The Covid19 pandemic continued to severely impact all of us into the autumn and winter with Government restrictions ranging from a multi-Tier system of rules to a National Lockdown affecting all aspects of our lives.
However, during the period when restrictions were eased, our monitoring team was able to carry out some roost survey work. The first indication that a roost had formed was in the late afternoon of the 30th September when twelve kites were noted at the Rowlands Gill Viaduct. A few days later, on the 2nd October, twenty four kites were observed circling over the woodland near the Pontburn Viaduct, a spectacular sight to behold. They gradually drifted up the valley towards Hamsterley Hall and were seen dropping into roost near there. Around this date birds were also noted using the Gibside roost.
Numbers built up during October and early November and when both sites were visited on the evening of the 18th November a total of sixty seven kites, forty five at Gibside and twenty two at Hamsterley Hall, were counted.
Numbers fluctuated at both sites during December with the maximum number of kites recorded at Gibside being thirty eight whilst the highest total at Hamsterley Hall was twenty nine kites.
The National Roost Count which had been arranged for Sunday 10thJanuary, was cancelled due to Government Covid19 restrictions. However the UK Co-ordinator accepted our roost counts that were carried out in December 2020, which was sixty seven kites from two roost sites. This was down from the eighty five of the previous year but there is no cause for concern as four roost sites were surveyed then, and, also, it was carried out in January when roosting kite numbers are traditionally higher. A list of other regional outcomes will be uploaded onto the Roosting Summaries page of the FoRK website in the near future.
The last roost check of the winter was carried out on the 24th January, viewed from Lockhaugh Farm, overlooking Gibside, and with a stunning sunset providing the backdrop, the first kite drifted into view. In total, over 36 kites were counted dropping into a roost site in the wood between Lockhaugh meadow and the Derwent Walk. None were seen going onto the Gibside Estate, their usual roost site.
In more normal times the gathering of kites at pre roost has afforded the opportunity to identify wing tagged kites whilst perched, in particular the juvenile birds that were fitted with wing tags the previous summer. But with restrictions limiting our monitoring activities this greatly reduced the number of sightings and only six out of the of the sixteen tagged birds were identified over the winter. More details of these birds can be found on the “Our Kite Histories” webpage: https://friendsofredkites.org.uk/red-kite-histories-2020
The Government’s road map exit from Lockdown gives us some hope of “normality” later this year. Until then stay safe and well.