Red kites and Buzzards in the north of Scotland have been in the news quite a bit this year with the poisoning incident that happened in the spring; see the previous blog for details.
This sort of thing is not the only hazard that a kite faces during its life. To this end we have a monitoring process where kites are observed so the locations of nest and roost sites can be identified and regularly checked, bird numbers recorded to give us a general indication on what the population is doing.
To help us do this we fit wing tags to as many kites as we are able. This has to be carried out before the young birds fledge, so it is impossible to get round every nest in the short space of time available, and of course with the limited resources available we are not able to find every nest immediately.
Brood of four from 2010, all these birds successfully fledged.
Wing tags allow us to identify an individual bird; by knowing identities we are able to conduct further research to enable us to better understand the life of a kite and what we can do to enable the population to expand their numbers and range. However, no matter how many birds we tag, if nobody records their sightings, we will never know what the bird is up to. Remember that kites are quite mobile so they do get all over the country, some even venture abroad.
The colour of the tag on the birds left wing denotes the area in which they were marked/released and the colour of the birds right wing tag denotes the year in which it fledged.
In addition, each tag bears a tag code, which may be a letter, number or symbol. The colours of the tag and its code together allow a bird to be individually identified.
Finally, there should be a terminal colour bar at the bottom end of the tag, which normally indicates the colour of the tag on the other wing. It is equally important that this bar is looked for and its presence or absence (as in 2010 in North Scotland, when both tags were the same colour) recorded.
Recording your sightings is quite easy and painless, you just need to go to the BTO website www.bto.org and on the home page there is a link to report a ringed bird, click on the link, select the your language and then select the type of tag/ring you are trying to report, then the species, select other if it’s not shown, fill in the details and submit the form. So that’s the official way to report sightings, we would also like to keep a track on our kites so please send any tag sightings of North Scotland kites to me at Brad.Chappell@rspb.org.uk.
In addition to wing tagging birds, we also fit some with satellite tags, this enables us to track the birds on a day to day basis. Using this method of tracking we have found nests in some areas why kites have not nested for over 100 years, including Sutherland and Nairnshire. Sadly, we have also been able to locate several dead birds, birds that have died from a variety of causes some natural and some less so.
Heather: showing wing and satellite tags.
Technology is not always as good as we hope and we have lost contact with a number of satellite tagged birds, we know some will be dead, but some will be alive and it is these birds we would like to re-connect with, we are not going to get the high-tech kit working again so it will be down to the Mk. 1 eyeball that we discover if any of these kites are still out there. So our appeal is to all you birders, photographers, dog walkers in fact anybody who ventures outdoors. If you see a kite with wing tags, and you are able to read the code please report it along with a time, date and location, especially one of the satellite tagged kites listed below.
I did a similar appeal two years a go to a group of photographers at Tollie, later that day I received three photographs of three tagged kites, all of which had not been seen since the tags had been fitted, one of these birds was three years old. Three kites previously thought dead suddenly came back to life, it’s not just around Tollie where these birds could be, but anywhere in the country.
Kite at Tollie showing wing and satellite tags.
So please help us to find these 14 missing birds, I would love to be able to blog about one of the birds being seen in the future. Remember that these kites may not be in Scotland so please let your friends and relatives know about it wherever they may live. Also, as more and more people now have good quality digital cameras, it would be great to see any photos of any of these 14 kites or any other tagged kites so we can update our database of kite sightings.