In 1985 I ringed my first ever Red Kite with Mr. Kite himself, Peter Davis. I was a student at Aberystwyth University and a keen C ringer. The following year I obtained my first ever employment, a contract with the Nature Conservany Council to monitor breeding Ravens and to be field assistant to Peter on his kite monitoring contract (I reckon he had witnessed my tree-climbing prowess the year before and was keen to keep me local!). For the next 8 years I had the great pleasure of helping Peter ring and tag the vast majority of young Red Kites fledged in Wales. In 1993 Peter decided to retire from kite ringing and I took over, ringing the first Red Kite on my own rings on 14th June 1994. Since that date I have ringed a grand total of 2,704 Red Kites, most of which have been either colour-ringed or wing-tagged too. As a result, not much relating to the movements of our local kites surprises me anymore. Last Sunday I was alerted to a definite 'first' though by Pete Stevens of the Southern England Kite Group. He sent me an email with photos attached of a wing-tagged Rode Wouw taken in Den Oever, Noord Holland!!
Photo (c) Maarten Hotting. Den Oever, Noord Holland 26th March 2016
The tags shown are without question those I had fitted to a chick ringed in a nest monitored by Dave Pearce near Church Stretton, Shropshire on 17th June 2014 (about 475 km west of its current location) - photo taken at the time by Leo Smith shown below. It transpires that the same bird had been seen and photographed several times between the 15th - 19th March about 135kms south of Den Oever in an area just south of Rotterdam
We have previously had movements of Welsh-bred kites to Scotland, Ireland and even one on a gas rig out in the North Sea but have never had a sighting on the Continent before. Welsh Red Kites are essentially sedentary but the English and Scottish re-introduction schemes sourced birds from different populations, some of which (Swedish and German) were migratory. There is clearly a bit of mixing going on now and this genetic blending has been the subject of a PhD study by Ilze Skujina at IBERS in Aberystwyth that we have been collaborating on. The results from that study had already indicated that Shropshire was an area where the different populations were merging, and this movement seems to back that up.
For now though, this particular Kite seems to have had enough of the UK and is presumably heading back to its ancestral roots!