YRK Newsletter (21)

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Newsletter – Issue (21)

Sightings of Red Kites continue to be reported from an increasingly wide area, showing that the birds are continuing to explore new locations. However, there has still been no confirmation of breeding pairs to the south of Leeds. Issue 20 reported on the increase in sightings of kites in the North Nottinghamshire, North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire localities, they having become a regular sight as far north as the Doncaster area. Such reports (including two breeding records which were not quite in Yorkshire) have continued in the ensuing period and it will surely not be long before kites become a regular and widespread feature in the landscape throughout the county – particularly when this northerly progression reaches areas already populated by birds originating from the Yorkshire release site at Harewood. It is likely that these are predominantly kites which have spread northwards from the well-established Midlands population, arising from birds released in Northamptonshire in the mid-1990s. Such traffic of Midlands birds northwards is something we’ve been aware of, on a small scale, for a number of years, the occasional tagged Midlands bird having joined the Yorkshire breeding population in the past.

Breeding monitoring continued in 2019, albeit that circumstances beyond our control prevented this being as thorough as usual. This resulted in many locations not being checked at all and some only early in the breeding season to confirm occupation of territories. A rough estimate is that around half of potential sites were confirmed as occupied. The table below shows such figures as are available, the bracketed figures being from 2018 when more thorough monitoring was possible.

AREA

TERR. PAIRS

PAIRS BRED

PAIRS SUCC.

YOUNG

West Yorkshire 

39  (66)

39  (61)

25  (52)

37  (94)

North Yorkshire

43  (47)

42  (45)

38  (35)

54  (68)

East Yorkshire

7  (11)

7   (11)

6  (11)

9  (17)

Totals

89 (124)  

88 (117)

69   (98)

100 (179)

Average young raised per successful pair:  1.45 (1.83)

 

News of older birds. Two birds from the original 1999 releases were identified in 2019. One was found at Harewood in a distressed condition. It received veterinary attention and was cleaned up before being released back at Harewood. The second was the male from the first pair of released birds to breed in East Yorkshire. A fortuitous very close sighting enabled part of the number on his leg ring to be read. A bit of detective work showed that it was highly improbable that any other kites with a similar number would have been present in the area – the ring having been fitted in the Chilterns before it was brought up to Yorkshire for release. The bird had been identified at this site from its wing-tags and radio-transmitter in the early days of the project so there was little room for doubt as to his identity. Before finally settling at the East Yorkshire site and assuming family responsibilities, he made the trip back to Harewood on a number of occasions. His original mate died in 2014 in mysterious circumstances at the age of 15. This year he and his new mate raised 2 young.

Persecution of kites in North Yorkshire continues to be an issue. Recent, very late, press notices recorded poisoning victims located at Thixendale near Malton (December 2018) and Blazefield near Pateley Bridge (March 2019). The latter was yet another victim found in the now infamous Nidderdale AONB bird of prey killing zone. The AONB authorities have addressed this issue in their recently published Evidence Report which forms part of its Management Plan for the period 2019 to 2024. The report can be found here: https://nidderdaleaonb.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/BoP-in-NiddAONB-Evidence-Report-FINAL-Sept-2019.pdf

It is particularly relevant to Red Kites as no fewer than 23 are known to have been either poisoned or shot in the AONB. This is a terrible record – undoubtedly the worst in England for any given area. The method used in poisoning cases – baits containing poison left in the open countryside - shows an incredible degree of irresponsibility. Once left out, the poisoner has no control whatsoever over what might find and feed on the bait. Only he will know what species he is targeting – it might be kites or it could quite simply be anything which is perceived as a threat to his interests. Either way, there would be nothing to prevent a dog, for example, finding the bait and suffering the consequences. Such instances have been recorded. Worse still, the bait could be a small rabbit – as was the case on Lofthouse Moor in 2012 – which is found and picked up by a child.

Suspected wildlife crime should be reported immediately to the Police on 101. Ask to speak to a Wildlife Crime Officer and request an incident number. If there is an indication that poisoning is involved (eg obvious poison bait, a discharge from the bird’s beak 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 details on your mobile phone so that you have them to hand if you find something suspicious. If you do find anything of this nature, please make sure that you do not touch it as poison(s) might be present. Please also avoid disturbing the immediate area as it could be a potential crime scene. Further information on dealing with casualties can be found on the website.

Anyone wishing to discuss these issues may do so by contacting RSPB Investigations who have a confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101 and email reporting facility at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The RSPB has published an online Raptor Persecution Map Hub showing details of confirmed raptor persecution incidents from 2012 to 2018. It can be found at www.rspb.org.uk/RaptorMap

Rat poisons are an ever-present threat, albeit that no kite casualties from birds having fed on rats killed by them were reported this year. There have been efforts in recent years to encourage the more responsible use of these substances – not least in using a professional rather than a DIY approach - and it is possible that this is paying off. The rat/rodenticide issue is a dynamic situation, rats constantly developing resistance to new poisons. This has prompted a monitoring scheme run by the Rodenticide Resistance Action Committee in conjunction with Reading University whereby the testing of samples (typically the end of the tail) of rats can show whether they are rodenticide resistant and, if so, to which poisons. The application of this information can then avoid the use of the less effective poisons to which resistance has been detected, so enabling a more effective choice to be made, a reduction in the overall amount of rodenticide released into the environment and a speedier resolution to rat infestation problems – until the next time!

Accidental deaths are reported from time to time. Issue 20 reported on the remains of a kite being found at the foot of a power-pole on the edge of a wood near Otley. Mounted on the pole was a transformer with large exposed terminals. The remains of the bird were too far decomposed for the cause of death to be determined, but it was a reasonable assumption that it had come into contact with the exposed live terminals and adjacent cables before falling to the ground below. The situation was drawn to the attention of Northern Powergrid who fitted screening around the exposed sections to prevent further problems. It is unfortunate that the screening of live, exposed, transformer cables and terminals is not obligatory at the time that such transformers are erected.

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.

 

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.

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