30 magnificent Red Kites brought to the North West of England several weeks ago from donor nests located in Northamptonshire are reported as doing well at Grizedale. In the next week or so, provided the weather improves, these birds will be hacked into the wild from where they are currently being housed in temporary holding pens.The Red Kite has been absent as a breeding species from the county for over 200 years.
The Forestry Commission is spearheading a three-year project to reintroduce up to 90 red kites into the region – the first of its kind in North West England and the last red kite reintroduction project in England.
In June Forestry Commission wildlife rangers from Grizedale brought 30 birds, soon after hatching, from Rockingham in Northamptonshire back to Grizedale. Forest
The birds are currently being held in a specially built holding pen secretly located in Grizedale. The forest’s team of experts are looking after the birds and feeding them daily until they are all hard-penned and reach a size where they are ready to fly and care for themselves.
“The birds are settled in nicely and all are doing well,” said Forestry Commission wildlife ranger Iain Yoxall, who is managing the reintroduction. “They are currently around nine weeks old and we would envisage releasing them at around ten to twelve weeks old.
“All are fully feathered with well developed flight feathers and characteristic forked tails. We will be fitting them with wing tags later this week which refer to the release area and year and, along with radio transmitters, will help us monitor them after they have been released,” he said.
The Grizedale programme is the ninth reintroduction of red kites into different regions of the UK, and the final phase of re-introductions in England.
Red kites were almost eradicated from the UK following changes in farming practices and human persecution between the 16th and 19thCenturies. However they managed to cling on in mid Wales and their numbers recovered slowly thanks to the actions of local conservationists. The last known active nest in Cumbria, apart from one nest recorded in 2001 in the south of the county, was located close to Armathwaite along the banks of the River Eden towards the end of the 18th Century.
Now the birds are beginning to thrive again following the conservation work undertaken by organisations like the Forestry Commission and local raptor groups. If all goes according to plan in Cumbria, the first active nests should begin to appear in 2012. The first batch of 30 Red Kites being released in Grizedale will each be fitted with Orange and Blue wing tags. At least 3 additional birds will be fitted with satellite radio transmitters to enable scientists to closely monitor their movement patterns throughout the county.
The red kites being introduced into Grizedale are the product of a reintroduction programme that took place in Northamptonshire in the 1980s.
A special advisory group has been established, containing bird experts from organisations like Natural England, the RSPB and the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, to help ensure the project’s success. (Ref. to Cumbria Raptor Group removed as it no longer exists).
Red kites are coloured rust red and have white patches under their wings. They are primarily a scavenger and feed mostly on carrion. They breed from around the age of two years and usually pair for life.
Graeme Prest, from the Forestry Commission in the North West, said: “It is great to see the red kites settling in so well at their new home in Grizedale. The Forestry Commission manages 24,000 hectares of public woodland across the North West of England to the highest international standards.
“These woodlands are home to wonderful wildlife, from ospreys to red squirrels to rare butterflies and orchids, and the red kites are a spectacular addition to the wonderful diversity of wildlife we have here at Grizedale.”
Images displayed by kind permission of Iain Yoxall