Archives for October 2015

Quiet pride over red kites

Last week we were in the south for a wedding near Rutland Water and to see family in Hampshire and Buckinghamshire.  Driving on motorways or back roads, we saw red kites as the most common raptor in the skies. The first of them showed up in the grey autumn skies as we headed for my son Roddy’s home in Amersham, with more on the way to Hampshire and north to Stamford. One morning we walked into Old Amersham through lovely beechwoods, kites overhead – even one patrolling the road where my son lives.

That’s what I like about kites: they are so easy to see and identify, and they respond so well to human contact. I find it marvellous that people can now feed red kites in their back gardens. The remains of a chicken leg here or an old sausage there make a welcome meal for this ultimate scavenger. I’m generally not keen on feeding birds and have always felt uneasy about the huge amounts of non-native food such as peanuts which are fed to birds in Britain. I’m not sure it’s in the long-term interest and I also think it obscures the appalling declines of common birds due to intensive agriculture, chemicals and modern life. But feeding red kites is different – they have fed beside humans right back to our earliest ancestors and to the Neanderthals, swooping down for morsels at campsites or after hunts of large mammals. It’s lovely to think they would once have fed on scraps of mammoth or woolly rhino being cut up by humans in ancient Britain. Nowadays there is such a rush to clean up dead animals in the countryside that the supply of carrion is really limited for birds like kites – we are, alas, too tidy and the ecosystem functions break down.

Whenever a kite floated over, I took quiet pride in the fact that 25 years ago, no kites bred in England or Scotland, and that I was fortunate to be one of the RSPB & Nature Conservancy team that restored the red kite. In 1989, after a good few years of opposition and delay, I flew to southern Sweden on the very first kite-collecting trip. Ornithological friends in Lund were so helpful to me and within a few days I had collected 12 young red kites to start what has become an incredibly successful project.  Magnus Sylven drove me over the bridge from Sweden to Denmark and onwards to a military base, where a RAF Nimrod patrol aircraft from Kinloss swooped in to take me back to northern Scotland with my precious cargo. Eight of the young kites were reared and released at a friend’s farm near our RSPB office near Inverness and the other four travelled south overnight to the Chilterns release area.

This was the start of one of the most successful ever reintroduction projects, with red kites now breeding from northern Scotland down through many parts of the UK to the south of England. That’s why I feel quiet pride whenever I see this distinctive-shaped raptor circling town and countryside. How I wish that we could get on and have golden eagles and sea eagles over such a big range. It’s perfectly easy to do ecologically but in the UK, social and political issues too often hamper bold ideals. But remember: it’s never ‘if’, it’s just a matter of ‘when’.


Ranging the North West coastal districts

Globe has been ranging a 75 km stretch of Wester Ross and West Sutherland, she was at Dundonnell in the south on 30th September and at An Socach north of Rhiconich on 10th October.

September 30th - October 25th

September 30th – October 25th

Roxy exploring

Roxy has made two longer flights from her home range. On October 11th she flew west to Goseland Hill and back in the early afternoon. On 17th she made a much longer flight south passing over Meggett head reservoir at 5pm and then roosting for the night on the north edge of the forestry plantations NNE of Moffat. At 9am next morning she was ranging along a river corridor in the forest and two hours later had flown north to Fruid reservoir and so back to her normal area.

October 17th - 18th flight south

October 17th – 18th flight south

No change

Calluna continues to live in a home range in North Angus of 27 km²

No change

Brodie is one of the most stay-at-home eagles we have tracked and remains in a very small winter range in  the upper Dulnan River catchment. She must be a competent bird which holds her place against visiting eagles.

October 1st to 26th

October 1st to 26th

Moved from south-east Sutherland to Caithness

Loyal continued to range in the area between Ben Armine and Ben Klibreck until 15th October when she moved north-east to Caithness, mainly just north of Morven to at least 25th of October.

September 29th - October 25th

September 29th – October 25th

Ranging widely in north-west Sutherland

Canisp has been continuing to range widely in north-west Sutherland in an area of 925 km². North as far as the Kyle of Tongue, then to Loch Shin and west across to the mountain Canisp in Assynt.

September 30th - October 26th

September 30th – October 26th

Settled at wintering site

Cromarty is now very settled at a wintering site on a mangrove creek near Kassel. His daily range is only half a square kilometre but at night he flies 2.5 km NNE to roost in big trees near rice fields north of Kassel village.

October 25th -26th

October 25th -26th

Blue XD is wintering on south side of River Casamanche

Blue XD has decided to move 8 km south from previous wintering sites and is now settled on the south bank of the River Casamanche. He mainly spends the day along a 4 km length of the riverside with occasional moves to a mangrove backwater 2 km inland. His night-time roost is 800 m in from the riverside and he has been using a daily range of 12.5 km².

October 25th - 26th

October 25th – 26th

Settled in usual wintering location

Beatrice has now settled down at her usual wintering site on the river Guadiara with some 13 km flights down to the Mediterranean coast to fish.

Octoiber 4th - 26th

Octoiber 4th – 26th