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Wed24th Aug 2011

As the project begins to settle and radio-tracking is well underway, big movements have been occuring over the past few days with the kites.

Imagine the surprise when we opened the satellite data to begin to digitise the maps for the new web page....(have a look at the attached photo) and it seems as if the bird we fitted with a satellite transmitter has decided to head west...190km west....

The Newbridge birds have becomes increasingly mobile over the recent weeks as the birds begin to find their wings and start exploring. Most are within a few kilometres of the release locations, however late last week and over the weekend some of the birds have really started to move and several kite sightings have now been recorded from north Galway and in Mayo. Exciting movements indeed!

We are just updating all the maps to upload all the movements of the satellite tagged birds, so keep an eye out for the new maps over the next few days. We did however want to share this amazing movement with you all and to say to everyone to keep an eye out for kites and especially if you can get a look at the wing-tags and help us in monitoring the kites as they begin to explore further afield.

The birds that we satellite tagged previously (have a look at the previously satellite tagged kites on this webpage) have undertaken similar large exploratory movement and no doubt the birds will begin to return over coming weeks and months.

Surprising movements from @......
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Wed24th Aug 2011

After an absence of several hundred years, red kites will soon be gliding over the fields and woods across north County Dublin. There were 26 young red kites, which were collected under licence from wild nests in Wales, released from a secluded wood within Newbridge Demesne, near Donabate and a further 13 young red kites were released from a private location in north Fingal.

The Newbridge red kites were released into the wild, by Minister for the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan T.D., who said, ?I am delighted to be here at the red kite release, one of three projects underway as part of the programme to reintroduce native birds of prey to Ireland. The other two projects being the Golden Eagle Project in Donegal and the White Tailed Eagle Project in Kerry. All the kites released here today and also those released in Down and Wicklow over the years have been sourced in Wales from wild young kites. I wish to thank the Welsh Kite Trust for their support and co-operation in securing these young chicks. I have great hopes that the release of these red kites here today, will lead to a situation in a number of years where we will have a viable, sustainable and enjoyable population of red kites.?

The Fingal Red Kite release programme is part of the final and fifth year of an ambitious project to re-establish red kites in Ireland in partnership with the Welsh Kite Trust. The Golden Eagle Trust is managing the Fingal & Wicklow Red Kite projects, which are funded by Fingal LEADER Partnership through the Rural Development Programme 2007 -2013 and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), the Heritage Council and Greenstar Ireland. Fingal County Council, Coillte Teoranta and two private landowners have hosted and facilitated the location of release cages.

As part of the collaborative project the RSPB NI also released kites in Co. Down between 2008 and 2010 and since this project finished its release programme, this gave an opportunity to collect over 50 Welsh red kites for release in the Republic of Ireland during 2011. In order to maximise the potential for an expanding red kite population in Ireland, it was decided to release 39 red kites in the Fingal area in 2011 and establish a satellite population half way between the red kite populations in County Wicklow and County Down.

In Wicklow, following the successful breeding of red kites during 2010 and further successful breeding in 2011, the final release of 13 red kites took place in early August 2011. This brings a total of 120 kites that have been released in Wicklow between 2007 and 2011.

The red kite is now a familiar sight around Wicklow farms and villages and particularly in Avoca village throughout the year where notably large communal roosts occur in the winter. People from near and far have come to see the kites and many are captivated by the sight of the graceful, forked-tailed kite in Wicklow.

With the additional strategic release of 39 red kites in Co. Dublin this year and a minimum of 17 young produced from wild Wicklow nests, it is hoped the east coast population of kites is secure and allow the species to spread west across the island of Ireland.

Wesley Atkinson, NPWS Regional Manager in Wicklow stated ?We are proud to have brought the red kite home to Ireland with the Golden Eagle Trust and look forward to continued successful breeding and the enjoyment of these elegant birds by the people of Wicklow?.

The Wicklow red kites successfully produced a minimum of 17 young which when combined with the 13 released today means at least 30 young kites have been added to the population this year. The first record of a brood of three young kites in Wicklow was recorded by Damian Clarke (NPWS ranger) and were ringed and wing-tagged as part of the on-going monitoring program for the kites.

The 53 red kites released in Dublin and Wicklow that were collected from Welsh nests in mid June 2011, at about five weeks of age, have been reared and fed in specially designed cages. The birds were fed rabbits and crows through a small feeding hatch and sleeve in order to minimise any human contact and possible imprinting (whereby the birds associate humans with food). With the help of Raptor Monitoring and RSPB Red Kite Officer, Brian Etheridge, all the birds were attached with a small radio transmitter, each with a unique frequency, and small PVC wing tags. These devices allow the project team and the public to locate and identify each individual bird. As the birds gradually spread out across Ireland the public are asked to submit records to the project website at www.goldeneagle.ie, where they can follow regular updates of the kites.

The Golden Eagle Trust would like to thank the people and communities of Wicklow and Dublin for their continued support of the red kite and now that the release phase of the project is completed we will continue to open up the red kite project to the public with regular updates, educational activities, project website reports and public talks. We will also facilitate further public viewing and a Wicklow kite trail in the autumn and please watch out for upcoming red kite viewing events.

In addition to the support of the Fingal LEADER Partnership, Fingal County Council, NPWS and Coillte Teoranta, the red kite project has been supported by representatives of the local Irish Farmers Association (IFA) and the National Association for Regional Game Councils (NARGC). It is vital to build on these emerging links between wildlife interests and the farming and shooting community, during the course of the project and demonstrate that local wildlife can co-exist with modern farming and shooting practices. In particular the food for the Fingal kites was supplied by local members of the NARGC for which the project team are extremely grateful. The Fingal Conservation Volunteers, the Irish Raptor Study Group, AOL Monster Help Day, RSPB NI volunteers, Forest Service NI staff and members of the Fingal Birdwatch Ireland branch have also played a key role in rearing the birds and building the release cages which were donated by the RSPB from the Co. Down project.

The Red Kite Project Manager, Dr Marc Ruddock of the Golden Eagle Trust said, ?the red kite is an incredible bird and the team effort undertaken by all our partners and volunteers in the collections, feeding, cage building and tagging of the kites is phenomenal and I express endless thanks to all those who have contributed to the project in bringing the red kite home to Ireland?. Marc also praised the collection and monitoring team saying ?I thank all the team for their hard work and long hours undertaken and particularly the Welsh Kite Trust staff and volunteers without whom none of this would have been possible?.

Numerous red kite bones were recovered in excavations from the 11th century Wood Quay site on the River Liffey and noted in Phoenix Park during the 14th century and we hope that the restoration of red kites in Newbridge, within 15km of Dublin city centre, attracts a growing number of Dublin residents and is a further demonstration that Ireland is now rediscovering its ancient respect and cultural connection with the crucial role of nature in our everyday lives and society.

Tony Cross selects a chick for export to Ireland
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Thu28th Jul 2011

I got the call from Lorcan O'Toole asking would I be interested in working on red kites... wow, I felt very humbled. Damian Clarke's secondment to the Golden Eagle Trust (GET) was coming to an end and he was returning to Wildlife Ranger duties. Damian has and continues to do an amazing job on the kites and raptors in Wicklow and beyond and the success of red kites breeding in Ireland is testament to the hard work of both Damian and the Golden Eagle Trust team.

I was of course extremely sad that Damian was leaving the GET as I have worked alongside Damian for many years. His involvement and passion for the red kites and all things raptorial in Wicklow and Ireland is inspirational and continues unabated. Damian's advice and discussions during red kite fieldwork and talking about Wicklow and the red kite areas is unwavering, always with time for my questions.

For me it seemed like a life-time ago that the Golden Eagle Trust, Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group and Irish Raptor Study Group made a foray to Scotland to look at the possibility of re-introducing red kites in Ireland and the early proposal meetings in Belfast. That same trip to Scotland we all attended the Scottish Raptor Study Group conference and the rest of the trip was very hazy, which is not unusual when Scottish raptor fieldworkers Dave Anderson and Ronnie Graham are about....

The ensuing months in 2006 and 2007 solidified the partnership between the Golden Eagle Trust and the Welsh Kite Trust and with the required funding obtained the success of the red kite project in Co. Wicklow and also the RSPB Co. Down red kite project is astounding.... Ireland now has red kites breeding again!

The Golden Eagle Trust had been inspirational to me for many years. Lorcan in particular has always been at hand for a much needed piece of advice or long chat about raptors in Ireland during my PhD and for many other young raptor researchers. Ah, those long days when all I got to do was watch peregrine behaviour! I had been working on the hen harrier survey all summer for the Irish Raptor Study Group and Golden Eagle Trust and this was an amazing thing to look forward to working on an amazing project on the red kites.

First I had to chair the UK & Ireland Red Kite Committee meeting in October in Newcastle and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting all the red kite researchers who provided much helpful advice about my carrying on with the Irish red kite project. I will confess to being initially slightly nervous at the meeting with so many well known red kite researchers, but everybody was so friendly and welcoming. At the meeting Brian Etheridge informed us of some of the signs to watch out for of rodenticides poisoning and we learned about the pressure of second generation rodenticides from Lee Walker from the Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme (PBMS). The high point of the meeting for me was everyone being ecstatic at the recent strengthening and implementation of the poisoning legislation in Ireland to help protect Irish wildlife from indiscriminate poisoning.

I was heading away to New Zealand and Australia during December so Brendan Dunlop and I headed for Wicklow in November to spend a few days with Damian and get stuck into the radio-tracking and see some of the roost and nesting sites in Wicklow. Brendan was doing the radio-tracking when I was away and I have to say I was slightly envious of the deep snow fall and adventurous car journeys that Brendan had when I was in New Zealand on the beach...honest :-)

Radio-tracking has revealed good survival rates over winter with at least 73% of the 26 released kites seen in February, only one is confirmed dead having hit power-lines and another was radio-tracked right to a fox den ? so presumed killed or scavenged and the remaining kites have not been seen in the main study areas so are presumed to have dispersed or perhaps dead. Many of the radio tags have now fallen off as kites have started moulting although several still have active radio tags and we continue to monitor them.

Several Wicklow and untagged kites have been reported from Wexford, Limerick and Kerry over the winter and amazingly one report in February included one of Brian Etheridge's Northern Scotland 2010 kites (blue 59) in Co. Kerry and this same has just been seen in early May in Wicklow.

Unexpectedly too, a red kite that was transmitting a radio signal from the train tracks, near Avoca, all winter and which we presumed had been killed was seen alive in early May by a good friend of mine that I worked with in South Africa, James Irons. This was observed perched in the same tree as the Northern Scotland kite. Just shows the value of the wing-tags in establishing survival and what a good Leica telescope can do! I got a brief glimpse of red-tagged central Scotland kite seen near Avoca in December, although the tag code was unfortunately not seen. Robert Straughan, RSPB Northern Ireland red kite project officer, also recorded a central Scotland kite over the winter. So it seems clear that kites from elsewhere are passing through during dispersal and hopefully settling to help increase the Irish populations.

The Golden Eagle Trust have been working hard over the recent months to complete proposals and additional funding applications for the final phase of the red kite releases in Ireland. I was fortunate to make it to the Welsh Kite Trust AGM to discuss the proposed additional release location in north Co. Dublin and it was great to meet so many that have helped the Irish project.

The Wicklow kites are doing well, with 107 kites released to date and at least 12 Irish chicks born in Wicklow during 2010. We currently have 10 nests identified in 2011 and hopefully a few more to find, although I am increasingly realising how much woodland there is in Wicklow! Since the RSPB release finished in 2010 we propose to collect the final 53 kites from Wales this year and put some in Wicklow and some in a new area, half-way between Co. Down and Co. Wicklow, in order to maximise the donor stock and help secure the Irish east coast population of red kites to help the spread west across the rest of Ireland.

The Irish red kites would not be where they are today if it were not for the hard efforts of Tony Cross and all the Welsh Kite Trust volunteers, directors and all the kite watchers in helping to find nests and collect the donor stock. This last year of collection will hopefully secure the long-term future of the Irish red kites and in this final year we thank you all for the continued efforts and we look forward to seeing you in June.

Since taking the reigns of the red kite project it has been challenging and rewarding sometimes with both emotions in a single day and the project team cannot wait to see the 2011 Wicklow chicks hatching and the final year of Welsh kite donor stock as we move to complete the release phase of the restoration of the red kite in Ireland.

Red kite (59) originating from Black Isle, Scotland
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Tue26th Oct 2010

News of the first Irish Red Kite chicks in well over two hundred years got good media coverage when the story broke back in May. So there will be no surprises when I say the project has had a fantastic year. At least 12 Irish chicks fledged and we imported and released a further 26 young Welsh kite chicks. 38 new Kites for the skies of Wicklow :)

By late spring we had located nine kite nests, one had failed at the laying stage but the rest seemed to be doing well. Unfortunately during the incubation period a few other pairs deserted their nests for unknown reasons. It was more than a little worrying for a while as I began to fear it would end up like last year, eggs but no chicks, but that wasn't to be. So when my friend Mark Lewis climbed up to a nest and announced there were chicks in it, I was both madly envious that he would see Irish Kite chicks before me but also greatly relieved and excited.

During the course of the breeding season I at some point got greedy and decided I wanted to find ten nests and get at least ten young fledged from them. Nest checks had revealed two nests had three chicks, two had two and there were also one single. Four of the nests located had failed. When we returned later in the breeding season the three chicks had both reduced down two, so I ringed and tagged nine chicks. So close to the double figures I had decided would be a good start. Luckily one night late in the season I noticed a kite laden down with prey making a beeline for a copse of trees. Early the following morning I was knocking on the farmer's door to enquire about Kites and permission to go look for them. The farmer took me out to a field pointed to a group of trees and said "they're in there somewhere". One look through my binoculars revealed the nest, number ten, with Kite chick number ten sitting on top. In the last few months I have spotted two untagged juveniles in Wicklow, I clearly missed a nest or two, perhaps I should have been greedier.

The ringing of the Irish Kites took place in a five day break between our first and second weeks collecting in Wales, so a busy few weeks for all involved. This year I was accompanied to Wales by Tony Nagle, a director of the Golden Eagle Trust, in week one and Mark Lewis, tree climber extraordinaire, in week two. As usual the weather was great, when I think of Wales I think of hot sunny weather! We got our 53 birds fairly easily this year, half for Wicklow and half for Down. Thanks once again to all the Kite Watchers and landowners for their assistance. As always apart from collecting our chicks we all had a great time in Wales. I think Tony Nagle is still telling stories about ringing Nightjars and Goshawks in Wales to anyone who will listen.

The last four years in Wales collecting chicks for Ireland has been amazing. It has been hard work but a great experience and I have especially loved meeting the landowners and seeing how much their Red Kites mean to them. I have since year one looked forward to the day when I would be standing on an Irish farm ringing Kites with the farmer and this year it happened. Just like I've seen in Wales so many times, the ringing of the chicks was an event the whole family attended. I know there are more than one landowner looking forward to see if next year will bring them another nest and some more young.

On a personal note it is with great disappointment that I tell you that I am no longer the Red Kite Project Manager. My secondment from the Irish Department of the Environment ended and in July I returned to my post as a Wildlife Ranger in the Wicklow Mountains National Park. It has genuinely been a wonderful experience and I am more than a little envious of the new Project Manager, Dr. Marc Ruddock. Marc is Ireland's leading Peregrine Falcon expert, a Hen Harrier nut, Buzzard enthusiast, Kite lover, etc. You get the picture, the project is in safe hands, so best of luck to you buddy.

Once again a big thanks to all that have helped over the last four years, especially all the Kite Watchers and Chris Powell at Gigrin Farm. Special thanks must go to Tony Cross and his family for how generous and welcoming they have been to me and all the Irish team over the last few years. Don't worry, we'll be back.

Damian.

Red Kite chicks
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Mon24th May 2010

Red Kite chicks have been discovered in a nest in Wicklow, the first known to have hatched in Ireland in well over two hundred years. The initial discovery was made a number of weeks ago during routine nest monitoring. The two small chicks were seen in a nest heavily lined with old rags, a habit of kites well known to our Irish ancestors. Préachán Ceirteach, the "Cloth Kite", has truly returned.

The project to restore the beautiful Red Kite to Ireland was initiated in 2007. The Red Kite, which was once common and widespread in these islands, became extinct in Ireland in the eighteenth century due to persecution, poisoning and woodland clearance. This international, co-operative project is managed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Welsh Kite Trust. To date a total of 81 Red Kites have been imported from Wales and released in Co. Wicklow. A similar project managed by the RSPB in Northern Ireland began in 2008, they have currently released 53 birds.

Wicklow has proven to be an excellent area for the imported Welsh Kites. Survival rates have been very high, proving the suitability of the area for Kites. While most of the released birds have taken up permanent residence in the County a number of the more adventurous birds have been spotted further a field. Kites from Wicklow have been sighted in Kerry, Leitrim, Dublin, Sligo and Antrim. Currently there is an estimated 50+ birds still resident in Co. Wicklow, including a number of birds that were released in Northern Ireland and subsequently found their way to Wicklow.

First breeding was recorded in 2009 when two pairs were known to have built nests and laid eggs. Unfortunately neither of these pairs produced any young. This season nine breeding attempts have been located so far and chicks have now been confirmed in two nests. It is hoped that these chicks will successfully fledge in the coming weeks. Further releases of chicks imported from Wales will continue this year. 2010 should see the release of another 26 Welsh Red Kites.

Golden Eagle Trust Red Kite project manager Damian Clarke said "The discovery of the first Red Kite chicks in over two hundred years was a significant milestone for Irish biodiversity. To see chicks in a typical Wicklow landscape reaffirms my belief that these birds will thrive here once given the chance. It is my hope that the Red Kite will with time once again be a common sight throughout Ireland. These Irish bred chicks are the first sign of that becoming a reality."

Red Kite chicks
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