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Sun26th Aug 2012

An Irish Red Kite, hatched and fledged from a nest in Wicklow, has for the first time nested, bred and reared its own young near Redcross. As part of the national bird of prey reintroduction programmes in Ireland, Red Kites, Golden Eagles and White-tailed Eagles have all bred in Ireland in recent years. But all these breeding adults have hatched in their respective donor stock countries (Wales, Scotland and Norway) and were subsequently collected and reared in Ireland. This summer the breakthrough came when an Irish bred Red Kite, hatched and fledged from a nest in Wicklow in 2010, has bred itself and reared its own young. This is a major milestone in the gradual restoration of kites and eagles to their traditional haunts in Ireland.

This breeding kite was one of the first wild-bred Irish kites, "Blue Blue 7", hatched just outside Avoca village in 2010 and was recorded breeding at this year's nest which had a web-camera fitted. This camera allowed the public to track the fortunes of two kite chicks until they fledged. "Blue Blue 7" was a male and it bred with a female "Blue Purple T" released from the first year of the project in 2007.

The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan T.D. welcomed the news of the successful breeding this year. He said "I have been following the progress of this project with keen interest since I took office and I am delighted that we now have a second generation of kites in Ireland. I congratulate the project team on this success and am particularly grateful to farmers and landowners in Wicklow for the way in which they have helped to look after these birds."

The project is part of an All-Ireland effort to restore red kites. There were 120 Red Kites released in County Wicklow between 2007 and 2011 and subsequently 80 Red Kites were released in County Down between 2008 and 2010 and 40 kites were released in Fingal, County Dublin in 2011.

The Irish Red Kite Reintroduction Program is managed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS), of the Department of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and the Welsh Kite Trust. The Wicklow project has been funded by NPWS, the Heritage Council and Greenstar Ireland and supported by Coillte Teoranta. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) released the birds in Northern Ireland.

The level of local support and interest in red kites among local people in Wicklow has been exceptional from the start. Over a hundred people attended an open day on red kites in the Woodenbridge Hotel in April this year and the newly formed Aughrim Rugby Club has adopted the red kite as their club logo. People simply enjoy watching the graceful flight and antics of soaring kites and areas such as Avoca, Rathdrum and Redcross are now attracting visitors in search of the kites. Red Kites are quickly becoming another symbolic attraction of the wooded Wicklow landscape.

In the distant past, our ancestors closely observed Red Kites across the country. One almost forgotten Irish name for the Red Kite was Preachán Ceirteach - meaning the Cloth Kite [or Cloth Scavenger]. This close association between kites and people was reinforced this year when a nest near Rathdrum was lined with six soft DIY gloves, four socks and part of a pair of water-proof trousers! Obviously Irish kites are still lining their nests with old rags and rubbish.

Overall, this breeding season, the project team located 24 pairs of kites in Wicklow, which were defending territories or showing signs of breeding activity. Seventeen of these pairs are confirmed to have laid eggs.

Subsequently six nests are known to have failed in the horrendous wind and rain this summer. Three nests were blown completely from the trees. Eleven successful nests are known to have produced 23 young kites. This includes three broods of three chicks, which is an indication of the suitability of the kite territories. In total, 52 wild bred chicks have been produced in Wicklow between 2010 and 2012. The number of wild Wicklow bred chicks reared annually is now matching the number of Welsh young released initially and the Golden Eagle Trust is confident that the Red Kites can regain their traditional place in the Wicklow landscape.

The ringing and tagging of kite chicks was undertaken in June with red wing-tags fitted on the right wing, being used as the 2012 colour code - allowing observers to identify individuals and age the kites. Seven territories were located in Coillte forests. We look forward to developing our existing co-operation with Coillte management and exploring ways of enhancing the management and public viewing of kites in Wicklow.

But the majority of kite nests were found on farms and private residences and once again we sincerely acknowledge the vital support of scores of kite watchers in County Wicklow. The key role of farming in increasing Ireland's wildlife is vital and Red Kite Project Manager, Dr Marc Ruddock, said; "The level of co-operation and support from the local community and farmers has been phenomenal and I personally really enjoy meeting the landowners each year that are all so genuinely so proud to have kites nesting on their land. I also want to thank all the volunteers who helped find the kite nests and during tagging."

Red kite chicks and gloves
Wed13th Jun 2012

As a volunteer looking for some work experience, I really wasn?t sure what to expect when I arrived in Wicklow, or what the next week might hold in store for me in terms of sightings, work and of course the weather.

However, after a night in the Woodenbridge Hotel, Marc Ruddock and I quickly established how my time would play out and (once I?d got to grips with the observation form) I quickly found myself hidden in a gorse bush, binoculars and scope in hand, staring out at a patch of trees some 500m or so away. The way these situations unfold is as such: Marc has several years? worth of nesting, survival and pairing information locked up in his head; he uses this to try and work out where certain pairs may be nesting (a difficult problem when you consider that Wicklow is the most forested county in Ireland) and which kites are nesting with whom. This memory-based information is then supplemented by reports from local farmers and people interested in the kites, who may call in to say that a pair has been spotted circling above a certain patch of trees or a certain area. At this point an observer will go and survey the area and keep their eyes peeled for any sightings of kites, all noted down along with time and location, and will watch their behaviours for any evidence of territorial displays or nest building behaviour. In a perfect world this observer will also note the birds? wing tags, but kites are anything but helpful in this regard, and trying to read tags from a kite on the wing is next to impossible without a camera.

While sat in my gorse bush the beauty of the area slowly sinks in. I come from a little village nestled in the Cotswolds, an area of famously rolling fields and beautiful views in the centre of southern England. However, I find the mountainous nature of Co. Wicklow is amazing, a kind of more rugged version of my Cotswolds. While mulling all this over in my bush a fox pops his head out from not three metres along and turns to face me. We?re then locked in an agonizingly slow battle to see if I can get to my camera before my movement becomes too much: I lose and he annoyingly bolts.

When the kites did come in they come in quick and sharp to their tree. These birds that can spend hours lazily soaring without so much as a wing beat have a surprising turn of speed in landing and are very difficult to track using the telescope Marc has kindly lent to me. All I got from my position is a movement in your periphery and then about six seconds of flight before it disappears, lost in the branches somewhere. However, I am happy, my first recorded kite sighting! Nothing more occurs in the air for a further twenty minutes until I happen to glance down the ?scope aimed at their tree and catch a bird sitting in perfect view, perched up on a branch.

It?s a gorgeous bird, (light) blue / pink Q as its wing tags name it and a local as the light blue left wing tag records. Its mate (blue / blue t) joins it in a few minutes and the pair sit and eat together, and spend about fifteen minutes just enjoying each other's company it seems, before taking flight again and I lose them in the bushes.

This program of me taking up a viewing point and watching a stand of trees or area becomes the routine for the next four days, with varying success in our hunt for kites.

During this time I endured some kite droughts, when an area had to be ruled off as a nest site based on the apparent absence of any activity. But, I also enjoyed the greatest views I?ve ever seen of the majestic birds, such as on my final day when blue / purple F spent the best part of an hour posing for us and our telescopes, and the close-ups that Avoca?s inner-village bird brown / black V provided us on its lazy circles just overhead.

I hugely enjoyed myself and am ever thankful to Ronan Hannigan and Lorcan O?Toole who arranged my visit, and to Marc Ruddock for putting up with five days of inane questions about the habits of kites.

Written by Hugo Palejowski, May 2012

Scope & gorse - Co. Wicklow
Thu12th Apr 2012

The autumn and winter has required a lot of fieldwork and also a large amount of data entry, reports and funding claims to compile ? unfortunately it's not all about watching kites and sometimes we have to do some 'real' work! We are extremely grateful to our all project funders and the support from the public and volunteers.

Since the winter and the disappointing loss of nine kites in Dublin during November and December to rodenticide poisoning the monitoring of the red kite populations has continued each week in both Wicklow and Dublin. The dead kites located in Co. Dublin were identified by their blue left wing and white right wing tags and were found as follows C8 (2nd Nov) A5 (5th Nov), @ (17th Nov), £ (17th Nov) ? (21st Nov), ? (2nd Dec) B0 (9th Dec) and A3 (18th Dec). Since the last bird was found, to date - touch wood - no other dead kites have been found.

Roost watches have been undertaken weekly throughout the winter by the monitoring team and volunteers with kites roosting primarily at three locations near Lusk, Swords and Skerries in Co. Dublin and several large roosts in Avoca and Redcross in Co. Wicklow. In Avoca during January a peak counts of 27 kites were recorded circling at pre-roost time over Avoca village and this was absolutely stunning to watch!

As recorded previously in the project updates the radio-tracking routinely identifies 10 of the 13 released kites in Wicklow. Visually from wing-tag sightings 12 of the 13 are confirmed to have survived their first winter. Hopefully 'lucky' number thirteen from Wicklow (Blue / White Z) is somewhere out there too as its radio is no longer functioning.

In Dublin 12-15 red kites are routinely detected east of the M1 motorway as far north as Balbriggan and Skerries and usually no further south than Malahide although most birds are usually found in the Donabate, Rogerstown or Lusk area. A small satellite group of three to six birds are often located west of Swords. There is some evidence of birds moving between areas and birds are foraging regularly over five kilometres from the roosting areas. Some kites are regularly seen crossing the M1 foraging so it is definitely worth keeping an eye out when passing through North Dublin. Two Dublin red kites have gone south to Co. Wicklow (Blue / White A4 & Blue / White B5) and two have gone north to Northern Ireland (Blue / White B1 & Blue / White B7). One kite spent time out in Mullingar (Blue / White A0) and has come back into the Dublin area and one Dublin kite (Blue / White A2) has recently been spotted in Wexford!

The spring monitoring of nesting behaviours is continuing in Wicklow and we are keeping a close eye out for any potential breeding behaviour or nest building in Dublin although the birds are still a bit young to breed, but fingers crossed?The work during the spring is mainly trying to see where the kites are building their nests so we can monitor the population and also we have to check which adults are breeding by reading the wing-tags through telescopes and cameras so we can see which ones have survived, their age, where they are breeding and establish their breeding success and productivity.

The spring has also seen some exciting events and I was lucky to be invited to a celebration of Irish Raptors in March for launch of the recent publication of the amazing book ?Raptors ? A Pocket Guide to Birds of Prey and Owls? which has been written and illustrated by 11-year old Declan Cairney from County Galway at an open day at the Burren Bird of Prey Centre, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare.

On the day there were two talks on Irish raptors, conservation and the work of the Golden Eagle Trust by Lorcan O'Toole and myself (Marc Ruddock). Lorcan shared his enthusiasm and passion for Irish Wildlife and habitats and the work of the trust and conveyed his support and thanks to Declan. I shared my experiences of the red kite project and thanked all the volunteers and funders for the donations received towards the red kite project. The centre raised over ?4000 towards the Dublin red kite project and some of the staff and volunteers helped with the collection, care and release of the kites.

Declan had copies of his books for sale and gave a heartfelt talk on his experiences and joy of working with raptors and his book; and presented Lorcan with a cheque for ?500 towards the Golden Eagle Trust projects. This was a humbling day for everyone and I certainly was buoyed by the clear interest, generosity and talents of Declan - the artist and raptor enthusiast. In early April, Declan and his mum Maeve were able to join me in Wicklow for an afternoon of kite watching and we saw numerous red kites, peregrines and buzzards and got some great photographs of a Northern Ireland kite in Avoca (Brown / Black v).

This month sees much more monitoring and radio-tracking in both project areas and hopefully we will identify more red kites and red kites nests over the coming weeks. Anyone who knows of kite nests or sees kites regularly please do get in touch if breeding is suspected. If you would like to see some more photographs of the recent activity from the red kite project please look (soon) at the Golden Eagle Trust Facebook page where I will be uploading some more images from the past few months in coming days?but for now more kites to go and find? :-)

Declan Cairney donates profits to Golden Eagle Trust
Sun8th Apr 2012

The red kite is now a familiar sight around Wicklow farms and villages. Particularly in Avoca village throughout the year and also where notably large communal roosts occur in the winter. People from near and far have come to see the kites and many are captivated by the sight of the graceful, forked-tailed kite floating and gliding over fields, villages and woods in Wicklow.

The Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the National Parks & Wildlife Service and Welsh Kite Trust supported by Coillte Teoranta, the Heritage Council and Greenstar Ireland released a total of 120 red kites in Wicklow between 2007 and 2011 in Co. Wicklow. The final release of 13 Welsh kites took place during 2011. Simultaneously, in 2011 39 red kites were released in Fingal, Co. Dublin supported additionally by Fingal LEADER Partnership, Fingal County Council, Fingal Conservation Volunteers, Birdwatch Ireland, Burren Bird of Prey Centre, AOL Monster Help Day and the Irish Raptor Study Group.

Each red kite was fitted with a radio-tag allowing the project team to monitor the birds since release. Each red kite is also identified by wing tags with a unique code and three kites in Wicklow Blue/White E, Blue/White v and Blue/White Z were initially considered missing. All 10 other red kites were regularly radio-tracked each week throughout the winter.

Frustratingly Blue/White E had dropped the radio close to the release cages and had not been seen since September 2011 and whilst the radios had apparently stopped working on Blue/White v and Blue/White Z and neither had been seen since October 2011. After initial fears that these three birds were missing, both Blue/White E and Blue/White v have now both been confirmed alive through photographs taken during the past two weeks. Only Blue/White Z remains unaccounted for, although the radio malfunctioned shortly after release and the bird may still be alive. Amazingly, this represent over 90% survival through the winter of these young released birds.

Whilst three other kites were confirmed poisoned illegally last year by alphachloralose, including one of the breeding adult females, the Wicklow kites have also been breeding successfully since 2010 and have produced 12 young in 2010 and 17 young in 2011. With the additional strategic release of 39 Red Kites in Co. Dublin last year and a minimum of 29 young produced from wild Wicklow nests over the past two years, it is hoped the east coast population of kites is secure and will allow the species to spread across the island of Ireland.

With spring clearly in the air the red kite breeding season is already beginning and some red kites are showing signs of having paired up and building their nests. At this time of year the project team would urge landowners and the public to report sightings of red kites, particularly if you see displaying birds or kites carrying nest material or suspect a nest location. Please also be mindful that kites are vulnerable to disturbance at this time and are considered no threat to livestock. They are known to feed mainly on insects, worms, rats and magpies. All sightings or information should be reported to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or on the project website www.goldeneagle.ie

As part of the celebration this year of the red kites return in Ireland the Golden Eagle Trust are hosting a talk at the Woodenbridge Hotel, Co. Wicklow on 14th April 2012 starting at 1030am. The Golden Eagle Trust project team provide an insight into the project over the past five years and the highs and lows of bringing the red kite home to Ireland.

The event has been kindly sponsored by Wicklow County Council; Deirdre Burns, Heritage Officer with Wicklow Council stated ?The reintroduction of Red Kites to Wicklow is a significant milestone for biodiversity in Ireland. Now that the population has been established, the continued success of the project will rely on the interest and enthusiasm of the local community. This event is an ideal opportunity to find out more about these wonderful birds and how local people can play an active role in ensuring that they remain a common sight in the Wicklow landscape?

Wicklow Red Kite Winter's Tale & Woodenbridge Talk
Fri18th May 2012

A breeding attempt by a pair of White-tailed Eagles, near Mountshannon, Lough Derg, has unfortunately failed at the point of hatching. The birds started to lose interest in the nest site on Tuesday (16/5/12) evening and did not attend the nest at all on Wednesday (17/5/12). A nest visit yesterday by Golden Eagle Trust and National Parks and Wildlife Service staff confirmed that only egg shell fragments and the remains of a tiny White-tailed Eagle chick staff were left inside the nest cup.

The pair of White-tailed Eagles is still in the nest site vicinity. The breeding female was only three years of age, whereas they normally begin to breed as four year olds. Therefore it is not surprising that she would not be successful in her first breeding attempt, especially before she reached maturity. Whilst the natural breeding failure is disappointing, it nonetheless clearly demonstrates that the Irish landscapes can support these magnificent birds.

Other territorial pairs in Kerry and Galway will hopefully breed next season alongside the Clare pair. The Mountshannon breeding eagles were released in County Kerry as part of the Irish White-tailed Eagle reintroduction programme. The Programme has been managed and developed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) since the project was first muted in 2006.

The primary funding for this national project has come from NPWS and the Golden Eagle Trust is grateful that NPWS had to foresight to invest and support this imaginative project from the outset. And despite this disappointing news, we are reassured that the initial vision of restoring White-tailed Eagles to Ireland has now begun to become a reality.

Whilst the recent focus has centred on the excitement of the breeding attempt, the Golden Eagle Trust would like to highlight the extremely valuable support of the Mountshannon community and an array of local bodies, for protecting this nest site and facilitating the public viewing at the harbour. The Mountshannon Community Council, the Mountshannon Search and Rescue Team and local FÁS scheme have been extremely supportive in facilitating the Project Manager, Dr Allan Mee.

The local people, from schoolchildren to senior citizens, came to look at 'their eagles' on a regular basis and the enthusiasm and support was palpable. We believe this pair will now become another attractive part of the Lough Derg landscape. We also take great succour from this ongoing community support for the restoration of native eagles.

Whilst these birds may be breeding in Clare, we should not forget the support of the people of County Kerry who have embraced the 100 young White-tailed Eagles initially released in their midst and have given the project steadfast support since the birds were first released. Their 10,000 strong petition played an important role in convincing the national authorities that there was widespread support in rural Ireland for restoring the eagles to our coasts, rivers and loughs.

Numerous visitors from County Clare, elsewhere in Ireland and abroad have already come to Mountshannon to see the eagles. We estimate that the nest attracted 700-800 people a week. The numerous comments in the visitor book reflect their appreciation for being able to see eagles in the Irish countryside again. The level of interest in the site over the last two weeks would suggest that there is enormous potential for celebrating our wildlife and cultural heritage all along the Shannon Basin.

The pair of White-tailed Eagles is likely to remain on and near Lough Deg over the rest of the summer. People should keep an eye out for the birds as they fly and forage over the rich bays and islands between Whitegate, Mountshannon, Scarriff and the Tipperary side of Lower Lough Derg. The birds may begin prospecting for new nest sites early in the New Year, though it is possible that they could re?use this year's nest.

White-Tailed Sea Eagle Mountshannon

Breeding Pair:
"2008 male tag Y", and "2009 female tag %"

Eggs laid c9 April

9 Apr-15 May
Both birds shared incubation over the next 5-6 weeks with female doing the "night shift". Male tended to do more of the daytime incubation in the first few weeks with bouts up to 8 hours without changing over. Closer to the expected hatch date (16-18 May) female attended the nest more than the male. Both birds mostly fed away from the nest while off-duty, but food was also brought to the nest by the male when the female was sitting. All food items identified were fish species but duck feathers were also recovered from nest.

15 May
Female incubating as normal in morning. However two periods when both birds left nest during the day (9 minutes off on 2nd occasion). This was unusual and followed on a change in behaviour over last few days with birds "restless" at nest, standing and re-sitting more often than previously (responding to egg hatching?). Just before 1800 both birds deserted the nest and perched c100m away showing no interest in returning to nest. Female returned to nest later that evening and stood for some time on nest rim before departing again. Birds did not return after this.

16 May
Nest entry to check nest c 1700 hrs. Damian Clarke (NPWS) climbed to the nest. Nest well built and completely intact. Eggshell fragments and wing of chick with inner membrane of shell still attached recovered indication chick died at or around hatching. No evidence of a second egg/chick but almost 24 hours since nest abandoned. Hooded crows observed at the nest earlier in day and likely removed/predated nest contents.

While it was disappointing that the nest failed this was always likely as the pair are young (4th cal year female, 5th cal year male) and first time breeders regularly fail to produce fertile eggs and/or hatch. Clearly this pair laid fertile eggs so mating is not an issue. Throughout incubation the pair rarely left the nest and the experience gained this year should be invaluable on their next attempt. At present the pair is still roosting on the nest island. It remains to be seen whether this pair re-nests at the same site next year.

The monitoring effort at the nest site, during daylight hours throughout the incubation period, could only have been achieved with a lot of voluntary effort including NPWS staff. The nesting and the public nature of the site also generated huge positive interest locally but also attracting visitors from throughout Ireland (c 1,000 over the weekend of 5-7 May). A full-time person (Anna McWilliam) was hired to coordinate the effort for the period of nesting. Mountshannon Community Council and the local FÁS crew as well as Search and Rescue provided much help locally. We are grateful to John Maguire (NPWS) for prompt help re licensing and Damian Clarke for tree climbing and inspecting the nest contents.

Dr. Allan Mee

Young WT Eagles abandon nest at hatching time
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