Friday, 28 May 2010

Kite caught 'cat-napping'!

I checked one of my local kite nests again today and this one is situated in a mature larch wood which has a thick luxuriant growth of grass at base level because the relatively open canopy allows the sunlight to get through. On my approach to the nest I climbed a gate and skirted around the field below the nest wood. I was a bit concerned because I couldn't see a kite flying around and had visions of the nest having failed. I walked quietly through the wood edging closer towards the nest and then to my surprise I found myself standing under the branch of a larch tree near the nest tree which had one of the adult birds perched on it! It sort of had its back to me and was about 35-40 feet up. Clearly the bird had not heard or seen me approach. I was quite proud of that actually! Anyway I quietly set up my scope and trained it on the nest. I honestly thought the bird was sick or something but in fact I think it was just 'cat-napping' and enjoying basking in the warmth of the sunshine. Parenthood has taken its toll on it I think! Anyway I kind of 'deliberately' made a noise to alert it as it was getting quite embarrassing by now. So here am I looking at the nest with my scope standing directly under the bird which should have been alert and guarding it. I reckon that would be a sackable infringement in the human world! The bird 'woke up' startled and rapidly vacated its perch!
Anyway I was quite amused by the whole episode. I've never gotten so close to a bird of prey without being noticed before. Oh by the way there was a single downy chick in the nest. Lets hope when it grows up its more alert than its parent!

All's well in the wood

Those of you that don't live in West Wales might like to know that despite all the world's troubles there is a little bit of heaven in a Welsh wood near me!
The nest is high in a tall oak just in from the downslope edge and facing west; set in a triple fork it is large, secure and has a deep layer of wool in the bowl. The oak leaves are fresh and bright, luminous in the shafts of sunlight as a slight breeze sways the canopy.
This is my only nest that can be observed from above and although the kite has circled high overhead, he/she hasn't whistled yet so I sit and wait a few moments. Then suddenly two white woolly heads pop out of the nest and wait alert, hoping for some food no doubt. I pass on to treasure this image hoping it won't turn into a rain soaked nightmare in June.
Met our leader Tony Cross earlier in the day. He had already ringed choughs on the coast, checked and ringed young in 50 boxes in a steep wood and was on his way into a beautiful valley in the hills to check on the redstarts. Good job he's getting younger by the day!

Tagged Breeding Kite - Machynlleth area

I was checking one of my new kite nests in the Machynlleth area yesterday and the female bird was sitting (still incubating I think). The male was perched on the same tree calling (whistling) and keeping a watchful eye on me although I was trying to be discreet! Cant fault these birds for their excellent eyesight! Anyway through my scope in the shimmering heat haze I was able to read his wing tag as black/white 't'. Over to you Tony!

Tony Cross came back to me on this. Apparently this tagged bird black/white 't' was ringed as a chick in a nest at 'Y Fan' near Llanidloes on 19th June 2002. It was a regular visitor at a kite feeding station near Talsarn during 2003, 2004 and 2005 following which it presumably decided to set up home further north. I checked this nest on the 27th May and the female was sitting tight and the male was nearby but today there was no sign of either bird and the nest appeared empty. I was so disappointed as I had high hopes for this pair. That's whats its like monitoring kite nests you think everything is going well and then you get kicked in the guts! I also checked another nest I had discovered this year and that had failed too. A double whammy! I think what might be significant in these two cases is the proximity of corvids in the vicinity of these breeding sites particularly ravens. Have any other nest-watchers had failures when ravens breed in the vicinity? I mentioned this to one of the landowners and she wanted them all shot! Obviously there is no way I would condone that course of action. I adore the raven as much as I do the kite they are as much part of the Welsh fauna as I am!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Kites at Nant-yr-Arian

I was pleased to read that you paid a visit to Nant-yr-Arian to monitor the kite feeding Mike and that you were satisfied with the quantity and quality of the meat put out for them. Personally I want to ensure that the RSPB/Forestry commission maintain their commitment to the Kite feeding and that they have the welfare of the birds paramount in their minds.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Kites at Nant-yr-Arian

Following the comments from Elfyn on Monday regarding the feeding regime at the Nant yr Arian Feeding Station I visited today to observe the Kite behaviour. Some 120 kites came in at the appointed time. The quantity of feed being dispensed was about 10 kilos- all good quality meat. The birds cleared a lot within the first 10 minutes or so but meat was still around after half an hour - with the odd bird dropping in. If the birds were short of feed they would have cleared the lot!

The number of birds present today, of which only a few were tagged, was a lot higher than normal at this time of year - perhaps reflecting a greater input of juveniles from last year's successful breeding. The general shortage of food on the hills as a result of the hard winter and current cold spell must also be having an effect. The agri - environment schemes which remove all livestock from the uplands from October to April must lead to a shortage of carrion, whether it be carcasses or 'afterbirths'. Hence the increasing dependency on the feeding stations. Also this may well have an effect on the the breeding success of the upland kite population, a matter which the WKT are aware of and are monitoring - thanks to all the help from the 'nest-watchers' who contribute to this scheme.

Pure Joy!

In relation to the entry by Chris Wells I too can report that one of my nests (which happens to be my favorite pair of kites!) has a single young downy chick in it which I would age as a few days old. It was an absolute joy to watch both the parent birds alternately feed the chick this morning. The mother bird was so delicate during the process. Following this she lowered herself gently down onto the nest to brood the chick. This is Kite watching at it's best! Glorious morning sunshine lighting up the nest with singing blackcaps pied flycatchers blackbird and thrush complementing the whole scene. This pair failed last year even though the female sat the full term. I suspect the chick died very soon after hatching or the nest was predated. The farmer on whose land this nest is located is a dear friend of ours and he is so proud of having a kite nest on his land. He was overjoyed when I told him about the chick and in fact he gave me information about another possible pair in my area which I'm checking out. Farmers have a bad press on occasions and certainly there are issues which concern conservations like ourselves but in terms of my kite monitoring I have nothing but praise for them especially those in my immediate community. Yesterday evening one of my kite landowner farmers called by my home to ask me what the situation was with regard to a pair of birds on his land and luckily I had checked the nest a couple of days ago and was able to report that the female was sitting tight. He is a major local landowner and told me of what was probably the only kite nest in the area in 1973/1974 which was on his uncle's land. I remember visiting that location with Bill Condry in 1971. This farmer was in his youth then and told me that their schoolmaster John Davies was keen on birds and took his class to watch an RSPB film on kites which was shown in Aberdyfi. So his interest in kites was fired then. So again he is immensely proud to have a pair of kites nesting on his land.

Postscript:- In relation to the information I had following my conversation with a local farmer this morning I visited the location given and discovered a new nest and probably a new pair of untagged kites so the information he gave me was spot on. I engaged in a very positive rapport with the landowners who were very pleased indeed that they had a kites nest on their land. Again these are conservation minded members of the farming community and illustrates the great importance of kite nest watchers maintaining a good 'working' relationship with farmers and other landowners.

Monday, 10 May 2010


I am pleased to report that I have found my first nest containing young, two strong healthy chicks. I estimate they are about a week old.

Is there anyone else who is able to report successful incubation of eggs?

Kites in the 'Ancient Capital'!

There were two kites hunting over Machynlleth today probably not an uncommon sight when Owain Glyndwr convened his historic parliament here in 1404! (hence Machynlleth's title as the principality's ancient capital). A local resident told me that he had witnessed a kite coming down to take a piece of bread which had been thrown on a garage roof! Perhaps due to the apparent lack of food at a local feeding station they are turning to a diet of bread! I took two guests to the Nant-yr-Arian Forest Centre on Saturday and the kites were duly fed at (just after) 3pm. The 75 plus kites gave an impressive display but it was all over by 3.10pm. Again following a second visit by myself and guests in the past month I saw 5 or 6 kites on the ground looking for food I have not seen this behaviour to such a degree on many previous visits to the centre over a number of years. Basically in my view 'the birds are hungry'. I hope the RSPB and Forestry Commission aren't going to turn the situation into a circus and just using the kites to their own ends. At least Ceredig had the welfare of the birds in mind. My chief concern also is for the 'welfare' of the kites. Surely some of these birds do become dependent on this source of food. So I think the RSPB/Forestry Commission should feed these birds a sufficient quantity of meat or don't feed them at all. I think this issue needs to be addressed by the W.K.T.
I wish to make it quite clear that the above observations are not just my own I have heard comments made by members of the public about the matter.