Raptors 2015

Raptors 2015
RED KITE    Milvus milvus   Resident and scarce breeder.
This year there were 180 records, a slight drop on the two previous years. Perhaps the novelty of seeing these majestic birds soaring over woodland or skimming over rooftops has begun to wear off and there is now the feeling that this species is beginning to suffer from under-recording.  Those birders who combined their interest in walking and birding were often rewarded with excellent views. Up to four Red Kites were occasionally seen on Rombalds Moor and up to six graced the skies over Kex Gill. Others were seen around Leathley and at John O’Gaunt’s Reservoir and Norwood Edge. The biggest single day’s haul was seven on Hazlewood Moor in early August.  The Yorkshire Red Kite Report from Doug Simpson has indicated that there were 61 breeding pairs in West Yorkshire and 40 pairs in North Yorkshire, with an average number of young raised per successful pair of 1.88. Two of the three nests which attracted attention in this area were abandoned, either through storm damage or disturbance caused by woodland management close to the nest. At the third nest, breeding did not take place, though there were signs of pairing and displaying at three other locations in spring.   Away from the Wharfedale and Washburn areas there were many sightings of birds on the southern slopes of Rombalds Moor and an unusual one of a bird flying west very low over Keighley Moor Reservoir on 12th August. Further singles were seen over Greengates on 20th June and Caldene Fields on 26th October.                       Photo: Stephen Lilley
MARSH HARRIER    Circus aeruginosus   Uncommon but regular passage visitor.
As in 2014, there were reports of eight birds, with the main attention focussed on the west of the area where half of the recorded birds were seen. Careful and persistent watching at a moorland site paid dividends when a male bird was seen on 23 April, later joined by a female. After several hours of watching, during which time both birds were seen to mob passing Buzzards, display flights and talon-grasping occurred. Nest-building was noticed from 16th May and daily checks over the next week gave every indication that incubation may have commenced. Alas that was the end of any further activity as the male, last seen on the 26th, had departed, followed shortly after by the female. A rudimentary nest was found and no disturbance was detected. It was assumed that at least one of the birds was an immature and this accounted for the failed breeding attempt. The weather throughout had been exceptionally cold, wet and very windy and this too could have contributed to the failure.   It the same area a juvenile was seen regularly from 12th August, and according to the keeper, interfered with the grouse shoot. An adult female, first seen on 29th August, stayed on the moor until 20th September. Earlier in the year, a female was seen over Middleton Moor on 22nd March and on 26th May a male was sighted on Denton Moor. A juvenile was hunting at Bradup on 4th August (SR) and the final record was a female at Apperley Bridge on 4th October.

HEN HARRIER    Circus cyaneus   Increasingly uncommon passage and winter visitor.
Of the 14 records, all but one were of birds passing through the area in the latter part of the year. The only spring record was a female seen in the north of the area on 31st May. In September a bird flew over Thornton Moor on the 10th and another was seen from the Oxenhope watchpoint moving quickly south on the 13th. A ringtail was mobbed by corvids on Keighley Moor on the 18th and a week later another one flew west over Barden Fell. On the final day of the month a bird was seen hunting over the same moorland.  On 8th October an adult female, carrying a transmitter, was located on Keighley Moor. The bird was seen again next day and remained in the area until at least the 19th. This was a bird tagged in Bowland in 2014 and known as “Highlander”. She had attempted breeding on two separate occasions with different males, both of which disappeared in mysterious circumstances.   Also during October, a ringtail was seen over Thornton Moor on the 10th and four days later , on Hawksworth Moor, another was disturbed whilst it was on the ground. In the final two months a bird was seen jousting with two Short-eared Owls on Whetstone Allotment on 15th November, a juvenile was on Barden Fell on the 25th, and the year ended with reports of a female at Whetstone Gate in late December.
MONTAGU’S HARRIER    Circus pygargus             Addition to 2014 Report
An adult female was seen on moorland in the south of the area from 8th June to 22nd July, during which time it frequently displayed, and was seen gathering nest material.   Despite being well-seen by many observers and photographed, the YNU has still not managed to deliver a verdict, so the record has been assessed and accepted by the BOG Records Panel. The fourth accepted Group record.
GOSHAWK    Accipiter gentilis   Scarce resident/passage visitor
There were two reports of singles, one from the north of the area in March, and one from Paul Clough on 12th October.

SPARROWHAWK    Accipiter nisus   Common resident breeder.
Although records are down by 25%, this species remains widespread. This spectacular raptor was seen on numerous occasions, soaring over woods and flashing through gardens and parks. There were no confirmed breeding records this year, but evidence from reports suggests that behaviour at many sites was a strong indicator of this occurring. During autumn migration, seven birds were watched as they traversed the moorland around the Oxenhope watchpoint and six others were similarly recorded in South Bradford at Caldene Fields.

COMMON BUZZARD    Buteo buteo   Increasingly common resident, passage migrant and winter visitor.
Although the 250 records are slightly down on last year (probably for those reasons mentioned in the Editorial), the species continues to attract attention, and was reported throughout the recording area. In the first three months up to six birds were observed from Denton Moor, Askwith Moor, Barden Scale, Norwood Edge, Slippery Ford and Heights Lane (Bingley). There were also three birds on Shelf Moor in February, further evidence that this species has become established in the south of the area.    On 13th May seven birds, most of them on passage, were seen from Keighley Moor Reservoir and in autumn, an aggregate 47 birds was recorded at the Oxenhope Watchpoint. The largest group of these comprised 13 birds which drifted south-westwards on 16th September.   There were numerous reports of breeding, and breeding-related activity. In the north 11 sites produced up to 20 young, with breeding also proved in Airedale, where a family party of two adults and four young were disturbed whilst they fed on Baildon Golf Course on 12th August. In addition, courtship displays were witnessed on Keighley Moor, and at Rivock Edge and Riddlesden, all in the south, and in Wharfedale and the Washburn, where family parties were also noted.
OSPREY    Pandion haliaetus    Uncommon but regular passage visitor.
Just two birds were seen on northwards migration. On 8th May a bird was seen following the river at Barden Bridge, and on 23rd June another was watched from Barden Scale as it took the same course.   The return passage proved to be rather hectic. The first bird was seen at Keighley Moor Reservoir on 26th August battling against a very strong headwind, and the remaining records were all in September. On the 1st a bird was watched as it flew over a private lake in Washburn, and on the 9th two - at least one thought to be a juvenile - were fishing in Lindley Wood Reservoir, with one of these remaining until the 17th. On the same day, at the migration watchpoint at Oxenhope, a bird carrying a blue colour ring passed overhead, and the next day one flew over Soil Hill. Finally, a single frequented Fewston and Swinsty Reservoirs from the 22nd until at least 4th October.
Osprey at Fewston .  photo: Peter Curran
KESTREL    Falco tinnunculus   Common resident breeder/passage migrant.
The 243 records are only two-thirds of those received during the previous year. This is most certainly due to the reasons given in the Editorial. In 2014, 25% of the Kestrel records came from Barden Scale, but this year there were just six!  Many records included details of pairs hunting together, courtship activity and family groups ranging over rough grassland. At Bradup, Glovershaw, Keighley Moor, Barden Fell and Timble Ings birds involved in activities of this sort were seen in spring; and in late summer juveniles and adults were witnessed interacting. This was particularly well-documented at Warley Moor Reservoir where double-figure counts were registered on five occasions during this summer period.  At three sites in Wharfedale, ten chicks were ringed and a box at Thruscross, thought to have been abandoned, contained four eggs. In the Washburn Valley, ten broods produced a total of 41 juveniles.

MERLIN    Falco columbarius      Uncommon resident breeder and passage migrant.
There were 33 reports from five main locations on the moorland fells. Although breeding was only confirmed at one nest, where five hatched eggs produced four young males and a female, there was plenty of evidence to suggest that there was more of this activity at other sites. Pairs were seen in spring defending their territory and chasing Meadow Pipits.   At one location symbiotic hunting involved a female bird trailing ten metres behind a Marsh Harrier and taking advantage of those passerines flushed by the bigger bird. Nearby there were persistent calls from a female or juveniles whenever the male was hunting (IH). In June and July an adult female was seen with a juvenile (PD&JBP) at one of the main sites. At another location adults and juveniles mobbed a Red Kite and others were keen to chase off a Hen Harrier. Reports also suggested that the mild conditions towards the end of the year had encouraged Meadow Pipits, and subsequently Merlins, to remain on the moor. Records of these birds late in the year are unusual, but a female on 20th November and another watched at close range on 8th December are symptomatic of the changes affecting our climate.   A total of seven birds passed the watchpoint at Oxenhope during September and October.

HOBBY    Falco subbuteo   Uncommon but regular summer visitor/passage migrant.
With just 13 records, this was an average year though for reasons mentioned in the Editorial, there may well have been more. Upper Wharfedale has long been an area much favoured by this superb raptor. There was strong evidence of breeding there in 2013, and activity noted this year was again suggestive of this. Two birds were often seen on these fells in June and July, with prey being carried by one of the pair. A similar situation occurred in the south of the area, where several sightings of adults were followed in July with views of juveniles (IH). An individual moved south at Bramley Head in late August, and in September singles were in Upper Wharfedale and over Oxenhope Watchpoint.

PEREGRINE    Falco peregrinus   Resident and occasional breeder; passage/winter visitor.
Once more, most of the 40 records submitted were of birds seen in the Aire Valley, particularly in Bradford and Keighley. As in 2014, an adult male was seen on a Bradford chimney throughout January and March. However, after two males, one believed to be a young adult, were seen in the area on 15th March, there were no further reports until 10th October when an adult male was again seen. The situation in Keighley was much more successful, as breeding took place at the site previously used and two juveniles were seen with parents in June.    

On Keighley Moor, during August, a large female was watched as it mobbed a couple of Common Buzzards before a passing Hobby joined the fray. In the middle of the month a juvenile was seen to chase a pigeon, which evaded capture by dropping into the heather. The raptor looked in vain for its prey before taking off and then it was seen to unsuccessfully chase a juvenile Kestrel.

There were also reports from Stockbridge, Bradup, Leeshaw and Bingley during the summer months, some of which may have been associated with the Keighley breeding pair. Birds were also seen to the south of the valley at Warley Moor Reservoir, Denholme Clough, Haworth Moor and from the watchpoints at Caldene Fields and Oxenhope. In the north of the area a bird was on Hazlewood Moor on 19th August and another was to the west of here on Barden Fell at the end of November.
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