YRK Newsletter (16)

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Newsletter – Issue (16)

The consolidation of the Yorkshire Red Kite population continued in 2014. Reports of the presence of kites are being received from an increasingly wide area. Many of these are probably roving birds and not necessarily of Yorkshire origin, but it is encouraging to know that they are exploring new locations away from areas already occupied. The number of pairs actually known to have bred in the county has reached three-figures for the first time since reintroductions began in 1999. The overall number of young produced was boosted by the incredible productivity of two North Yorkshire pairs. Between them, they raised a total of nine young. We have had a handful of broods of four in the past, but for a pair to raise five is exceptional and is a feat which may well be unprecedented in the UK. Another pair achieved a ‘first’ of another kind. They were very late in getting organised – so much so that their single chick did not fledge until early August, a month or more later than usual.

The contraction of the western boundary of the established breeding range has been referred to previously. Fortunately, we saw a partial recovery in 2014 with the discovery of two pairs in an area from which they had been absent since an unsuccessful breeding attempt in 2011. It was unfortunate that one of these pairs should fail when their nest blew down in a storm, resulting in the deaths of their two small young. However, their renewed presence in that location was a very welcome development.

Nests at two other locations also fell down. One was very big and had been in use for many years. There was a kite sitting on it at the end of April, but when it was checked again in early June it was in a heap on the ground. It was waterlogged, the presence of many pieces of plastic having no doubt caused it to hold water and become too heavy for the branches supporting it. It is not clear at what stage it fell down, there being no sign of either eggs or young kites amongst the debris. The young kite at the other fallen nest was very fortunate. The nest was a small scrappy affair which had managed to stay in place long enough for its single occupant to fledge. When checked towards the end of June the nest had disintegrated, but the young kite could be heard calling from a nearby tree.

There was further evidence this year of the intriguing habit whereby breeding kites collect soft toys, items of clothing etc. and take them to their nests. Our very first successful nest in 2000 had a teddy bear’s head and a tea-towel in it. Under one nest in 2013 there were three children’s woollen gloves – none of them matching. This year a ‘Bagpuss’, in pristine condition, was found below one nest with two rather more tatty items turning up elsewhere - begging the question as to where they find these things!

Golf courses are becoming increasingly popular choices for nest sites, there being at least three Yorkshire courses which are each known to be home to two breeding pairs. The birds become very tolerant of golfers who pass close to their nests – only raising objections when someone from YRK, complete with permit from Natural England, arrives to check their breeding progress.

Late in 2013 we heard of a pair which had bred in the middle of a paint-ball park. The location was checked this year and it was found that the birds had shifted away from the active area. They raised at least one young. A pair also nested in yet another paint-ball park. Their nest, from which they raised three young, was very high up in a Beech tree - at the foot of which were battlements used by the paint-ball combatants!  

Nest monitoring each year begins with sites which had been occupied in the previous breeding season. This usually shows that a significant number are unoccupied, the figure this year being 14. Some of them were long-established locations whilst others had been new in 2013. It is only feasible to monitor pairs of kites during the breeding season and we have no knowledge of what happens to them for the rest of the year. However, the balance was more than redressed as the season developed, pairs being located at 30 sites not recorded as occupied in 2013. Disappointingly, the overall number found in East Yorkshire actually went down – the explanation for which is not immediately apparent. A summary of the known Yorkshire 2014 figures, with 2013 figures in brackets, is shown in the table below:

AREA

PAIRS FOUND

PAIRS BRED

PAIRS SUCC.

YOUNG

West Yorkshire

63   (54)

61  (49)

53 (42)

93  (76)

North Yorkshire

40   (35)

37  (28)

31 (22)

63  (46)

East Yorkshire

          9    (12)

           8   (11)

           7  (11)

15  (22)

Totals

112 (101)

         106 (88)

91 (75)

171 (144)

Average young raised per successful pair = 1.86 (1.92).

 

The deaths of a substantial number of kites caused by them feeding on illegal poisoned baits in North Yorkshire have been reported previously. Confirmation of a further alphachloralose victim has taken that figure up to 21. For the first time since releases began in 1999, incidents involving the persecution of kites have been recorded in West Yorkshire. Two were shooting victims whilst another succumbed to a bait dosed with three different poisons. One of the shot birds was still alive and received urgent veterinary treatment. It had been shot through the thigh, entrance and exit holes caused by the projectile being clearly visible. Fortunately, it had suffered no lasting damage and was successfully released following a spell in the rehabilitation pen.

Please report suspected wildlife crimes to the Police by phoning 101. Suspected poisoning cases should also be reported to Natural England on 0800 321 600. More information on these topics can be found on the website.

Rat poisons are an ongoing threat toRed Kites and other scavenging species. Eleven Yorkshire kite deaths have been confirmed as caused by them feeding on poisoned rats. In early 2014 the Barn Owl Trust (www.barnowltrust.org.uk) launched a petition calling on the Government to tighten up the rules relating to their use. Ideally, professional advice should be sought in order that a situation is properly evaluated. This ensures that the correct product is used and properly applied and that the amount of poison introduced into the natural environment is kept to a minimum.

The rehabilitation pen was again put to good use. As well as accommodating the shot kite, it briefly housed a young buzzard which had been found grounded and reported to us as a kite. Forty-eight hours in the pen enabled it to recover and it was released back where it had been found.

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:

Doug Simpson MBE. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Nigel Puckrin (East Yorkshire). Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Simon Bassindale (North York Moors). Email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

As ever, we acknowledge the help we have received from the many landowners and their representatives, gamekeepers, farmers, veterinary practices and members of the public who have assisted in any way. The ongoing financial support from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust for Red Kite monitoring work is very much appreciated.