Ian’s Bird of the Week – Red Kite ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 8/18/2016
Definitely bird of the month at the moment, I regret. Recently one of my cataracts worsened quickly, making it difficult to observe birds, take and edit photos: very discouraging to say the least. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, I had the offending lens replaced ten days ago, resulting in a spectacular improvement in my eye sight. Now I’m looking forward to getting the other one done this coming Monday.
The Red Kite, like the Common Buzzard in the last edition of bird of the week, is another good news story in the recent history of raptors in Ireland. This time its recovery is a result of a successful reintroduction, rather than natural recolonisation with parallel reintroductions by the Irish Golden Eagle Trust in Co. Wicklow south of Dublin and by the RSPB in Co. Down south of Belfast, starting in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Introduced pairs nested successfully in both counties in 2010, and Irish-born Red Kites nested successfully in these counties in 2012 and 2013. In 2014, there were 16 pairs in Co. Down and in 2015 there were 47 pairs in Co. Wicklow, 2 pairs in Co. Wexford and 4 pairs in Dublin-Meath so the population seems to be thriving despite some deaths from rodenticides – Red Kites are partial to carrion.
I had photographed Red Kites in Spain and Andorra in 2007 and 2014 (first photo), but I was keen to see them in Ireland too. The best place to see them in Co. Wicklow is in Avoca, where there is a winter roost which contained more than 60 birds in the 2015-2016 winter. I went there with my cousin Jean in June and after a distant view of a bird hunting along the Avoca River, she took me to another (secret) location where she had seen a pair of birds in March. Sure enough the birds were still there and nesting in a pine tree.
We were of course anxious not to disturb the pair, so we parked at some distance from the nest and observed it from the car. So I make no apologies for the distance at which photos 2,3 and 4 were taken. No. 2 shows an adult bird flying towards the nest carrying food. No. 3 shows the same bird on the right of the nest being watched by two nestlings on the left. One of the nestlings looks nearly fledged while the second is less well-developed and still has downy white feathers. No. 4 shows the adult flying away from the nest still carrying the food, watched by the nestlings. The colour of the adult matches that of the tree but the blue wing tags give its location away.
We wondered whether the adult was wary of us sitting in the car but it returned to the nest two minutes later and we drove away leaving them all in peace. By this time it was late evening so we drove back to Avoca village to see whether any non-breeding birds were using the roost. We parked in the car park opposite the church on the main street and were treated to several kites – and a Common Buzzard – circling over the town.. The one in the last photo flew right over our heads in the car park. You can see the wing tags on this one too.
And the vulture, and the kite after his kind; (Leviticus 11:14 KJV)
I had begun to wonder where Ian had disappeared to. Concerned he may have been sick or hurt. Now we know. Thanks, Ian, for telling us about your cataract problem. Been there, done that. What a difference it makes when they put the lens implant in. Like you, I need one more, but mine isn’t “ripe” yet, as they tell me.
What a beautiful Kite. That last photo is my favorite!