News and Features

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Gibside Estate, a National Trust property, lies at the heart of red kite country.   







            International Red Kite Roost Watch 2017       




  Holy Island - 330 recorded species and still counting!

Ian Kerr, a member of FoRK's roost and breeding monitoring team, has produced a new greatly expanded, updated hardback version of his book The Birds of Holy Island.

A total of 330 species, including Red Kite, recorded on the island are included and the new publication also contains anecdotes with a wildlife them, new and fascinating details about the island's natural history and the 19th and early 20th century personalities involved in it. Particularly illuminating are views expressed by some characters about the situation in the post-war period which led to the establishment of the surrounding Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve, the region's most important wildlife area.

The book has more than 50 colour pictures both of birds and landscapes. There are also newly commissioned maps to include recent developments such as the Window on Wild Lindisfarne centre, the village watchtower and the new hide at Holy Island Lough.

The Birds of Holy Island has been produced by NatureGuides, a natural history publishing company based in London and set up by Max Whitby, probably better known to FoRK members and birders in general as one of the founders of BirdGuides, the UK's biggest bird information service.

The new company specialises in creating high quality print and digital field guides for the inter-national market. Among its products is the digital version of the Collins Bird Guide as well as apps covering butterflies, moths, bumblebees and dragonflies.

The new publication is a successor to Ian's very much more modest 2007 soft-back book, now out of print. Ian says that, surprisingly, a lot of previously unpublished historical information about the island's wildlife has come to light after lying forgotten in various regional archives. It has now been incorporated in the new publication.

 New species are being added to the island list virtually annually and, in the way of things, no fewer than four new species occurred just after the book was printed. NatureGuides has produced a supplement with each copy to keep the species list up to date. Other species not seen there for many years have also been found.  These included the spectacular White-tailed Eagle which caused panic among thousands of geese, duck and waders as it soared over the flats in autumn 2014, the first local sighting for over 130 years.

Ian says: "The need for a completely updated book has been apparent for some time because the 2007 list has really been overtaken by events. I'm delighted that Max and his company have taken this on. The book has a real feeling of quality about it and the editors, designer and printer have done a fantastic job."

Max said that the book was aimed at those with a real love of Holy Island and its wildlife.

 "For anyone planning a visit the book will be an invaluable guide to appreciating the unique landscape, its special place and the profusion of rare birds that makes the area such a magnet. For anyone who loves Holy Island and its wild birds, this engaging and extremely knowledgeable account offers a lasting memory of Northumberland's greatest natural treasure."

Among odder items covered by the book are:-

  • How old-time naturalists managed to shoot rare birds without damaging them.

  • How villagers used migrating Goldcrests to cleanse their cottages of spiders, flies and other insects.

  • Tales of some vey crafty crows who could recognise guns

  • How a shotgun was used to plant seeds around Lindisfarne Castle

  • Tales about catching rabbits to fool visitors to the island's pubs

The book, priced £14-99 is available on the island at the Post Office and Lindisfarne Centre or direct from NatureGuides Ltd., 3 Warple Mews, Warple Way, London, W3 0RF. Full sales details are at





Gibside Red Kite Family Fun Day


Sunday 24th July 2016 (11.00 - 16.00)

Like last year, the Friends of Red Kites are combining with Go Ahead North East to run a family fun day at Gibside.

The aim of the event is to raise awareness of the red kites and to have a fun day

The Red Kite bus will be parked in the Market Place at Gibside and their promotional staff will run-face painting, garden games and a selfie frame. Music may be provided by Metro Radio.
The Friends will run a tombola and talk to visitors about the Red Kites.
We are looking for volunteers to help with the Tombola and generally help to give out information. Members of the Committee will be around all day to help and support.
If you are not a member of the National Trust you will receive free entry for the day.
If you are free and would like to help us for a couple of hours in the morning or the afternoon please let me know the time that would suit you best at


Gibside seeks Wildlife Room Volunteers 

The National Trust  are currently expanding their team of volunteer guides at the Gibside Estate based in the Wildlife Room. See Link below for further details if you would be interested in volunteering with them Guides volunteer recruitment poster 2015.pdf  




Thanks to the PTA, Governors, Parents and friends, Rowlands Gill Primary School now have a very smart red kite shaped wooden table in their school grounds. The table was built by a former pupil of the school and will be well used to watch red kites and for outdoor lessons. The whole school attended the opening ceremony together with many parents, grandparents and the local Councillor, John Hamilton. The children sang songs, read poems and released balloons to celebrate the occasion. The children were asked to report any balloons that landed in their gardens. The sun shone and this was a very happy and exciting occasion.

The school are very committed to the red kites: they have a kite on their school badge, they adopted a kite with the Northern Kites Project and are now joining the 'Befriend a Kite' project organised by the Friends of Red Kites.






Despite the exceptionally mild winter and settled spring weather, the 2014 breeding season started in a particularly bad way. A incident in mid March resulted in the worst illegal poisoning case involving birds of prey ever recorded in Scotland. Sixteen Red Kites, half of them either known breeding adults or birds old enough to be potential breeders, together with six Common Buzzards were found dead on farmland near Conon Bridge within the core breeding range of kites in North Scotland. This had an immediate impact on a number of pairs and it was later found that at least five established nest sites within 2 km of the incident were either totally abandoned or only a single unmated bird was present. It is likely that other known breeding sites further away from the poisoning incident were also affected as there were several other unexplained abandoned territories. To date nobody has been charged over this illegal act or over the use or possession of an illegal substance. The case remains open.

On the credit side, thirteen new pairs were located, three of them expanding the boundaries for the breeding range in North Scotland - in the west, north-west and east, the latter in Nairnshire, the first time a pair has bred in this county. Despite the losses from the poisoning incident, the gains resulted in a 13% increase in the population from 60 pairs located in 2013 to 68 in 2014, similar to the 12% increase between 2012 and 2013. The breeding successes of 54 pairs were monitored. Forty-eight of them bred successfully fledging at least 108 young. There were seven breeding failures but one pair re-laid and were successful the second time rearing a late brood of three. There were three cases of nest collapse including the relay pair and four for unknown causes during incubation. No young kites were fitted with satellite tags in 2014 and only 44 were wing-tagged.

  Report given by  Brian Etheridge

                                                    Chilterns and surrounding areas

Following on from a very late breeding season last year, Red Kites in the Chilterns returned back to a more normal season in 2014. Unlike last year, the weather in February and March was mild so it did not cause birds to delay breeding. Most pairs were sitting by early April and we were able to start ringing chicks in late May. This was almost two weeks earlier than last year and overall it was a good year with fewer nest failures. However, we continued to record small broods, not only in the main core area, but also further out where "infilling" has increased nest densities in recent years.

Of the 186 pairs recorded, 116 produced young, 39 failed and the outcome of the remaining 31 is unknown. The average brood size in the nests that were climbed to was 1.35 (124 chicks in a sample of 92 nests). Given that there were fewer nest failures, it is perhaps surprising that the average brood size was slightly down on last year's average of 1.38 chicks per successful nest. It appears that the infilling in the previously less densely populated outer area caused this. Had we been able to extend our coverage to more outlying areas where pairs are breeding at a lower density then the average is likely to have been higher. Altogether there were 5 broods of 3 chicks, 22 broods of 2 and 65 single chick broods. All of the broods of 3 were outside the main core area.

Comparing brood sizes from different areas using the same circular boundary as in previous years, a sample of 60 broods in the main core area (less than 7km from the release site) had an average of 1.18 chicks per nest while a sample of 32 nests further out had an average of 1.66 chicks per nest. As mentioned in previous years summaries, this difference it is thought to be due to the increased competition for food in the densely populated core area. Remarkably, the average brood size in the core area was the same as last year at 1.18. The table below gives the results for the core area and nests further out for the last 4 years:


Core nests

Core average

Outer Nests

Outer average





















As in previous years, our fieldwork was largely confined to a relatively small area in the Chilterns. We are unable to accurately estimate the number of breeding pairs in the Chilterns and surrounding areas but we continue to receive reports indicating that the distribution is still increasing. It is very likely that the range has increased since the publication of the 2007-2011 BTO atlas:

Report given by Peter Stevens

                         RED KITES THRIVING NATIONALLY

Our Red Kite population in Britain is going from strength to strength with well over 3,000 pair snow established as breeders.
Reintroduction schemes, likes our in the Derwent Valley, have played a huge part in this success which is extremely important in international terms as populations in France and Spain, the source of young kites in earlier releases, are now declining.

The national success was highlighted at a recent meeting of Red Kite workers and enthusiasts held at the RSPB's south west Scotland headquarters in Dumfries and Galloway which Tim Watson and I attended on behalf of FoRK.

Delegates heard that by far our biggest population remains in Wales where over 1,000 pairs are now established. This is a far cry from the days when Wales it held a tiny and struggling remnant of the previous natural population, eliminated elsewhere by generations of persecution.

The most successful English reintroduction scheme remains in the Chilterns, now with between 600 and 700 pairs. Those birds have spread and merged with others from the reintroduction at Rockingham Forest to form a widespread continuous population across a wide swathe of southern England.
Closer to home, the Yorkshire reintroduction this year produced for the first time more than 100 breeding pairs. 91 of these pairs were successful and fledged 170 young.
Reintroductions north of the border are also doing well. Dumfries and Galloway this year had at least 67 pairs producing 94 young with birds occupying nesting areas across a 50-mile radius of the release sites. Because that population is now regarded as well-established and sustainable they are no longer ringing or wing-tagging their kites.
Even the Black Isle scheme, beset by huge persecution problems in its earlier days, has bounced back with 48 pairs and 108 young this year despite the mass poisoning incident near Inverness which received widespread national publicity.

However, the impact of persecution can be gauged when the Black Isle is compared with the Chilterns. Both reintroductions began at the same time with same number of young released. This year's figures prove that the Chilterns, without serious persecution problems, is at least ten times more successful.
Nevertheless, the Black Isle population is now considered healthy enough for some young birds to be taken and trans-located further southwards to try to establish a new population clear of Highland shooting estates.

Among newer schemes, Aberdeen continues to surge forward. This year the area had 21 successful pairs which fledged 58 young. This compares with our own project with a maximum of 22 successful pairs and around 40 fledged young. Although much more recent than our scheme, Aberdeen is already proving more successful with birds spreading out over a wide area, something that has yet to occur here.

One problem which Scottish kites are now facing is from Pine Martens. There are now several instances annually of broods of young being taken by this arch arboreal predator. However, Pine Martens are now being reported in the Borders close to Northumberland and also near the Dumfries and Galloway populations so could pose future problems.
The only other northern England project at Grizedale had its first success. One pair fledged three young while a second nest failed.

The meeting also heard that progress is being made across the Irish Sea despite schemes there having suffered some persecution problems. This year the Northern Ireland scheme had eight successful pairs producing 16 young while that in southern Ireland had ten pairs and 22 young.

The meeting also discussed the Inverness poisoning incident which resulted in the deaths of both Red Kites and Buzzards.     Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Use for RSPB Scotland, said that despite a large reward being offered little information had been forthcoming and there now seemed little prospect of a prosecution. Local police have caused outrage by appearing to almost write off the incident as accidental poisoning despite the fact that a banned substance had been used.

  By Ian Kerr & Tim Watson


   A new sculpture for Thornley Woodlands Visitor Centre

Green Man  Tommy Craggs 

Image courtesy of June Atkinson

This new sculpture, by Tommy Craggs of Consett, Co. Durham is entitled "The Green Man".   Rather than take out the remains of the tree which stood at the entrance, it was decided to make a feature of it.

The work is Inspired by the mythical Green Man,  believed by our ancient ancestors to be the guardian of the forests. The sculpture now stands ready to welcome visitors to Thornley Woodlands Centre.

 To enjoy more of Tommy's sculptures go to

Yorkshire Red Kites


Yorkshire Red Kites

Click here to view Yorkshire Red Kites Newsletter - August 2014


Doug Simpson, MBE  sent us this report:

Just had a report of two pairs on a golf course to chase up tomorrow. I've got a pair which has had 5 young - which I think is probably a UK record - and another pair with four. We've just topped the 100 mark in terms of confirmed breeding pairs. Haven't totalled the number of young up yet but I'm hoping it'll be up towards the 180 - 200 mark. Have got a very late nest where the single young one is just getting its feathers.

Wing Tag 02 Scarlet defected, along with WT01 Speedy, to join the Yorkshire kites.   She has raised at least sixteen chicks with her untagged partner.    Doug sent us this photo of one of Scarlet's chicks. The other one had already fledged.


Scarlet's chick Harewood



   Go North East declares its new Depot open and we reflect on the support given to our work.

GoNE Depot opening and FoRK_new Depot.pdf



Gateshead Council News

Butterfly Bridge

For more information:

Bridge and Ford

 Iron Works Winlaton Mill

 Coke Works 

 Café at Thornley Woodlands Centre

Opening times will vary during the winter.

Here is Emma, of Bill Quay Farm, ready to welcome everyone.

Cafe  TWC  Emma 

     Thornley Woods Visitor Centre

  If you are interested in talking to someone about the red kites in the Lower Derwent Valley and the wildlife of Gateshead, then have you visited Thornley Woodlands Centre (on the A694 between Winlaton Mill and Rowlands Gill) ?

The Centre is staffed by Gateshead Volunteer Countryside Rangers who will be happy to have a chat about what you can do, and what's about, in the Derwenthaugh and Derwent Walk Country Parks and the 22 nature reserves in the area. The Centre also sells a key for the six hides in Gateshead including Far Pastures and Shibdon Pond. Staff can also inform about the nearby sculpture trail and the Red Kite Trail as well as providing information about the red kites. Our Secretary, Harold Dobson, is a Volunteer Ranger there every Friday. Here are a couple of photos taken recently.   The first shows Harold entertaining the Workman family from Whickham.

 Workman family

This second image is of Jackey Lockwood (FoRK Health Walks Co-ordinator and also Volunteer Ranger) and Harold, taken at the reception desk with Steve Rutherford (Senior Ranger).  

 Thornley Vols_Stephen

Images courtesy of June Atkinson

 [The Centre has toilet facilities and is open 10.00 - 14.00 weekdays and 13.00 - 16.00 weekends. Tea, coffee & hot chocolate are available for £1.00] 



 Image courtesy of Harold Dobson

To   see the sculptures, follow the Yellow Route from Thornley Woodlands Centre.  The route is signposted and is fairly level.  It takes about half an hour to complete.   Other sculptures include an otter and an owl.   They have been created by Consett sculptor and artist, Tommy Craggs.      


WT 11 Spark

 This is Wing Tag 11.  Called Spark,  he is flying in a very different environment more.....