Bird's eye view
Published 03/07/2013 | 05:22
Six years ago, the Red Kite Project commenced with the goal to reinstate one of Ireland's lost raptors to the skies of the Garden County.
All told, 120 kites were released in Wicklow between 2007 and 2011. The initial reintroduction phase of the project is now over, with the released birds being monitored to assess their survival and reproductive rates. And despite the best efforts of a handful determined to undermine the reintroduction, the project continues to go from strength to strength, with 2013 being its most successful year to date.
The kites are currently in the middle of their breeding season, and so members of the project team are scouring the Wicklow countryside in search of nests. So far 21 nests have been found yielding a total of 26 chicks, building on last year's haul of 23 and more than doubling the 12 hatchlings recorded in 2010.
The releasing [of the kites] is finished, so we are into the monitoring stage of the project,' Marc Ruddock of the Red Kite Project told The Wicklow People.
A cold spring has taken its toll on the kites, whose reproductive success could have been even greater had the salubrious weather started earlier in the year.
'We have 29 territorial pairs,' said Marc. 'We've found 21 nests and only 14 of those are active.'
Despite this, the team are delighted with the kites' progress so far, and have even managed to install a camera in a nest near Rathdrum to monitor the chicks' development.
'We're very pleased with the progress of the project; we've got a healthy, robust population of kites. They're well on the way towards becoming a self-sustaining population. We'll hopefully break 30 young this year, so fingers crossed.'
Human interference remains the kites' biggest threat, with poison posing an ever-present danger. However, since the last confirmed poisoned bird was discovered in March, the project has recorded no kite fatalities as a result of poisoned bait, and Marc believes most people remain sympathetic to the kites' cause.
'We've had phenomenal support from local people. I think there is a minority who still engage in poison practices, but the vast majority of people are supportive.'
Live images from the Kite-cam can be seen at www.goldeneagle.ie . Marc also wished to thank Coillte on behalf of the golden eagle trust for hosting the webcam