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The Forestry Commission has released 30 spectacular birds of prey at Grizedale – in the heart of the Lake District.
The release of the red kites, on Tuesday, August 3, has taken two years’ planning and is the first phase of the landmark final reintroduction of the birds in England.
Taken as hatchlings from a Forestry Commission site in Northamptonshire – which is a huge success story from a previous reintroduction programme in the mid 90s – the red kites have spent the past month growing in a specially constructed pen hidden at a secret location deep within Grizedale Forest.
Forestry Commission wildlife ranger Iain Yoxall, who had the original idea to reintroduce red kites into Grizedale, released the birds along with Karl Ivens, Forestry Commission chief wildlife ranger for the Northamptonshire and Sherwood Forest district.
The birds flew confidently out of the pens, rising high into the sky and began circling above the forest’s trees – a breathtaking sight that has not been seen for more than a century in the Lake District.
Iain Yoxall said:
“It has gone very very well. There were some reluctant birds but they came out soon enough and the birds reacted just as we thought they would.
“On a personal level it is a really exciting time. For me, to see the birds flying above the forest is the icing on the cake. We have got wild red kites in Cumbria – back where they belong.
“This is a real conservation coup for the Forestry Commission and for the area to bring back a species that has been missing for so long. I’m really proud.”
Red kites were almost eradicated from the UK following changes in farming practices and human persecution between the 16th and 19th centuries. However, they managed to cling on in mid Wales and their numbers recovered slowly thanks to the actions of local conservationists.
There will be another 60 birds released over the next two years – 30 a year – to give a total of 90 red kites released at Grizedale.
The birds released this year have all got tags on either wing. They have an orange tag on their left wing – this shows they are from Cumbria. They also have a blue tag on their right wing – which indicates the release year. Birds released next year and the year after that will have different coloured tags on their right wings.
Graeme Prest, Forestry Commission area manager for North West England, said:
“As far as they are concerned they are Grizedale birds. Their home territory is now here.
“The long-term aim across the country is that the kites are everywhere again – that the birds expand into other areas and all join together. That will be very exciting.
“It is an amazing conservation story and the birds are a great way of getting people interested in wildlife because they are very showy. We will also be setting up information in the visitor centre to let people know where the best places are to see them.
“I would like to thank all our partners and neighbouring landowners who have helped us make this happen.”
The Grizedale red kite reintroduction is the ninth reintroduction of the birds into different areas of the UK. Following these reintroductions there are now believed to be more than 1,000 pairs nesting in the country.
In Northamptonshire, where the Grizedale birds were taken from as hatchlings earlier this summer, a reintroduction programme started with 70 birds over a four year period. There are now thought to be 200 breeding pairs in that region.
Karl Ivens said:
“It is hugely satisfying to see these birds at Grizedale. I have worked with red kites for 15 years and because of previous results I am very confident that this project will be successful. This is also a great environment for them to live.”
Around half a dozen of the birds released at Grizedale are carrying radio transmitters. This will allow the forest’s wildlife rangers to monitor their progress and help judge the scheme’s success.
A special advisory group has been established, containing bird experts from organisations like Natural England, the RSPB and the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, to help ensure the project’s success.
Red kites are coloured chestnut red and have white patches under their wings. They are primarily a scavenger and feed mostly on carrion. Red kites typically begin breeding in their second or third year and they normally pair for life.
For more information about the Forestry Commission in the North West please visit www.forestry.gov.uk/northwestengland
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. Pictures of the red kites being released at Grizedale are attached.
2. The Forestry Commission is the largest provider of countryside recreation in Britain, with responsibility for more than one million hectares (2.4 million acres) of forest, woodlands and open countryside. The North West England Forest District covers the Lake District in Cumbria, the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cheshire. The forests are managed for conservation, wildlife, landscape and recreation as well as providing a valuable source of timber.
Ian Yoxall on 01229 862014 or Sarah Bruce on 01229-862011 or 07827 232832