Bulletin No. 5 October 2011. This bulletin complements the Yorkshire Red Kites Newsletter Issue 13 now available at: www.yorkshireredkites.netWhilst the 2011 breeding season did not reach our expectations, we continue to remain confident about the long term success of the East Yorkshire Red Kite population, supported by indicators from the primary winter roost where early counts have already surpassed last year’s highest figure.
We are pleased to report that 6 known breeding pairs were indeed successful, though this was a drop of one pair from 2010. However with better luck, this loss could well have been balanced out through the discovery of a new pair and nest site, EY11 by a generously confiding landowner, further details below. Several tangible factors resulted in nest site monitoring being particularly difficult again, just as in 2010, with a trend for established pairs to ‘up sticks’ and move to new nest sites.
Unfortunately, 2 established pairs were inadvertently disturbed with one of them ‘deserting’, but fortunately the other pair removed the decoration from the newly refurbished nest they had apparently intended to use and transferred it to a nest used in previous years, going on to successfully raise young.
Many hours of observation at another previously successful location failed to show that there was an active nest. However, the tagged male bird appeared at another established nest site nearby that had been successful in 2010. So the question is, has a ‘divorce’ occurred or did this pair perish in the last bad winter and has the pair from the unfound nest simply ‘moved in’? I guess we will never know!
As we do not have access to three known nest sites, we have had to resort to observing from the public highway. The regular presence of birds at two of them suggested that there may have been two breeding attempts, though we have reason to believe that only one of them was successful.
Nest sites are numbered, starting from the oldest/ first discovered in East York’s 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, raising at least one young in ‘08 and having moved to a new nest, two in ‘09. Last year the pair moved yet again and this year found them back in the ’09 nest raising 3 young.
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. In 2008 the pair built yet another nest (they already had 3, one of which is the highest recorded Yorkshire nest - 80’ up in a Lime tree) quite close to the one they used last year and produced 2 young. Having failed to locate the ’09 nest we were very pleased to be given wider access in ‘10 and were delighted to find a new nest that produced 3 young. The pair used the same nest for ’11, again raising 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. Many hours of observation failed to establish that they bred in the area in subsequent years despite receiving reports of the presence of birds early in the breeding season. However, last year we received repeated sightings and with more than a little good luck found a nest new to us, deep in the wood. The nest had a massive amount of old ‘decoration’ so we suspect it had been used before. This pair successfully raised 2 young in ’10. Unfortunately, this year, the birds were disturbed and deserted.
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. As last year, 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 1 young, then 2 in ’07, 1 in ’08 and ’09.
Another pair that chose to move again in 2010, building a new nest approx. 50mts from last year’s nest. Thanks to help from the estate we were able to observe the new nest from which two young were successfully raised. This season we monitored the nest with 3 young almost to the fledging stage, then on our last visit were disturbed to see only 2 young and that in the recent high winds, the nest had slipped slightly sideways and downwards. My fellow observer had the presence of mind to suggest checking directly beneath the nest, where sadly we found the decomposed remains of an almost fully grown young that must have fallen out of the nest.
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 which built a new nest for 2008, only metres from last year’s nest, from which they raised 2 chicks. In ’09 the male bird was observed early in the season adjacent to the ’08 nest so, confident the pair would breed; the site wasn’t visited for some time. Upon returning we found no sign of activity in or around the nest. Despite the continuous presence of the birds in the area and free access in the nest wood and adjacent woods, we were unable to find that year’s nest site and it was the same situation for ‘10, despite unlimited access in the area. Most frustratingly the pair had been seen right across the ’10 breeding season but we failed to locate a nest. For the next development in 2011 please see Site EY10.
Site EY7. First occupied in 2007 but deserted. The same thing occurred in 2008. Early in the season, the nest was active, with fresh wool showing, but was disturbed on 2 occasions which were reported to us by the Head keeper, In ‘09 a pair of Kites returned to this nest site and the Head Gamekeeper reported a single young was successfully raised there. Unfortunately, we didn’t receive any information in ‘10 but observations from afar showed that 2 young were raised there. No information was received again this season and, although an adult pair was always ‘on territory’, we saw no indication that they had bred successfully.
Site EY8. On an estate where we had seen birds infrequently in the last year, we were delighted to find a new nest in 2008 where the 2 year old female, Orange / Green 11 and 4 year old male, Orange / Yellow 12 raised 2 young. Both adults were raised at Site EY1.
In 2009, despite the frequent presence of birds in the previous year’s nest site area, there was no sign of activity in or around the nest. Yet another mystery as to if, or where the birds bred. For 2010, the last sighting of this tagged pair of birds was on 26 April and we have concerns as to what may have happened to them. For 2011 we were delighted to be told that an untagged pair was spending long periods in the nest area and were even more pleased when they raised one young.
Site EY9. A new location for 2008. We were given information of activity in this locality so spent time to establish that the male was a 2 year old Yorkshire bird, Orange / Green 26 (from a nest at Harewood) whilst the female, White / Green 38, a bird which we had been observing across the winter, was a 2 year old from the Midlands. They raised 2 chicks that we observed almost to fledging then, ominously, we lost sight of the female. Sadly her remains were found at the edge of a field of Rape approx. 3 miles from her nest site. The estate told us three young had been raised successfully in 2009 so the male must have been successful in finding a new mate. Unfortunately, we didn’t receive any information in ’10 or ‘11 and observations from afar failed to show if this nest was active.
Site EY10. A new nest for 2010, located because of the much appreciated assistance of the local landowners and access to the nest site. The noisiest pair of untagged kites in East Yorkshire successfully raised 3 young. 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.
Site EY11. A new nest for 2011, shown to us located just approx. 30yds from the owner’s house! The female was observed sitting for a couple of weeks then despite the pair staying in the area for some time, there was no activity on or around the nest. The conclusion we came to was that it was a young, new pair, possibly making their first attempt to breed that goes down on record as a ‘failed attempt’. The owner and ourselves have hopes the pair will return for the 2012 season and this time breed successfully.
This brings our total of known new young Red Kites in our area to a confirmed 12.
However, if we add up the number of young over the last few years, we estimate there should be in excess of 50 Red Kites somewhere in East Yorks’ so time to keep our eyes peeled!
In Sept and Oct ’10 a young kite came from North Scotland, tagged Blue/Blue and was last seen in early 2011 in the Hornsea Mere area. We would be grateful for any further sightings. We have received information of several birds across East Yorks’ 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 two consecutive severe winters, we are seeing communal gathering / roosts in one particular area with a record max. of 38 birds at any one time.
Casualties. Sadly, here in East Yorks’ we have to report a case of secondary poisoning, a kite which died after apparently feeding on rats which had been killed by rat poison.
Primary and Secondary Poisoning. Primary 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. Secondary occurs where a Kite has fed on something, which had previously been poisoned. This usually involves a bird having fed on Rats which had legally been poisoned by Rat poison. It is imperative that manufactures 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 as three birds which had been found grounded were housed in it in 2011 and subsequently released. Having the pen made the care and observation of these 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: Very few Barn Owls, no doubt as a direct result of the last 2 severe winters. Once again there seems to be very few bats in my street this year. Flowers were short-lived, presumably due to the continuing dry weather. At the end of summer, verges around the Wolds were outstanding and Fungi also appear to have benefitted from the wet August. Brown Hares not as numerous. A bonus was seeing a Stoat in Ermine in Sept. Foxes more numerous. Last winter good sightings of Waxwings in Pocklington. A disappointing year for Butterflies, but Orange Tips abundant in spring. Towards the end of summer and during the late hot weather, reassuring number of Tortoiseshells, Peacocks, Commas and Red Admirals.
Ragwort thought to be late flowering but still seems to be running rampant in East Yorks’. A big disappointment this year was to see the felling of four Horse Chestnut trees on West Green, Pocklington, which had become infected by Phlytopthra (bleeding canker).
Acknowledgements. Special thanks to Doug Simpson, MBE, Yorkshire Red Kite Co-ordinator, responsible for 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.