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RK Project Updates

After an absence of several hundred years, red kites will soon be gliding over the fields and woods across north County Dublin. There were 26 young red kites, which were collected under licence from wild nests in Wales, released from a secluded wood within Newbridge Demesne, near Donabate and a further 13 young red kites were released from a private location in north Fingal.

The Newbridge red kites were released into the wild, by Minister for the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan T.D., who said, ?I am delighted to be here at the red kite release, one of three projects underway as part of the programme to reintroduce native birds of prey to Ireland. The other two projects being the Golden Eagle Project in Donegal and the White Tailed Eagle Project in Kerry. All the kites released here today and also those released in Down and Wicklow over the years have been sourced in Wales from wild young kites. I wish to thank the Welsh Kite Trust for their support and co-operation in securing these young chicks. I have great hopes that the release of these red kites here today, will lead to a situation in a number of years where we will have a viable, sustainable and enjoyable population of red kites.?

The Fingal Red Kite release programme is part of the final and fifth year of an ambitious project to re-establish red kites in Ireland in partnership with the Welsh Kite Trust. The Golden Eagle Trust is managing the Fingal & Wicklow Red Kite projects, which are funded by Fingal LEADER Partnership through the Rural Development Programme 2007 -2013 and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), the Heritage Council and Greenstar Ireland. Fingal County Council, Coillte Teoranta and two private landowners have hosted and facilitated the location of release cages.

As part of the collaborative project the RSPB NI also released kites in Co. Down between 2008 and 2010 and since this project finished its release programme, this gave an opportunity to collect over 50 Welsh red kites for release in the Republic of Ireland during 2011. In order to maximise the potential for an expanding red kite population in Ireland, it was decided to release 39 red kites in the Fingal area in 2011 and establish a satellite population half way between the red kite populations in County Wicklow and County Down.

In Wicklow, following the successful breeding of red kites during 2010 and further successful breeding in 2011, the final release of 13 red kites took place in early August 2011. This brings a total of 120 kites that have been released in Wicklow between 2007 and 2011.

The red kite is now a familiar sight around Wicklow farms and villages and particularly in Avoca village throughout the year where notably large communal roosts occur in the winter. People from near and far have come to see the kites and many are captivated by the sight of the graceful, forked-tailed kite in Wicklow.

With the additional strategic release of 39 red kites in Co. Dublin this year and a minimum of 17 young produced from wild Wicklow nests, it is hoped the east coast population of kites is secure and allow the species to spread west across the island of Ireland.

Wesley Atkinson, NPWS Regional Manager in Wicklow stated ?We are proud to have brought the red kite home to Ireland with the Golden Eagle Trust and look forward to continued successful breeding and the enjoyment of these elegant birds by the people of Wicklow?.

The Wicklow red kites successfully produced a minimum of 17 young which when combined with the 13 released today means at least 30 young kites have been added to the population this year. The first record of a brood of three young kites in Wicklow was recorded by Damian Clarke (NPWS ranger) and were ringed and wing-tagged as part of the on-going monitoring program for the kites.

The 53 red kites released in Dublin and Wicklow that were collected from Welsh nests in mid June 2011, at about five weeks of age, have been reared and fed in specially designed cages. The birds were fed rabbits and crows through a small feeding hatch and sleeve in order to minimise any human contact and possible imprinting (whereby the birds associate humans with food). With the help of Raptor Monitoring and RSPB Red Kite Officer, Brian Etheridge, all the birds were attached with a small radio transmitter, each with a unique frequency, and small PVC wing tags. These devices allow the project team and the public to locate and identify each individual bird. As the birds gradually spread out across Ireland the public are asked to submit records to the project website at www.goldeneagle.ie, where they can follow regular updates of the kites.

The Golden Eagle Trust would like to thank the people and communities of Wicklow and Dublin for their continued support of the red kite and now that the release phase of the project is completed we will continue to open up the red kite project to the public with regular updates, educational activities, project website reports and public talks. We will also facilitate further public viewing and a Wicklow kite trail in the autumn and please watch out for upcoming red kite viewing events.

In addition to the support of the Fingal LEADER Partnership, Fingal County Council, NPWS and Coillte Teoranta, the red kite project has been supported by representatives of the local Irish Farmers Association (IFA) and the National Association for Regional Game Councils (NARGC). It is vital to build on these emerging links between wildlife interests and the farming and shooting community, during the course of the project and demonstrate that local wildlife can co-exist with modern farming and shooting practices. In particular the food for the Fingal kites was supplied by local members of the NARGC for which the project team are extremely grateful. The Fingal Conservation Volunteers, the Irish Raptor Study Group, AOL Monster Help Day, RSPB NI volunteers, Forest Service NI staff and members of the Fingal Birdwatch Ireland branch have also played a key role in rearing the birds and building the release cages which were donated by the RSPB from the Co. Down project.

The Red Kite Project Manager, Dr Marc Ruddock of the Golden Eagle Trust said, ?the red kite is an incredible bird and the team effort undertaken by all our partners and volunteers in the collections, feeding, cage building and tagging of the kites is phenomenal and I express endless thanks to all those who have contributed to the project in bringing the red kite home to Ireland?. Marc also praised the collection and monitoring team saying ?I thank all the team for their hard work and long hours undertaken and particularly the Welsh Kite Trust staff and volunteers without whom none of this would have been possible?.

Numerous red kite bones were recovered in excavations from the 11th century Wood Quay site on the River Liffey and noted in Phoenix Park during the 14th century and we hope that the restoration of red kites in Newbridge, within 15km of Dublin city centre, attracts a growing number of Dublin residents and is a further demonstration that Ireland is now rediscovering its ancient respect and cultural connection with the crucial role of nature in our everyday lives and society.