Since September the kites have strongly favoured one area of land in particular. This land is mainly one large privately owned farm. The farmer being well disposed towards the kites has given me free access to his lands for the purpose of monitoring the kites. The dominant habitats are improved grassland for grazing and large cereal fields. The exact area the kites tend to utilise most heavily is a hill on this farm. The kites are generally to be found on either side of this hill depending on the wind direction. On a good breezy day a large proportion of the kites (10+) can be found here, and they generally offer excellent views. The other local kites can often be seen in smaller numbers on the open farmland in the surrounding area.
During October another two kites dispersed from the area. There have been no confirmed sightings of any of the missing kites within the last three months. Currently there are at least twenty-four kites in the general release area. See table for update on individual birds.
There are currently three feeding platforms set up for the kites. Meat, generally in the form of venison, is left out on these for the kites. To date I have yet to witness any kites feeding at these sites since they left the release area. They do attract large numbers of crows and occasional buzzards. Kites have been seen in the vicinity of them and so I presume they are aware of them.
The lack of attendance of the kites at the feeding platforms presumably indicates that they are finding ample amounts of food for themselves. Five kites were seen feeding on two rabbit carcasses that were left on the farm that they frequent most heavily. The kites can often be seen feeding on the reseeded cereal fields in this farm. As the current crop is still very small, the bare earth is easily accessible to the kites. I assume that a large proportion of what I see them catching are invertebrates, one food item was positively identified as an earthworm. On another occasion an observer witnessed a kite catching a small rodent but was unable to identify it to any greater level of detail.
Since late October the communal roosts have become more evident. Currently individual birds may start appearing at the roost site by 3pm. In windy weather the kites are far more active at the roost, this phenomenon is well recorded elsewhere. On a good windy evening the roost offers great viewing. I have seen at least fourteen kites in a flock together engaging in pre-roost behaviour. This generally involves a lot of chasing and mock fighting.
The roost also offers the best location to check on the presence or absence of individual kites. Currently twenty-one signals can routinely be picked up at the roost. There are also three kites that I have seen in the area that have either dropped their radios or the radios have stopped working.
On the first of October Kite purple & sky blue N, which was previously seen in Killarney by Allan Mee (White Tailed Eagle Project Manager), was picked up a farmer in Leitrim. The farmer found the bird at the side of the road in a weakened condition. It was suspected that the bird had been poisoned with alphachloralose and was treated as such. The bird was taken into care by Martin Maloney, a falconer with lots of experience in rehabilitating birds of prey. Micheal Casey, a vet with the Sligo Regional Lab, took blood and faecal samples from the bird for analysis. From these samples it was confirmed that the bird had been poisoned by alphachloralose. The bird was brought back to Wicklow and released on the 15th October in the vicinity of the other kites. It was later seen at the communal roost with the others.
Unfortunately the story of kite purple & sky blue N doesn't end there. On the 9th of November it was found dead on a railway line. It had apparently been hit by a train. As a large number of pheasant are killed on this stretch of railway the presumption is that it was hit while feeding on a carcass. Kites being killed when feeding on road or rail kill is not uncommon. The kite's corpse was brought to the Dept. of Agriculture laboratory in Celbridge for a full post mortem. I am still awaiting the results.
Sexing of the kites was carried out by analysis of blood samples by Dr. Jamie Coughlan, University College Cork. The results confirmed that we had collected fifteen males and fifteen females.