Red kites released in the Forestry Commission’s Grizedale Forest appear to be thriving following more than 200 sightings of the birds in England and Scotland – however help from the public is becoming more crucial than ever.
Wildlife officers from the Forestry Commission released 90 red kites as part of a three-year reintroduction programme to return the species to North West England – with the final release of 30 birds taking place last summer.
Grizedale’s red kites have been spotted as far north as the Isle of Mull, and as far south as Hastings. Many sightings have been made in Dumfries and Galloway, North Yorkshire and throughout Cumbria, particularly around Broughton-in-Furness and Kirkby Moor. It is hoped the birds will return to Grizedale Forest to breed and establish a sustainable population.
The birds carry an orange tag on their left wings to show they are from Grizedale, and one on the right to indicate the year of release – blue for 2010, white for 2011 and red for 2012. A selection also carried radio transmitters to allow officers to monitor their progress.
However, some of the transmitters attached to birds released in 2010 are reaching the end of their battery-life so it is becoming increasingly important to record kites through visual sightings.
The help of the public is therefore vital to determine how successfully their reintroduction to the region has been. People can help by reporting visual sightings to the Forestry Commission at Grizedale Forest.
Iain Yoxall, wildlife ranger at Grizedale Forest, who organised the reintroduction programme, said: “The birds have been doing as well as can be expected given the very wet summer we had. We know of a couple of birds who did succumb due to the adverse conditions, however the number of sightings we have had of other birds has been encouraging.
“People have reported seeing the birds in numerous locations in Northern England and South Scotland. We have seen birds from different release years together in the Kirkby Moor and Broughton area.
“We are still doing radio monitoring but we are becoming more reliant on visual sightings so we really do require the help of the public to keep reporting sightings of the birds.”
Tom Dearnley, Forestry Commission ecologist, said: “The more information we are able to get from the public, about the birds the better our understanding of the success of the programme. As the birds become established they will help to inform us about the importance of Forestry Commission woodlands for wildlife. We would encourage anyone who sees one of these magnificent red kites to get in touch and let us know how they are getting on.”
The Grizedale Forest reintroduction was a landmark project for red kites. This was the last scheduled reintroduction of the birds in England. The birds have now been reintroduced in all regions across England and it is hoped they will be able to regain their natural place in the environment.
Like other raptors, red kites commonly disperse when they are young, but then come back to their home area to breed. The red kites released in 2010 are expected to breed next spring and it is hoped that each breeding pair will produce one or two young birds. Red kites are coloured rust red and have white patches under their wings. They are primarily a scavenger and feed mostly on carrion. They breed from around the age of three years and usually pair for life.
People can report sightings by emailing a description of the location and bird tag numbers to firstname.lastname@example.org A special facebook page has been set up, at www.facebook.com/GrizedaleRedKites where people can post sightings and pictures, and people can also call 01229 860010.
For more information on GrizedaleForest visit www.visitlakelandforest.co.uk