KITE REPORT, 1952 - KITE NESTING POPULATION
The figures given in this Appendix have been obtained from a number of sources, mostly manuscript. Some use has also been made of a table compiled a few years ago by Mr. James Fisher. The various figures have frequently been found to be in conflict and I have had to select those which seemed to me to be the more likely to be correct. I have erred throughout on the low rather than on the high side. To enable subscribers to get perhaps a clearer picture of the Kite population through this half century I have included below a number of notes and comments taken from the same sources.
I am quite satisfied that the figure hitherto generally accepted, of two pairs and one odd bird for 1905 is far from correct and I consider that a truer estimate is that given by Dr. Salter i 1903. Equally of course I am convinced that Jourdain’s statement that “every pair is regularly robbed twice a year” is rubbish. But the interesting point in that statement is the indication that second clutches were a regular feature of the breeding biology of the species. It is strange that we have not come across any evidence of this today.
These records show several cases of three eggs. I knew of one of the 1912 instances before I had seen any of these figures because I happen to know the man who was employed as a watcher. He told me that three hatched (and flew) and that while the young were in the nest important people were brought from London to see them as it was considered so extraordinary. The sources from which the figures have been taken also, in most years, yielded the names of the nest sites : between forty and fifty of them. Almost all of them have been identified.
Some are still in use but in several the woodlands have been felled and they can no longer harbour a Kite.
Writing in the Transactions of the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society in. 1928 (vol. LXI, page 83), Dr. Salter stated that in 1920 it was believed that at least twelve pairs of adult Kites existed. He also wrote that that year one Aberystwyth taxidermist received four Kites.
Another source refers to 1920 as “a year of disaster.” But looking at the figures which I have been able to provide in this appendix, there is no sign of the existence of 12 pairs in 1919 or 1920, nor any very great indication of disaster in 1920. None the less, I am inclined to believe Dr. Salter rather than the figures in the appendix. The study of such records as are available has not been completed and I hope that more research may be carried out during the coming winter. From 1931 to 1948 the sources are very few and meagre and I would ask anyone who has, or knows of, any letters or diaries containing references to Kites, particularly during that period of eighteen years, to be good enough to communicate with me or the Secretary of the West Wales Field Society.
Notes and Comments Concerning the Kite Population Figures
1901. (Writing in 1909.) To our certain knowledge two young birds were shot in the Wye Valley about eight years ago and probably the old birds also.
1903. It is difficult to speak with certainty as to the exact number which remain, but there are certainly three and probably five or six pairs—eight would be the outside limit. Its numbers do not appear to have decreased much during the past ten years. It is however most exceptional for any of these pairs to bring off young owing to the greed of egg collectors. Nothing remains but to employ watchers. This plan will be tried during the coming breeding season tentatively in one or two cases (Salter). Every pair is regularly robbed twice a year
1904. Reduced to a miserable remnant of three or four pairs. 1905. In 1905 only two pairs of old birds and possibly one odd male remained. In the spring of 1905 there were three pairs and one or two odd birds.
Two pairs succeeded this year for the first time in ten years it is believed. Pair seen over Dovey Estuary.
1907. A second pair in quite a different locality with two young. 1909. Thus there are 15 birds and may well have been more. A seventh pair observed in another part of Wales. 1910. Birds remarkably fertile. Population now about 20. A pair seen nearly 30 miles away. We hope other pairs equally fortunate. Total number at the present time has increased to about 15.
1912. A pair in a new locality. It is remarkable that none laid a second clutch though frequently seen carrying nesting materials. (Yet another source gives certainly one and possibly two second clutches.)
1913. There has sometimes been a nest near (mentioning a locality for the first time) but
not this year.
1918 A steady but until recently a very slow increase.
1919. I am fully persuaded that several pairs of Kites eluded our vigilance this season and hatched out and reared their young unseen and undisturbed.
1920. A year of disaster.
1923. Mentioning two sites for the first time adds, in each case, “has also been successful here for some years.”
1924. Population estimated at 14. “Kites in all other usual haunts.”
1927, 1928. A claim has been made that in these two years large numbers of Kites’ eggs were imported from Spain and placed in Buzzards’ nests.
1929. A note is made that “last year” five flew whereas from other sources it seems that
only three flew.
1930. I think there are as many Kites as there were but they have spread over more country. Three new sites are mentioned of which two have been used, unrecorded, before.
1932. Five nests have been “crowed” since 1920. I am sorry to tell you of the last three disastrous years: we believe stock not reduced but only one young got off each year. I cannot make out what has become of all the young Kites reared during the last 25 years. We have not heard of any killed nor of any new sites. Watching is much more difficult now, good roads everywhere, good bridges over the rivers and brooks. Young ornithologists go from Oxford and Cambridge in the day and see the Kites.
1937. A nest protected by watchers is reported as crowed, but other evidence is known today (1952) suggesting malpractice by the watcher; nor is this the only case in which this may have occurred.
1938. “One of last year’s young still about.” (This statement, if true, is remarkable, for it indicates quite abnormal behaviour by a young bird.) Population 15. (But actually the figures, including known single birds, add up to 20 and
there is the added remark: “Further birds seen elsewhere.”)
Study of the information now available provides convincing evidence that many of the sites claimed as “new” at various dates (even today) were in fact already known to, and from time to time robbed by, egg collectors, one of whom has very courteously furnished me with some names of sites known to him many years ago and which are not mentioned in any of the Kite Protection sources. It was surprising to learn, on the other hand, that this collector did not know of a pair which nested for fifteen years or more in a district very close to the scene of some of his raids: perhaps the protection there, conducted by an independent gentleman, was too efficient for the collector’s local guide to face.
H. R. H. VAUGHAN.