Sunday, 8 January 2012

Kites, counts and missing tags

This weekend saw the Welsh Kite Trust's second attempt at the Europe-wide co-ordinated winter census of Red Kites. Most other countries do their counts at communal roosts but since most of our kites roost in fairly small dispersed groups it is more realistic to have a co-ordinated count of all the main feeding stations. This time last winter, in a period of freezing weather, we managed a count of 1,189 - 1,326 birds. This year the mild weather meant that numbers attending the feeding stations were much lower and the total at the 6 main feeding stations was only 645 birds. The count at Nant-yr-Arian was due to thick fog rather than a near complete lack of birds! This serves to tell us only one thing, Welsh kites clearly aren't as dependent on feeding stations as some people fear!

Results as follows:

Gigrin Farm485-550250-300Tony Cross
Talsarn250-300200Liz & Brian Snell
Nant-yr-Arian1201Red Liford
Llanddeusant 5840John Roberts
Bow Street11592Mike Hayward
Crymych4542Paddy Jenks

Many thanks to all the observers who gave their time to undertake counts. The Welsh population is currently estimated at in excess of 3,000 birds so this winter's count represents only about 20% of the population. In future winters, counts will only be carried out during a period of prolonged cold weather.

Since tagging was re-started in Wales in 2002 we have wing-tagged over 2,000 young Red Kites - where the hell have they all gone?  I managed to read just 11 birds in two days at Gigrin Farm (including 1 Scottish bird), Mike Hayward did better at Bow Street with 14 tags read and John Roberts got two at Llanddeusant. Reading tags isn't easy as few birds ever land (a camera comes in dead handy if you can snap them at just the right moment). Clearly there were many more tagged birds present than we were able to read but despite the huge effort expended every summer most kites nowadays are un-tagged (I can hear the photographers rejoicing from here!)

Two of the few tagged kites identified at Gigrin today - nothing exciting, both 2011 chicks from local nests! 

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