Red Kite Report 1952 - HONORARY WARDEN’S REPORT
It is satisfactory to be able to preface this 1952 season report by stating that one of the four districts referred to in paragraph 12 of the 1951 report did in fact contain a pair that bred successfully and brought two young birds to flying stage.
2. The 1952 season has been disappointing as regards definite results. Sickness and other causes prevented us from keeping sufficiently closely in touch with certain of the known nesting pairs and some of them have not even been found this year.
3. A bird took up quarters in a new district in October, 1951, and has remained thereabouts ever since. Unverified reports of a second bird have been received but no nest has been seen.
4. The only other incident worthy of record during the winter occurred in connection with the nest referred to as Number 8 in the 1951 report. These birds, old and young, left the vicinity of the nest very soon after the young were able to fly and were not seen thereabouts again until 27th December, when the old birds, without the young, returned to the nest tree in the late afternoon. After making a careful examination they roosted in the tree and continued to do so until, in due course, they re-occupied the old nest. Their 1951 young birds were not seen. This should be compared with what we believe to be the normal behaviour (for example numbers 3 and 6 of 1951), where old and young remain together more or less in the nesting district until mid-winter when the young leave.
5. A number of egg collectors were active in March after Ravens. There is always the likelihood that such are looking for Ravens with one eye and using the other to spy for Kites.
6. Nest number 1 this year is the re-occupation of a site not used for a great many years. The pair were first seen in the district in December and stayed in the vicinity for the remainder of the winter. The foundation of their nest was an old Carrion Crow’s nest in a wood facing N.E. at an altitude of about 900 feet: in an oak about 16 feet out on a branch and about 20 feet from the ground. The birds were very wild and shy. Special precautions were taken against any form of disturbance. Certain people in the district known to be egg
collectors’ agents were warned. It was a late nest and the bird was still sitting on 27th May. On 29th May and the two following days the behaviour of the birds showed that a disaster of some sort had occurred. The tree was climbed and broken eggshells were found in the nest. Careful search of the ground below showed nothing. The cause of the trouble is not known. The birds have not left the district.
Nest number 2 is the same as number 8 of 1951. The birds behaved in what may be called a normal manner and two young successfully came to flying stage.
Nest number 3 is the same as number 2 of 1951. Behaviour was normal. Only one bird is known to have reached flying stage. No evidence whatever is available concerning the second. There was a Carrion Crow’s nest about 25 yards from the Kite tree. We therefore waited till the crows had hatched and then destroyed their nest.
Nest number 4 is the same as number 3 of 1951 and was again successful, but only one young bird flew.
Nest number 5 is the same as number 1 of 1951 and was again successful, but only one young
Nest number 6 was at a site used at infrequent intervals in the past: in an oak wood at a height of about 650 feet facing S.E. We are inclined to think that this is the pair we referred to as number 7 in the 1951 report. This nest was robbed. Putting the stories together we now believe that two egg-stealers were after it. The fanner warded off one but the nest, in a singularly vulnerable position, was raided by the other party unknown to the farmer until too late.
Nest number 7 is, we think, the same as number 5 of 1950. A little higher up in the same wood and in a spruce, but it was not possible to see into the nest. We are not certain of the results but consider it should be classed as probably successful as regards one young
Nest number 8 is the same pair as number 6 of 1951. This year unfortunately no nest has been found nor have any young birds been seen. Long continued sickness in the farmer’s family prevented any observation of the wood which is at a considerable distance from the
farmhouse. He did see the birds at the old nest early in the nesting season, but when we saw the nest early in July it showed no signs of having been occupied for several weeks and the old cock roosting branch looked equally derelict; nor could any pellets be found though
usually they are abundant at this site. The birds however have remained in the district.
Nest number 9 is the pair referred to in the opening paragraph of this report. The site has actually been used spasmodically over a number of years. The nest is about 20 feet up in a birch tree and is remarkable for the great number of dead young rooks or crows found adjacent to it. This season there were two eggs but only one young bird is known to have reached the flying stage.
Nest number 10 is probably, but not certainly, the same pair as number 10 of 1951. Eggs were laid and incubated for some weeks, then the nest was abandoned. The cause of the desertion is not known nor do we know whether the eggs hatched or not. There is no evidence that any harm befell the parent birds.
7. In addition to these ten pairs known to have nested or •en in a known area throughout the material part of the nesting season, a pair were seen at Site 4/1950 at a date in the season which niade it certain that they could not be confused with any other known pair. They were seen in the nesting tree but did not stay long. Since the end of the season a rather uncertain report has been received of an obvious young bird of this season having been seen in this piece of woodland in July.
8. One of this year’s nests is, we believe, an actual increase in the known breeding population and we have no reason to suppose that any harm has come to such of last year’s breeding birds as have not been found this year.
9. We have information, varying from possible or probable to certainty, concerning birds in eight other districts, but in none of them have we information as to nests. We hope, some day, to come to terms with them all. A new colleague joined us this year and put in many
days on foot in an area regarded as one of possibility. His days of foot-slogging gave excellent and positive results.
10. Our good friends in the Devon Birdwatching Society continue to help us and have sent us a number of reports of birds seen in the southwest of England. One is of particular interest: a pair, seen at the beginning of April, at a point in Cornwall where Montagu’s
Harriers and other hawks have actually been seen arriving from a Channel crossing. There is, we are advised, just an element of doubt in this case (and in one report from Devon) as to whether the birds seen may not have been Black Kites.
11. One report received had perhaps best be given in the words of our colleague who sent it in “X, whose farm is the one in the district chiefly frequented by the Kite, had a strange tale. He is a cautious man who has watched the Kite about almost daily since it first visited his land last October, and had only seen a single bird until Wednesday, 9th April. On that day in the afternoon, he swears, there were five or six Kites flying low over the field behind his house. He could not give the exact figure because—’they were all mixed up and moving and chasing crows.’ He crept up behind a hedge to within 50 yards of them. They were whistling, he said, and it was the first time he had heard a Kite cry—always before the solitary bird had been silent. This sounds incredible, but he is, as I say, a very cautious man who does not identify without reason. He is also of sober habits.”
12. This story was related, for comment, to an elderly farmer’ living several miles away and with many years of Kite experience. He said he had seen three Kites behave in a similar manner and also said that as soon as the first egg has been laid Kites become aggressive and will chase crows. In some old records that have been searched during this past year a reference has been found to five Kites being seen together early in the nesting season.
Taking this 1952 story at its face value, the question arises, where did the five birds come from? Only one pair was believed to exist within eight miles.
13. From the same farmer, who until October, 1951, had never seen a Kite on his land, came also the following :— “He said he wished the Kite would come to his land every Spring. He had watched it chasing off crows and he said this was the first year he could remember when he had lost no lambs to the crows. All the credit for this he gave to the Kite for chasing the crows away.” It should be added that no Kites’ nest was found on this farm or in its vicinity.
14. We received one complaint of a Kite taking young chicks. The complaint was accompanied by a demand for money compensation. This we refused as we were far from satisfied with the evidence. We offered to provide fencing wire to protect the chicken run. This offer was refused. The complainant withdrew and we heard no more of the matter.
15. We have no comments to make concerning the weather during the nesting season.
16. Blackheaded Gulls (Larus ridibundus) have been found in quantity among the debris at a Kite’s nest this year. This appears to be the first record of this item occurring in the Kite’s diet. The site was about five miles from a Gullery and a Gulls’ line of flight passed not far from the nest. There is no evidence as to how the gulls were obtained nor is there for the frequently found relics of rooks. One must not exclude the possibility that the Kite may be able to take its prey on the wing. Any first hand information on the point will be most welcome.
17. The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries stated in the House of Commons on 31st January, 1952, that he had decided not to make the Compulsory Purchase Order in respect of the Upper Towy Afforestation Scheme. We gratefully record the withdrawal of the threat of large-scale disturbance of the Kite breeding ground. The Proposals submitted to the Nature Conservancy for a Scientific Area under Section 23 of The National Parks Act have been amended by extending the Northern and Eastward boundaries.
18. We are frequently asked to make estithates and give figures for Kite population. It is not possible to do anything of the sort with the least pretension to accuracy, but for what it may be worth, a table has been compiled and is included in this report as Appendix II. There is, we believe, no justification for assuming that the apparent considerable increase in the most recent years reflects a considerable actual increase, or that it is due to the work of the Kite Committee. The more probable explanation is that the field workers of the
Committee have learned of the whereabouts of pairs that have probably been breeding unknown to us for several years. The Handbook of British Birds (vol. III, page 86), refers to a nest in Devon in 1913 and one in Cornwall in 1920. We have no particulars of these nests and if anyone can supply us with the information we shall be greatly obliged.
H. R. H. VAUGHAN, Honorary Kite Warden.7