Monday, 1 July 2013

Chilterns - 29 June 2013

Following an unexpected email on the previous day, we headed off towards the Chilterns to join Pete, Terry and Jessica to ring Red Kite chicks. As with so many other things this year, the Kites seem to be running later than usual. Added to that, most nests with surviving young have just one chick, whereas two or three are usually quite common.

At the first tree Pete headed up the trunk with directions from Terry, the usual climber , who was unfortunately suffering from a back injury.

 The first nest tree

Pete ascending the trunk towards the nest

The first tree was quite straight forward albeit that the nest was about 60ft up.

Chick one - the smallest of the day and still carrying a lot of down

The second tree had a great deal of small branches at its base and proved to be more problematic than the first, although not quite so high.

The second nest tree

Pete managed to navigate the small branches and leaves obscuring the trunk to send down a well grown chick.

 Chris applying the G ring.

 What beautiful baby blues

 The adults kept a close eye from above being joined by up to four other individuals.

The third tree had little white wash below nest area but the adults were paying a lot of attention to our activities. Pete ascended, but found the nest empty. It's possible the nest was predated while the chick(chicks) were at an early stage. It is known that Buzzards will predate nests and sometimes take up residence.

The tree that had an empty nest.

We moved on and located the next nest sited in a substantial fork of a tree.

Nest with chick just visible.

 The nest tree

 Chicks were all ringed, weighed, and measurements of wing, tarsus width, primary feather length and emerged portion of feather were taken.

Chick three clearly showing emergent retrices.

The next tree had a deepish nest located well away from the trunk on a slender branch. There was no way to approach it safely and although a chick had been seen, it was not possible to reach it.

 Out on a limb and unreachable

This unusual nest was in a tree propping up a partially fallen neighbouring tree.

The next nest was in a tree that hosted an ivy plant reaching right up into the canopy. The epiphyte made chimbing very difficult and although Pete gave it a try, the climb became increasing difficult and he eventually gave up.

Impossible climb!

The last tree that we planned to check out was  more straight forward and the nest was even a little closer to the ground. This chick was heard calling for food. Pete discovered a piece of pizza in the nest - but apparently chorizo pizza just wasn't to his or her taste.

 The last tree of the day

The last nest - or so we thought

 chick four - wing measuring

Examining the remiges to find a well grown primary 

 Chick four

On leaving the last nest a Red Kite was noted in a small dead tree. At first it appeared to be basking, then we thought it was perhaps predating a nest. We moved closer and realised that it was actually on a nest and a very small chick could be seen from time to time.

The unusual nest

This is likely to be an inexperienced pair on their first breeding attempt. The nest is completely exposed to wind, rain, sun & predators, and the chick is well behind the four that were processed.
It seems unlikely that this chick will survive - there will be no attempt to ring it as the tree is unsafe, but the nest will be monitored since the nest is just about level with the far side of the field that the hedge, in which the dead tree was growing, surrounds and it will be possible to view right into the nest using a scope.

Again, many thanks to our hosts. This type of ringing is extremely specialised, hard work and anyone who regularly does this kind of work has our admiration. It took the whole day to find just four chicks - a low return for the climber who has a lot of climbing even though abseiling down reduces the effort that they have to put. It is believed that the fewer nests with two or three siblings that has been common this year  may be the result of population saturation now that the Kites are doing so well.

Here's hoping we get another email next season.

Totals: 4

Red Kite - 4pulli