Mystery as Red Kites vanish from haunts in the north eastern dales.

[singlepic id=151 w=450 h=290 float=left]ONE of the country’s most enigmatic birds of prey may have made a triumphant comeback in other areas of the country but in Teesdale their future is in doubt. 

Red kites were named as one of the success stories of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch – an annual survey carried out by the public to monitor the presence of the UK’s birds.   But while the UK-wide survey showed the birds had enjoyed an average increase of 130 per cent, the Mercury has discovered that Teesdale’s red kites have disappeared.  Three years ago the dale was home to nesting pairs of the bird, thanks to the work of Northern Kites, a project that successfully re-introduced kites to the region. 

A pair of birds nested in Teesdale in 2006 and they were immediately taken under the wing of locals. Local schools adopted the birds and pupils named the female Langleydale Traveller and the male Phoenix. 

Hopes for the pair were high when Langleydale Traveller was seen sitting on eggs in 2007 but tragedy struck when Phoenix was fatally injured in an accident before any chicks hatched. 

However, thanks to the efforts of experts and local volunteers, the female, assisted by a new partner, hatched one chick which was later ringed. 

Yet four years later, the birds have gone from Teesdale. Friends of the Red Kites – a volunteer association set up after the re-introduction project finished – say there were no breeding pairs in the area last year and there have been no signs of their return this year. 
There have been no traces of Langleydale Traveller, her partner or her chick. 
Ken Sanderson, from Barnard Castle, who has been involved with the reintroduction of red kites in the North East for many years, said: “People may think they have seen kites but it’s more likely that what they are seeing is buzzards, which behave very similarly. 
“The kites haven’t been breeding in Teesdale for the last two years. They may have been one or two that have wandered through Teesdale but we have none left here.”
From the 16th century, people were encouraged to kill red kites as “vermin” and 400 years of deliberate persecution followed. 
They became targets for gamekeepers, egg collectors and taxidermists and fewer than a dozen pairs of kites survived in the Welsh valleys.
With legal protection, reduced persecution and the dedicated efforts of conservationists, the Welsh birds began to expand slowly, but by the 1980s they were still confined to Welsh mountains and remained vulnerable until the re-introduction scheme started.
It is feared the birds that nested in Teesdale have once again been the targets of human predators but no evidence has been found.
Hard winters could also be another factor. Mr Sanderson said that there are still 25 breeding pairs in the North East and he hopes they will make a return to Teesdale.
Anyone who thinks they have seen a red kite in the dale should contact him at kenandann.sanderson@talktalk.net. For information on volunteering visit www.friendsofredkites.org.uk

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