Since December 2011, the RSPB Red Kite Officer, Adam McClure, had picked up the radio signal and had several sightings from an unusual visitor - one of the Dublin kites - to my embarrassment the kite was less than two miles from my house on the Ards Peninsula, Co Down.
Last Tuesday, Andrew Murray and I had a work experience student, Phillip Patton from Regent House, Newtownards working in the office and helping with some of the fieldwork. We all decided to head out and see if we could get a closer look and a photograph and Phillip wrote down his experiences of the day:
"I arrived at Dr. Marc Ruddock's house early on Tuesday morning for work experience and was given a great opportunity to radio track the red kite which had found its way from its Dublin release site, in Donabate, to within just two miles from the project manager's house over a hundred miles away! It was a great experience for the three of us involved and it's one I won't forget. We began the radio tracking at Marc's house and first travelled to the area they had last spotted the bird just a week before and RSPB had told us the birds were usually seen but there appeared to be no sign. So from there we began to scour the whole of the Ards Peninsula up and down listening closely to the radio for any sign of a beeping noise. Time went by and it felt as if we were searching for a needle in a hay stack and might never find it but just as we were giving up hope we heard it...
We followed the beeping noise down countless country lanes, eyes peeled for anything moving in the skies. We had a few false alarms, most notably a peregrine falcon and several buzzards. We first found the bird soaring across a farmer's field too far away to get a decent view or picture so in attempt to get a better view we drove down a narrow lane but it came to a dead end and we were forced to turn back and try another route.
The second time we spotted the kite we were driving down another very narrow lane surrounded by high hedges which made spotting it much more difficult. Luckily Marc saw the red kite taking off from a fence post and he quickly jumped out onto the roof of his car and began taking photos. It was a spectacular sight, very striking even on such a miserable day. It was flying low over a field and just as it was about to disappear out of sight over the brow of the hill, the bird turned to show its unmistakable wing tags, blue and white with the clear 'B1' markings on both wings.
This kite is not alone on the Ards peninsula and is in fact one of two spotted in the area, we got a brief glimpse of another kite with brown and white wing-tags heading along the shore edge, but were not able to confirm the codes".
Since the trip out with Phillip and Andrew; Adam McClure, RSPB, has confirmed that Blue White B1 is usually seen together with Brown White 39. This was bird fledged from a nest of two young near Downpatrick by two adults which were released in 2008 and known by their wing tags Brown Black A and Brown Black T and named affectionately Caelum and Troy.
Back in the office, we searched the database and discovered that Blue White B1 was collected in Wales on the 12th June 2011 by Tony Cross from the Welsh Kite Trust and my good friend Dr George Henderson. This kite came from a very special brood of chicks being part of a nest with four young, the first ever brood of four discovered by the Welsh Kite Trust. Blue White B1 was released from Newbridge Demesne along with the other kites in July 2011 and prior to release had wing tags and the radio-transmitter fitted by Dr Allan Mee, the white-tailed eagle project manager who came up from Co. Kerry to help with the tagging. From measurements made in the cages it is estimated that Blue White B1 is a male.
Great to see the kites doing well across the island of Ireland and utilising new areas and amazing to think that one of the Dublin kites appeared to have followed me home!