Irish Red Kite Spring Update by Dr. Mark Ruddock

The autumn and winter has required a lot of fieldwork and also a large amount of data entry, reports and funding claims to compile ? unfortunately it’s not all about watching kites and sometimes we have to do some ‘real’ work! We are extremely grateful to our all project funders and the support from the public and volunteers.

Since the winter and the disappointing loss of nine kites in Dublin during November and December to rodenticide poisoning the monitoring of the red kite populations has continued each week in both Wicklow and Dublin. The dead kites located in Co. Dublin were identified by their blue left wing and white right wing tags and were found as follows C8 (2nd Nov) A5 (5th Nov), @ (17th Nov),  (17th Nov) (21st Nov),  (2nd Dec) B0 (9th Dec) and A3 (18th Dec). Since the last bird was found, to date – touch wood – no other dead kites have been found.

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Roost watches have been undertaken weekly throughout the winter by the monitoring team and volunteers with kites roosting primarily at three locations near Lusk, Swords and Skerries in Co. Dublin and several large roosts in Avoca and Redcross in Co. Wicklow. In Avoca during January a peak counts of 27 kites were recorded circling at pre-roost time over Avoca village and this was absolutely stunning to watch!

As recorded previously in the project updates the radio-tracking routinely identifies 10 of the 13 released kites in Wicklow. Visually from wing-tag sightings 12 of the 13 are confirmed to have survived their first winter. Hopefully ‘lucky’ number thirteen from Wicklow (Blue / White Z) is somewhere out there too as its radio is no longer functioning.

In Dublin 12-15 red kites are routinely detected east of the M1 motorway as far north as Balbriggan and Skerries and usually no further south than Malahide although most birds are usually found in the Donabate, Rogerstown or Lusk area. A small satellite group of three to six birds are often located west of Swords. There is some evidence of birds moving between areas and birds are foraging regularly over five kilometres from the roosting areas. Some kites are regularly seen crossing the M1 foraging so it is definitely worth keeping an eye out when passing through North Dublin. Two Dublin red kites have gone south to Co. Wicklow (Blue / White A4 & Blue / White B5) and two have gone north to Northern Ireland (Blue / White B1 & Blue / White B7). One kite spent time out in Mullingar (Blue / White A0) and has come back into the Dublin area and one Dublin kite (Blue / White A2) has recently been spotted in Wexford!

The spring monitoring of nesting behaviours is continuing in Wicklow and we are keeping a close eye out for any potential breeding behaviour or nest building in Dublin although the birds are still a bit young to breed, but fingers crossed?The work during the spring is mainly trying to see where the kites are building their nests so we can monitor the population and also we have to check which adults are breeding by reading the wing-tags through telescopes and cameras so we can see which ones have survived, their age, where they are breeding and establish their breeding success and productivity.

The spring has also seen some exciting events and I was lucky to be invited to a celebration of Irish Raptors in March for launch of the recent publication of the amazing book ?Raptors ? A Pocket Guide to Birds of Prey and Owls? which has been written and illustrated by 11-year old Declan Cairney from County Galway at an open day at the Burren Bird of Prey Centre, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare.

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On the day there were two talks on Irish raptors, conservation and the work of the Golden Eagle Trust by Lorcan O’Toole and myself (Marc Ruddock). Lorcan shared his enthusiasm and passion for Irish Wildlife and habitats and the work of the trust and conveyed his support and thanks to Declan. I shared my experiences of the red kite project and thanked all the volunteers and funders for the donations received towards the red kite project. The centre raised over ?4000 towards the Dublin red kite project and some of the staff and volunteers helped with the collection, care and release of the kites.

Declan had copies of his books for sale and gave a heartfelt talk on his experiences and joy of working with raptors and his book; and presented Lorcan with a cheque for ?500 towards the Golden Eagle Trust projects. This was a humbling day for everyone and I certainly was buoyed by the clear interest, generosity and talents of Declan – the artist and raptor enthusiast. In early April, Declan and his mum Maeve were able to join me in Wicklow for an afternoon of kite watching and we saw numerous red kites, peregrines and buzzards and got some great photographs of a Northern Ireland kite in Avoca (Brown / Black v).

This month sees much more monitoring and radio-tracking in both project areas and hopefully we will identify more red kites and red kites nests over the coming weeks. Anyone who knows of kite nests or sees kites regularly please do get in touch if breeding is suspected. If you would like to see some more photographs of the recent activity from the red kite project please look (soon) at the Golden Eagle Trust Facebook page where I will be uploading some more images from the past few months in coming days?but for now more kites to go and find? :-)

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