Friday, 25 March 2011

Flying kites

Red Kite on a close fly-past - some terrific views of this comeback raptor today.
Inspired by my recent success with Goshawks, I decided to make the most of the warm early spring weather and head out again for more raptors. The venue was a site in the London area which, though productive for birds of prey, is not one where Goshawk can be expected. Nonetheless, Common Buzzard, Eurasian Sparrowhawk and, more recently, Red Kite have all been reliable there, so with the mercury rising unusually quickly for March, a good morning was on the cards.

Common Buzzard on the move - one of the darker individuals seen today.
And so it proved. During the course of a couple of hours, the maximum counts (that is, numbers of the same species in view at once, to avoid possible duplication) peaked at six Common Buzzards, four Red Kites and three Eurasian Sparrowhawks. It seems amazing to be able to log these kinds of numbers within a (long) stone's throw of the city, but raptors have bounced back from the murky days of the Seventies and Eighties when DDT and eggshell-thinning (among other factors) led to such a crash in populations. In those days you would have been lucky to find a single buzzard within 50 miles of London, and unless you were a Welsh hill farmer Red Kites were just a fantasy.

Red Kite (upper bird) and Common Buzzard share a thermal ...
The views were terrific, too, at times with all three raptor species in view together. I did glimpse another large 'BOP' briefly head-on at some distance before it pulled its wings in and then plummeted into the back of a wood - perhaps just a silhouetted Common Buzzard, but I'll be back to check the site again just in case anything more interesting is hanging around ...

... before the titans clash. Interestingly, the kite bosses the buzzard and the latter drifts off.
Also seen today: c.8 Siskin, 1 Lesser Redpoll, 5 Redwing, singing male Common Chiffchaff, Stock Dove, Skylark and Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers.


  1. Hi Dominic,
    We don't have Red Kites in Cork (yet), but Common Buzzards have colonised the county (first proven breeding as recently as 2004), and increased dramatically in the last few years in some areas. I've seen four individuals within an hour's walk from my house so far this year, two of which seemed to be showing interest in holding territory in the area, and once had a bird fly upriver over a nearby park that's actually in the city itself (20 mins or so away on foot from me).

  2. Hi Harry, sounds like your raptors are doing well too. Maybe kites will eventually colonise, notwithstanding the poisoning incidents which seem to affect this species in Ireland as well as over here. Sporting interests around London are mainly limited to pheasant and partridge shoots on the larger farms, so buzzards and kites seem to be left largely alone in this area.

  3. I've seen plenty of Red Kites in mid-Wales, but today I saw one in the sky over my house in Pembrokeshire, scrapping with two Buzzards. That is a first for me - we are low-lying and quite agricultural, and not in the slightest bit remote. In this case, the kite thought the better of it and withdrew. Those are awesome photos.



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