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Mon11th Aug 2008

Ok, so it's been a while since my last post, but I have been busy, I promise.

As you may be aware, twenty six more kites were released into the skies of Wicklow on the 21st July. These twenty six birds were collected from Wales, along with twenty seven for the RSPB in Northern Ireland, during the month of June. A big thanks to our partners the Welsh Kite Trust for pulling out all the stops to get us our full quota.

This year all the kites in Wicklow were fitted with a black tag on the right wing to indicate they were released in 2008. The left wing tag is till pale blue, indicating Wicklow. RSPB Northern Ireland have gone for a brown tag on the left wing. All our birds were again fitted with radio tags to assist in my keeping tabs on them, we were also able to attach satellite packs to two of the birds. The satellite packs are mounted on the bird's back and enables the birds to be tracked, via satellite, whatever part of the country they may venture to.

The recently released kites have quickly settled into their new surroundings. While I continue to put food out for them, they have of late not needed it, preferring instead to fend for themselves it would seem. While I'm sure it couldn't be true, a friend who regularly assists me in monitoring the kites swears that this lot are a tougher bunch than the last lot we released. I don't see how that could be the case, but certainly they seem to have learned the ropes quicker than our first batch. Within a few days of release they were holding their own in aerial fights with the resident crows.

Reports have already started coming in of kites on the move so keep your eyes peeled.

Damian

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Tue8th Apr 2008

I had a report last week of a kite flying through the middle of Dublin City!

The observer was walking down Capel Street when they heard some gulls squawking above them. When he looked up, he saw a red kite being mobbed by a number of gulls flying up above the street. It flew off in the direction of Bull Island but then apparently turned around in the direction of the city again before he lost it from view.

As I've previously mentioned the kites are certainly on the move, with reports coming from lots of new areas. Dublin city isn't where I expected one to turn up however. Perhaps the kite was following the Liffey and arrived in the city that way. While a red kite in a city seems unusual now, in historic times they were well associated with cities. In medieval times when cities would have been filthy compared to modern standards, kites were common in London. Kites received special protection because it was recognised that they played an important role in keeping the city clean and helped control vermin such as rats. In fact the red kite in Dublin wasn't far from where kite remains were found at Wood Quay, these remains were some of the evidence that help prove that kites are native to Ireland. So in the past, a red kite over Dublin city may well have been a common sight.

Cities while not usually the first place you look for birds of prey can often provide good nesting habitat and feeding. Peregrine falcons often breed in cities, as do lesser kestrels in parts of Europe. There are, a now famous, pair of red-tailed hawks living on a building on Fifth Avenue in New York and New Delhi in India boasts the highest concentration of birds of prey in the world, with thousands of black kites living there. So next time you’re in a city keep your eyes peeled and keep the kite reports coming in.

Damian

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Thu27th Mar 2008

It's come to that time of the year when the kites may go in search of a territory of their own. The communal roost has thinned out recently and I only recorded six birds at the roost yesterday. Some of the kites are going further than others in search of a new patch, with a report coming in today of a kite in Dalkey. Over the last few weeks reports of kites have come in from all over Wicklow.

On the down side it does making keep tabs on the kites a lot more time consuming, on the plus side a lot more people are going to be seeing the kites in the coming weeks (and hopefully letting me know!). While a good number of the kites seem to be leaving the area that has been home to them for the last few months, one kite has returned after an absence of five months. Kite "purple e" who I recently reported was in Co. Kildare turned up back Wicklow today, maybe some of the other early explorers may return in the coming weeks.

While the number of kites I now see on a daily basis is dwindling, there's new and interesting things happening. Today I had two kites side by side on top of a dead tree sharing a meal. After putting the scope on them I eventually got to see that what they were eating was a small rabbit. I know from looking at buzzard nests in the area that there are plenty of rabbits around. The two kites looked very cozy and there was lots of calling. Kite "purple B" and "purple Z" were the two kites in question, a male and a female, so I'll be keeping an eye on them in the coming weeks.

Damian

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Fri14th Mar 2008

In early January I found Kite "Purple Q's" radio and attached tail feather on a farm in the release area. This wasn't the first radio to fall out, and all the rest are due to fall out later this year when the kites moult their tails, so I wasn't particularly worried about this discovery. The birds can still be identified when they've shed their radios as they have their unique wing tag codes. Unfortunately wing tags readings are much harder to get than radio signals.

While I didn't suspect anything had happened to "Purple Q", when a bird hasn't been recorded for a couple of months you do begin to wonder. Luckily yesterday I got to see him in the roost, the first time I'd seen him in over three months. Great to know he's alive and well and hopefully I'll be lucky enough to see him in the roost again before the roost breaks up for the summer.

On a sidenote, while I was observing the roost yesterday, from the side of the road, a van pulled up and the driver was obviously wondering what I was up to. I explained to him I was looking at the kites, to which he answered "I hope you don't have a gun"! While I don't like to think I look like the kind of person that shoots birds of prey, it's very reassuring to know that I'm not the only one keeping an eye on the kites.

Damian

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Fri29th Feb 2008

This is certainly true for kites. I decided to get up early yesterday and go find a kite roost that had been evading me for some time. Roosts can be a little tricky to find in the evening as it's near dark when the birds come in and it can be difficult to follow them. I had a good general idea where the roost was so when I got near the location and had a scan around with my binoculars I quickly spotted a good number of kites flying around, just having left the roost.

On closer inspection five kites were on the ground running around picking up worms, there were also two common buzzards in the field also feeding on worms and invertebrates. Kites while very graceful in the air look very clumsy and somewhat comical on the ground. The field the birds were feeding in was closely grazed by sheep, not where you would imagine there would be a good source of food for birds of prey. However the closely grazed grass makes small insects and worms accessible to kites and buzzards. In Wales it is well known that earthworms are an important part of the diet of the red kite.

As I still wanted to find the specific roost tree, I went to speak to the farmer to get permission to have a look around his land. He was aware of a number of kites on his land and had been enjoying regular views of them. A quick walk around the bits of forest on his land and I found a large tree with a lot of white splashes under it, a sure sign of roosting birds of prey. On closer inspection I found what I was looking for, a bumper haul of red kite pellets! Examing bird of prey pellets allows us to determine what they are eating. While I have only seen kites snatching at small invertebrates while hunting, a cursory glance at the pellets showed a lot of fur and some small bones, so they're obviously eating more than worms. Yesterday evening nineteen kites came into roost in the same area, so there will be plenty more pellets to collect and examine over the coming weeks.

Damian

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