Bulletin No. 8 September 2014.
This bulletin complements the Yorkshire Red Kites Newsletter Issue 16 now available at: www.yorkshireredkites.net
Although we continue to remain confident about the long term success of the East Yorkshire Red Kite population, unfortunately there has been a decrease in known successful breeding pairs this year. There are several accountable reasons for this, including: pairs that didn’t return to previous nest site areas, a pair that deserted, possibly due to disturbance and lack of access to monitor known nests.
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 2 young, the first in East Yorks for 150 years! Successful in all but one year subsequently. Sadly, this year the original female died, however a new bird moved in, then a new nest was discovered where 2 young were successfully 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 3 young and have been successful each year since. This year we observed a sitting bird and then as the season progressed the foliage became so dense we couldn’t see the nest. Therefore, we had to wait for any young to fledge and are aware at least 1 young was successfully raised.
Site EY3. 2 untagged adults occupied this site in 2003. There is speculation that they may have been the 2 young raised at Site EY1 in 2001, breeding between siblings having been known. Sadly, the following winter, the top of the nest tree blew down in gales making the nest too exposed for future use. This pair successfully raised 2 young in 2010 in a new nest. Unfortunately, in 2011 the birds were disturbed and deserted. Since then, we have no evidence that there is an active nest in what could be one of the largest woods in East Yorks.
Site EY4. First occupied in 2005 by 2 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 have been successful each year since.A site where we have no access so,as in previous years, we were only able to observe from a considerable distance but are confident that the pair raised 2 young this season.
Site EY5. Established in 2006, the pair at this location produced young in subsequent years. This season, the pair moved back in to a previously used nest in the same wood. Again, with foliage being so dense it proved difficult to view the nest but we were able to establish that 3 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, successful in 2008, but not at this site since then. For the next development in 2014 please see Site EY10.
Site EY7. Another site where we have no access. First occupied in 2007 but deserted. The same thing occurred in 2008. Observations from afar this season revealed a pair ‘on territory’ but we can’t confirm if any young were raised .
Site EY8. New in 2008. In 2012 the birds build a new nest in the same wood and we established that they raised 2 young. In 2013 they built a new, well decorated nest in a different wood and raised 1 young. 2014 has proved impossible to know the outcome! The pair was ‘on territory’ and another new nest, back in the original wood was located, very high and because of dense undergrowth no suitable location was found to view it. We believe it was active as with the kite’s habit of ‘decorating’ the nest we could see a part ball of knitting wool blowing about at it. Birds continued to be seen infrequently in the area.
Site EY9. A new location in 2008. Unfortunately, another site where we have no access. As last year, observations from afar have failed to show if this nest has since been active. It is possible that it might be this pair which has moved to the new site at EY15.
Site EY10. A new nest in 2010. 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 in 2011 and 2012. We have reason to believe this pair were disturbed early in the 2013 breeding season and deserted this site. No activity was seen this season and worryingly the tagged male Orange/Green10 has not been seen for some time. We would be grateful for any information regarding this bird.
Site EY11. A new nest for 2011, located just approx. 30yds from the owner’s house! In 2012 and 2013, this pair successfully raised 3 young. This season we had excellent views of the nest and know that 2 young successfully fledged.
Site EY12. A new site for 2013, a relatively small nest from which 1 young successfully fledged. There was no activity at this site this season so please see Site EY16 for further developments.
Site EY13. New in 2013, located by sheer good luck when an adult kite was spotted taking prey into the wood and we observed 2 young successfully fledged. Unfortunately the pair did not return to this site in 2014.
Site EY14. New in 2013 and with excellent views available, the pair was seen to successfully raise 3 young. In 2014 the pair once again raised 3 young.
Site EY15. New in 2013, reported to us by the head keeper that 2 young had fledged. Unfortunately we received no information this year as to whether the nest was used or successful.
Site EY16. A short distancefrom Site EY12. Although the birds aren’t tagged we believe it was the same pair and a new, decorated nest was located with the cooperation of the landowner for access. It appears that at the crucial time in the breeding season, the birds may have been disturbed and deserted. Kites were frequently seen in the general area where there is potential for them to establish, but we didn’t locate a new attempt at breeding.
Site EY17. A new nest for 2014 that we were made aware of from a very observant local couple. Permission for access was sought and granted from the landowner and 2 young were raised in a relatively small nest.
This brings our total of known new young Red Kites in our area to 15 from 7 nests. This means that more than 75 young birds have been raised in recent years. Moreover, it is highly likely that there are breeding pairs which we aren’t aware of, so we would be grateful for any further sightings of birds – particularly in areas in which you haven’t seen them previously. Kites continue to move off the Wolds and we now have several pairs on the plain of York. Sightings continue to come in from the East of our county and we 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.
The communal gathering/roost occurred again in one particular area with the record max. of 45 birds at any one time being raised to 65. From approx. early October to February, as the light fades kites begin to appear from all directions to gather and ‘play’ is often common before the birds finally roost. Maybe the ones that have found sufficient food earlier in the day and are ‘fed up’ have time on their hands. Play can be seen as carrying objects, twigs etc, dropping and catching them with others joining in. There are often aerial chases and mock fights, especially on windy days when not much energy is expended, giving young birds the chance to learn and improve skills. It may be that, come the following day, hungry birds can ‘share information’ and follow other individuals to a known food source, sometimes called ‘network foraging’. It is also likely that unpaired young birds may find a mate in the opportunity to socialise at the communal roost. Of course, we have no way of knowing which birds attend and it may be that some remain at their own territory.
Primary and Secondary Poisoning. Primary poisoning 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. There have been two confirmed primary poisonings of Yorkshire Red Kites in North and West Yorks since the previous EY Bulletin was published, plus two of shot kites in West Yorks.
Secondary poisoning occurs where a kite has fed on something, which had previously been poisoned. This usually involves a bird having fed on rats which had been legally poisoned by rat poison. The recent analysis of a kite which had died from primary poisoning revealed that it had traces of no fewer than four different rat poisons in its system. It is imperative that manufacturer’s 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 makes 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. The year started well with a number of sightings of Brimstone butterflies. A disappointingly wet spring followed by a hot dry summer spell until August when the rain arrived! The wet spring, once again, encouraged the growth of grasses which made it more difficult to see many of the wild flowers. It was a good year however for orchids at the usual spots but also on the edge of one particular wood where about ten years ago there was one orchid and the numbers have been increasing year on year. This June there were too many to count! Many of the butterfly species have been more numerous this year including the orange tips, small skippers and ringlets. Common blue and marbled whites too, but not in profusion. The peacocks and red admirals are visiting gardens at the moment but so far no painted ladies. In April the first cuckoo of the year and for a few weeks we heard them regularly, a good sign. Breeding curlews were seen. Large numbers of mature trees, both conifer and deciduous have been blown down this year in the very strong winds that we have experienced. Something new was an Oak covered in Knapper Galls, caused by the Gall Wasp that distorts acorns. A memorable sighting occurred in early September in Allerthorpe Woods of an adder in pristine condition. Dark olive in colour with black markings and had been sunbathing, slowly moving away into the heather. If the old adage of a lot of berries means a bad winter then we’d better batten down the hatches!
Acknowledgements. Special thanks to Doug Simpson, MBE, Yorkshire Red Kite Co-ordinator, who was involved in the original 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.
More detail and information about Red Kites can be found on our website at: