The Welsh Kite Trust and the Shropshire Raptor Study Group again tried to find the nests of all breeding pairs of Red Kite in 2014.
Thirty four breeding pairs were found or reported, but three failed early before the nest was located, and 26 nests were found. Some of these nests are very close together: two are only a kilometre apart, and five sets are less than three kilometres apart.
The outcome of five of these breeding attempts is unknown, and nine of the found nests (plus the three unfound nests that failed early) failed, but 17 were successful, and 31 young fledged from them. Twenty of the fledged young were ringed and tagged.
This is the largest number of nests found in one year since Kites returned to breed here in 2005, after an absence of 130 years, but there were more fledged young (35) in 2011, from only 20 found nests. However productivity was much higher in 2014 than in the previous two years, which were badly affected by severe weather. Since the first successful breeding in 2006, more than 170 young are known to have flown from Shropshire nests, and 141 have been tagged.
Only one pair was in the northern half of the County (the SJ ordnance survey grid squares), but there were many reports of individual birds in the north, so breeding is expected here in the near future. The steady move eastwards continued, with two nests very close together on Wenlock Edge, and another almost as far east as Brown Clee. Individual young birds were also seen on Titterstone Clee, but the pair that probably nested there last year did not return.
As the population increases and spreads, nests become harder to find, so the breeding population is now undoubtedly well over the 34 pairs located.
An adult was found dead on the ground directly under one nest. There were no visible signs of injury or persecution, but the landowner had used rat poison in a nearby barn, so it is likely that this caused the death of the Kite. Two well grown chicks were later found dead in the nest, presumably from the same cause. The corpse of the adult has been sent away for post-mortem analysis, but the results have not yet been received. Rat poison is a common cause of death, and it is found in potentially lethal amounts in most dead Kites sent for post-mortem.
Thirteen of the nesting adults had wing tags, and eight were read. A five year old female was found near The Stiperstones, less than two kilometres from her natal site, and a nearby four-year-old male had moved just over four kilometres.
Four three-year-old 2011 birds (two males, a female and an unsexed bird) had moved an average of just over eight km, and the two youngest (the two-year-old 2012 birds) had moved the furthest, an average of just over 13 km.
Six of the eight came from Shropshire nests, but one of the 2011 birds came from near Llanbister in Wales (11 km travelled), and one of the two 2012 birds, a male, had come 11 km from a north Herefordshire nest. The furthest travelled Kite, the second two-year-old 2012 bird, moved only 16 km, from near Bishop’s Castle to Wenlock Edge, illustrating yet again how sedentary Kites are.
If anyone knows the location of a 2014 Kite nest, please don’t assume we know about it. Please tell Leo Smith (01694 720296 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Red Kite Experience at the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre in Craven Arms now has planning permission, and feeding will start in the autumn, with the aim of attracting a limited number of Kites so people can see these wonderful birds at close quarters. Once they are turning up regularly, visiting arrangements will be displayed on the SOS website. As 10 of these 34 pairs nest within 10 km of the Centre, and there are probably others as well, the wait should not be very long.