Bulletin No. 6 September 2012. This bulletin complements the Yorkshire Red Kites Newsletter Issue 14 now available at: www.yorkshireredkites.net
The overall figures for the 2012 breeding season show an increase in new young so we continue to remain confident about the long term success of the East Yorkshire Red Kite population. We are pleased to report that 8 known breeding pairs were indeed successful, an increase of 2 from 2011. Several tangible factors resulted in nest site monitoring being particularly difficult again, just as in previous years, with a trend for established pairs to ‘up sticks’ and move to new nest sites.
Unfortunately, 1 established pair which was inadvertently disturbed in 2011, resulting in them ‘deserting’, failed to return to the nest site this season.
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 and the sighting of fledged young indicated that both were successful this season.
We and the owners of nest site EY11 were delighted that the pair, new but unsuccessful in 2011, decided to return and this time bred successfully.
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, raising at least one young in ‘08 and having moved to a new nest, two in ‘09. In ‘10 the pair moved again and ‘11 found them back in the ’09 nest raising 3 young. This year yet another new nest was built that proved 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. 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 raising 3 and ’12 raising 2 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, in ‘10 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 that year. Unfortunately, in ‘11 the birds were disturbed and deserted. Sadly, although there were sightings of the pair, they didn’t return to this nest site in ’12 and despite spending many hours searching what could well be one of East Yorkshire’s largest woods, we never found an active nest.
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 in previous years, we were only able to observe from a considerable distance but are confident that same as ‘11 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 in ‘10, building a new nest from which two young were successfully raised. In ‘11 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 high winds, the nest had slipped slightly sideways and downwards resulting in the loss of one of the young. This season, instead of rebuilding last year’s nest the pair built another in the same wood in an exposed oak tree, but as the leaves became dense, fortunately the nest was obscured and 2 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 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. Unfortunately in ‘08 ’09 and ‘10 we found no sign of activity in or around the nest. 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 ‘11 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 keeper 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 in ‘11 and, although an adult pair was always ‘on territory’, we saw no indication that they had bred successfully. Although once again we received no information for ’12 we do have better news because when the breeding season progressed we first saw 2 juveniles flying free above and in to the nest area, then were delighted when the 2 turned into 3 successfully raised.
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 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 ‘09, 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. In ‘10, 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 ‘11 we were pleased when an untagged pair raised one young using the original nest. This year they were another pair to ‘up sticks’ and build a new nest in the same wood, that proved very difficult to observe but we established they raised 2 young.
Site EY9. A new location for ‘08. 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 ‘09 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. It was the same situation in ’12.
Site EY10. A new nest for ‘10, 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 ‘11 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. Still the noisiest Red Kites I’m aware of, the pair raised 2 young this season.
Site EY11. A new nest for ‘11, 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’. Our hopes were realised when the pair returned to the same nest this season. Initially we could see 2 young in the nest and then as they grew and room became tight, a 3 rd youngster appeared! There can’t be many other kite nests where the owners can observe the sitting female from their upstairs rooms - observing them!
This brings our total of known new young Red Kites in our area to a confirmed 17.
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, including breeding pairs we aren’t aware of, so would be grateful for any further sightings. 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 38 birds at any one time.
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. Having the pen made 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: Barn Owls numbers seem to have increased slightly, still no doubt suffering as a direct result of the latest severe winters. The insect year started positively with brimstone butterflies seen in early spring followed by more orange-tip butterflies in March than seen for the past two years. The rains arrived in April and butterfly numbers for the rest of spring and summer have been disappointing. However when thistles were in flower, there were big numbers of marbled white in places. At one stage meadow brown and ringlet were to be seen. Therefore, it was probably inevitable that the small number of insects had an adverse effect upon birds and bats resulting in a massive reduction in house martins, swallows and swifts, the latter disappearing much earlier than normal. Ants managed to survive the wet weather in massive numbers so this has been a good year for the green woodpecker which have been heard and seen in far greater numbers than previous years. Flowers got off to a slow start with the drought early in the year. Grasses soon made up for it once the rains started and on verges especially, grew so high they covered (and in some cases smothered) wild flowers, resulting in them being short-lived. Early August saw verges around the Wolds outstanding with meadow cranesbill, scabious and in Wold valleys harebell. Orchids enjoyed the weather and were particularly beautiful and abundant. A 'highlight' was finding a perfect bee orchid but sadly this was eaten by sheep the next day! Fungi appeared early having no doubt benefitted from the wet August. Ragwort continues to be running rampant in East Yorks. More frogs and toads around than usual and finally, big flocks of goldfinch late Aug/early Sept on thistle seeds.
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.