight of the above victims were discovered by walkers, adding to the many reported in previous years by observant visitors to the countryside.
Anyone finding evidence of a suspected wildlife crime should reported it immediately to the Police on 101, asking to speak to a Wildlife Crime Officer and requesting an incident number.
A much more fortunate young kite was rescued from the very busy A659 at Arthington. It is a minor miracle that it had survived. It was successfully released after being cared for by the finders, followed by a spell in our rehabilitation pen.
Reports of sightings received on the website show that kites are ranging far and wide. Indeed birds seen in the county are not necessarily of Yorkshire origin. Records of a single bird reported from the Beeston, Belle Isle. Morley, Gildersome, Drighlington, Churwell and Tingley area, on the south-eastern outskirts of Leeds, top the list for the most frequently reported individual – assuming that it was the same bird.
Sightings of kites seen to be regularly frequenting new areas are particularly welcome. This helps us to confirm new breeding pairs and monitor the progress of the expanding population. They can be reported through the website at www.yorkshireredkites.net or to one of the following contacts:
Thanks again to the many landowners and their representatives, gamekeepers, farmers, members of the public and, in particular, two veterinary practices who have assisted this year. The ongoing financial support from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust for Red Kite monitoring work is very much appreciated.
On 21st April a new Red Kite nest was discovered in woodland near Eccup in West Yorkshire. Hanging from the next tree was the carcass of a Red Kite. Veterinary examination and X-ray of the bird showed injuries which were consistent with it having been shot whilst sitting on its nest.
On 23rd April, just two days later, a kite with a broken wing was found near Nidd in North Yorkshire. It was still alive. It was taken to a local vet who found that the wing was so badly damaged that it would not recover. It was put to sleep. Again, veterinary examination and X-ray showed that shooting was the cause of the bird’s injuries.
Anyone with information about either of these incidents should report it to the Police by dialing 101 and asking to speak to a Wildlife Crime Officer or by using the ‘Contact us’ facility on this website.