YRK Newsletter (19)

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Newsletter – Issue (19)

Sightings. The steady flow of reports of Red Kite sightings to the website shows that they are continuing to explore new areas – both urban and rural. The nature of some of the areas where they are now being seen contrasts starkly with the habitat in those remote parts of Wales which were the only places in the UK where they could be seen just a few decades ago. However, there is still a relative dearth of sightings from south of Leeds. In fact, putting on one side the East Yorkshire satellite population, our most southerly confirmed Yorkshire nest site is some 12km due east of Leeds City Centre and to the north of the A1(M)! This is a puzzle as there is apparently much suitable habitat in the southern part of the county, with historical records of presence some 200 years or so ago. A possible clue is that the general pattern of movement of kites away from UK release sites has largely coincided with the direction of the prevailing south-westerly wind. Indeed it is possible that areas south of Leeds may eventually be colonised by kites which are spreading slowly northwards from the well-established Midlands population.

Breeding monitoring continued in 2017. Two sets of figures are shown below. Full monitoring of all known occupied areas in West Yorkshire had not been possible in 2015 and 2016, but resumed this year. Table 1 below shows the confirmed figures (bold type) for 2017 for all of those areas which had been checked in 2016 (figures in brackets). Table 2 shows the overall monitoring findings for 2017, including the previously excluded area

Table 1

AREA

TERR. PAIRS

PAIRS BRED

PAIRS SUCC.

YOUNG

West Yorkshire

36 (36)

36 (35)

31 (29)

57 (52)

North Yorkshire

49 (41)

47 (40)

42 (36)

79 (66)

East Yorkshire

  8 (7)

(7)

8 (7)

13 (13)

Totals

84 (92)

82 (84)

72 (74)

131 (139)

Average young raised per successful pair = 1.84 (1.82)

 

Table 2

 

TERR. PAIRS

PAIRS BRED

PAIRS SUCC.

 
YOUNG

Overall Total

128

126

110

 
194

Average young per successful pair: 1.76

 

A total of 27 new nest sites was discovered, although several of these may have involved pairs which had decided on a change of location. Some of the new pairs were on estates well away from existing confirmed sites, so confirming that they are travelling further afield in their search for suitable, unoccupied, habitat and significantly extending the population range in the process. This was the primary objective of the release project and it is encouraging to see it being achieved.

Three long-established nests succumbed to the combined effects of wet weather and gravity. The kites’ well known habit of taking all manner of rubbish, notably plastic, to their nests makes them impermeable – the nests that is! The build-up and retention of water makes the nest too heavy for the often flimsy supports on which it is based and it falls to the ground. In two cases there were young in the nest. In one instance, a visit a couple of days later revealed the presence of a recently fledged young kite. There being no other nests in the vicinity, it is highly likely that it had left the nest before it fell down. In a fourth case, the young were found dead in a pool of water in the nest – yet more evidence of the curse of discarded plastic!

Persecution issues. The Illegal killing of Red Kites, whether by poisoning or shooting, has been a regular and unacceptable feature of their presence since releases began in Yorkshire in 1999. Most of the victims have died through feeding on poisoned baits placed in the open countryside – a practice which has been illegal for more than 100 years.

In 2016 there had been six victims confirmed in North Yorkshire (4 shootings and 2 poisonings), four of which had occurred in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The shooting of another kite in the AONB near Pateley Bridge in March 2017 led to unprecedented reactions on social media. The negative publicity and concerns about the level of wildlife crime in the area prompted immediate local action. Two local businessmen offered rewards for information leading to the arrest of whoever was responsible. The RSPB doubled the figure and a further contribution from Crimestoppers brought the total up to £4000.

The Nidderdale AONB has an atrocious record for Red Kite persecution. Twenty one (60%) of the total of 35 confirmed Yorkshire illegal deaths have occurred there. These figures take no account of other victims not found or of other species which have been similarly affected. It is particularly appropriate and especially welcome that local citizens have now decided that those members of their community who are responsible for these acts should stop tainting the reputation of the area through their blatant disregard for the welfare and protected status of these birds.

One persecution case not involving Red Kites is particularly worthy of note, it being indicative of the type of crime long suspected as occurring in certain remote moorland areas. In May 2017 a pair of Marsh Harriers settled in the AONB on heather moorland, an unusual habitat choice for this species. The RSPB installed a covert camera to monitor progress. On a routine check of the nest a few days later, it was found that the five eggs it had contained had disappeared. Natural predation was initially suspected as the cause, but a review of the video footage revealed a very different story. The nest had been visited on several occasions by men carrying guns. Shots had been fired, apparently in an attempt to shoot the female as they disturbed her from the nest, and items believed to have been eggs were seen being removed. Two Marsh Harriers were subsequently seen in flight in the area, suggesting that the adult birds had escaped without serious injury. Details of the case can be found at:

https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2017/08/10/video-of-marsh-harrier-persecution-on-north-yorkshire-grouse-moor/

Both of the above cases are being investigated by North Yorkshire Police.

Coincidentally, wildlife persecution has become an issue prompting public concern and comment in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the eastern boundary of which is adjacent to the Nidderdal AONB. This arose as a result of a YDNPA public consultation, preparatory to it drawing up its management plan for the period 2018 – 2023.

Anyone finding evidence of a suspected wildlife crime should report it immediately to the Police on 101, asking to speak to a Wildlife Crime Officer and requesting an incident number. If there is an indication that poisoning is involved (eg obvious poison bait or multiple deaths), it should also be reported to the Wildlife Incident Investigations Scheme (WIIS) on 0800 321600. Many persecution victims have been found by members of the public whilst visiting the countryside. You may wish to enter these contact numbers on your mobile phone so that you have them to hand if you find something suspicious.

Reports of kites 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 ‘Contact us’ facility on the website at www.yorkshireredkites.net

Contacts – via website as above:

Doug Simpson MBE.

Nigel Puckrin (East Yorkshire).

Simon Bassindale (North York Moors).

Acknowledgements. Thanks again to the many landowners and their representatives, gamekeepers, farmers, members of the public and veterinary practices who have assisted this year. The ongoing financial support from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust for Red Kite monitoring work is very much appreciated.