Red Kites in Wales

Over the last decade, birders in East Glamorgan have witnessed a rise in the number of Red Kites in our area.  Indeed the species is no longer considered rare, with sightings spanning across the whole region and throughout the year.  It’s a regular winter visitor roaming the hills or the Vale, and we’ve a few pairs breeding too.  It was of course, not always this way.

Red Kite 42 by ahisgett, on Flickr
Red Kite 42 by ahisgett, on Flickr

On 12 November, Tony Cross of the Welsh Kite Trust, told an audience of the Welsh Ornithological Society  the success story that is Red Kite conservation in Wales.  The story began in the 1880s with Brecon’s Edward Cambridge-Phillips and later with the creation of the British Ornithologists’ Club Kite Committee in 1903.  Kites were a relatively common bird in centuries past, but had been persecuted to the edge of extinction in the United Kingdom, only just clinging on in the remote valleys of mid Wales.

An attempt to reintroduce birds from Spain to Radnorshire in the early 1930s failed, and in 1932 the plight was perilous, with just two known nests in Carmarthenshire. Though Wales has been the last refuge and in more recent times a strong-hold of the Red Kite in Britain, it seems Wales is not the best place in Britain for Red Kites.  Research shows that our wet climate is a factor limiting breeding productivity, with brood sizes and chick survival lower in Wales that other parts of the UK. It was the remoteness of our valleys that enabled the Kite to cling on.

In the 1990s, DNA studies showed that 25% of Welsh female kites were descended from a German female that arrived around 1970. Successful reintroductions in England and Scotland have taken place and studies are under way to determine whether birds in these populations have contributed to the recent rise in Welsh numbers. As yet, no tagged reintroduced birds are known to have bred successfully here. Our population is a direct result of breeding success since the 1930s.  No Red Kites have been reintroduced in Wales.

Over the decades, a dedicated band of conservationists have worked tirelessly to protect our birds from persecution, including egg-thieves and deliberate poisoning. Round the clock nest watches, building relationships with land owners, winter feeding stations, tagging and recording have all played a role.  It’s thanks to this great effort, by many, that we enjoy watching Kites in our county today.

By 2010, we had an estimated 1000 pairs and modelling predicts continued growth to 3500 pairs by 2050, enabling chicks from Wales to be exported under licence to Ireland as part of a reintroduction scheme there.

Tony’s talk concluded with a hint that attention may now turn towards other raptors in Wales.  The Welsh Kite Trust is well-placed to look at other species, and with knowledge gained from conserving our Red Kites, we may look forward with hope, that the fortunes of our Kestrels, Honey-buzzards and others will improve.

Short-eared Owls

The sight of a Short-eared Owl patrolling its hunting ground is surely a treat for any birder.  This species may be found hunting during the day, typically inhabiting our coastal marshes or rough ground inland, with some sites being home to several birds at a time.

In our region, it is a species of the winter months, when the UK population grows with the arrival of birds from the continent.  BirdTrack offers an insight into this influx, and this winter has seen good numbers arriving along the east coast during October.

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Short-eared Owls, by Jeff Slocombe

During the Bird Atlas period, 15 records were noted from 5 tetrads, with just one outside the main winter period. A passage bird at Nash Point.  Llanilid Opencast and Rumney Great Wharf are the best locations to see this species in East Glamorgan, though its possible to see birds in upland areas too.

You can help our understanding of bird movements, by recording your sightings in BirdTrack.

Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report 2010 Published

The latest annual bird report from the Glamorgan Bird Club has been published.

The Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report No 49 (2010) contains eighty two pages reviewing the birding year in our region.
East Glamorgan Bird Report 2010

As ever, the bulk of the report is taken up by the species accounts, commentating on the fortunes of resident, migrant and rare birds observed during the year.  There’s good and bad news.  Goosanders bred in our region for the first time, and the harsh winter weather was good for Bittern watchers.   Tree Sparrow may now be extinct, with just a single record from the Vale, and Dartford Warblers retracted to a single site, having shown signs of a possible expansion from there in the last few years.

A review of the year’s rarities shows that East Glamorgan is not always a barren wasteland for those looking to bump their lists up.  Marsh Warbler was recorded for the first time, while Glossy Ibis and Great White Egret were recorded for only the second and fourth time respectively.

Other features include  a report on the year’s weather, ringing reports, migrant dates, BTO news, the county list and obituaries for two well-known members of the local birding scene, Howard Nicholls and Graham Duff.  Glamorgan Moth Recording Group provide a short item on their year’s highlights, and the report is punctuated with a range of line drawings and photographs from talented local birders.

The Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report is free to all members of the Glamorgan Bird Club.

Copies may be purchased from John Wilson for £7.50 & postage.

John Wilson
Editor of the Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report
122 Westbourne Road
Vale of Glamorgan
CF64 3HH

tel: 02920 339424

Our Garden BirdWatch Ambassadors

Wren by Sergey Yeliseev, on Flickr
Wren by Sergey Yeliseev, on Flickr

South Wales is one of several areas of the UK where the BTO has appointed volunteer ‘ambassadors’ to arouse public interest and participation in its Garden BirdWatch scheme.

Amanda Skull covers the area west of Cardiff, while Mick Bailey covers from Cardiff to the English border.  In practice they help each other out and do not keep rigidly to this territorial division.

Their activities include radio broadcasts, press articles, talks to clubs and other social groups (bird and wildlife groups, churches, WI, PROBUS, U3A, etc), stalls in garden centres and at various events.

They are always on the lookout for such opportunities and would welcome enquiries and suggestions.

Amanda Skull
tel: 01792 891013 (h)
tel: 07952 758293 (m)

Mick Bailey
tel: 01633 869580 (h)
e-mail: (h)

In addition to his GBW activities, Mick also gives other talks on birds in order to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society. He also gives talks on MS itself.

The BTO GBW team can be contacted at BTO headquarters in Thetford:

01842 750 050

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