Red Kites in Shropshire 2013

A total of 21 nests were found, and another was reported after the end of the season. Nine nests definitely failed, and 19 young were tagged in 10 nests (all presumably fledged). The outcome is unknown for the last remaining found nest, and the one reported after the season.

Cumulative totals since the first successful nest for 130 years was found in 2006 are at least 144 fledged young, of which 121 have been tagged.

Six of the found nests were at new sites, two pairs moved from their 2012 site into new woods, 12 were at the same site as last year (though some changed nest trees), and a pair returned to a site used in 2010 and 2011.

The start of the breeding season was affected by very bad weather – snow on the ground for much of early April, followed by cold and windy weather until June. This is presumably the reason why the productivity (0.9 fledged young per nest) was the lowest since 2007, when the population was still being established by inexperienced birds. However, the productivity of successful nests (1.9) was only fractionally lower than the average since 2006 (2.0).

The weather also limited the opportunity to look for new sites, and reduced the display activity of the birds, making them more difficult to find. Several reports were received of two birds together, with singles seen in the same areas later in the season, which were probably from other breeding locations, although the nests were not found. There were nine such sites.

The breeding population is therefore estimated at 22 – 31 pairs.

Nest sites continue to spread eastwards. One of the found nests (the only one east of the A49 road) was the furthest east found so far, more than 10 km east of Craven Arms, and the nest reported late was even further east, more than 5 km east of Ludlow.

Four birds at nest sites were tagged. Sibling males Black L1 and Black L2 (2008) were at adjacent sites in the Upper Onny area, but the former moved to a long-established site a kilometre from last year’s site (which was unoccupied this year) and a kilometre from his natal site. He was joined by female Blue E0 (2010), from a natal site about 4 km to the south-west.

White O (2011) was found at a site near Aston on Clun, about 6 km from his natal site.

Three tagged birds at 2012 nest sites – Orange h, Orange J and Blue A4 – were not relocated. The first two were definitely not at the same sites in 2013, but the latter may have been (no view was obtained in 2013 of the female bird near her 2012 site).

Pink 30 was seen near Twitchen in February, but no nearby nest site was found, and the site he probably occupied in 2012 was vacant. Two other tagged birds were reported. Blue A0, from near Clun (2010), was photographed at Hemford, and White 88 was seen at Hopesay, two km south of its natal site (2011). Both may have been breeding nearby, at two of the possible nest sites not found.

Kites are now spreading rapidly across Shropshire. In addition to the two easternmost nests referred to above, reports of Kites were received from almost all tetrads in SO49, most tetrads in SO58 and SO59, and at least one tetrad in SO57 and SO67.

Twenty-five together were reported high above Harton (SO48Z) on 19 June, and 16 (including a white-morph bird) were gathered at grass cutting at Dowke Farm (SO28F) at the end of August.

Kites are now spreading rapidly across Shropshire, so it is increasingly difficult for watchers in the south-west to find them all. Reports are therefore wanted, please, of Kites anywhere in the County showing evidence of breeding between March and July: a pair, or birds displaying, or one going into a wood, or one in the same place several times.

Leo Smith
December 2013

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