Wrekin with red kites


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Red kites in Shropshire

The Red Kite was last recorded nesting in Shropshire near Ludlow in 1876. Their extinction in England was the result of sustained persecution but a few pairs remained in Wales. However, regular sightings of this attractive raptor in recent years raised hopes that they might return to breed in Shropshire again.

Mature pairs nest in late March, but pairs breeding for the first time may not have eggs until mid April, or even early May.  Although the proportion of broods of two or three is slowly increasing, more than half of the successful nests only produce one fledged young, and the average productivity rate is less than one per breeding pair.

Red Kites usually start breeding when they are two or three years old, though some start later, and the average age of first breeding is just below three. Young birds wander widely and cover large distances very quickly whilst foraging for food, so most of these recent local sightings will be due to immature Red Kites. Around one-third die in their first year, but after that the annual survival rate is around 80%, and some birds live to 20 or over. 

Red Kites are the most graceful of Britain’s birds of prey, but they almost became extinct in Britain 100 years ago, through human persecution. Only a few pairs were left in the hills of mid Wales by the early 1930s, and in some years only a single chick was raised. Since then numbers have slowly increased, assisted by a variety of systematic conservation measures, to 30 pairs in 1972, and more rapidly from the mid 1980s, finally reaching 100 pairs by 1993 and an estimated 260 pairs in 2000. The population is now growing much more rapidly, and their range has also expanded from the stronghold in mid Wales, near Tregaron and Rhayader, and there are now several known Welsh nest sites close to the Shropshire border. By 2005 there were around 500 pairs in Wales. A pair has also nested in Herefordshire since 2004 and a second pair bred successfully in 2007. Both these sites are close to the Shropshire border.

Six nests were found in 2007, when five young fledged, and in 2008 seven nests were found. Six pairs were successful, producing 12 fledged young.

In 2009, 10 Kite nests were found.  They were all in the AONB in the southwest Shropshire hills. Nine pairs were successful producing 18 fledged young.

Reported sightings of red kites from

25 Apr 2010                          Cronkhill, Cross Houses

19 Apr & 22 Mar 2010      Venus Pool, Cound, between Cross Houses and Cressage

19 Oct 2009                           Nash, Tenbury Wells, Shropshire

9 Oct 2009                             Crudgington, Telford, Shropshire

14 Sep 2009                           Forton Heath, Montford Bridge, Shrewsbury

NOTE: Recordings of breeding behaviour is not given on this website, the above, then is a mere taster of activity in and around Shropshire.

The Wrekin
• The Wrekin was never a volcano, though it has many volcanic rocks.
• It was formed when faults appeared in the Earth’s crusts; part of an upheaval called the Caledonian Orogenesis.
• The Wrekin’s most ancient rocks were formed as far south as the Falkland Islands and have slowly moved north.
• The legend of The Wrekin Giant is that he made The Wrekin with a shovel full of earth.
• Everest, the Alps and the Andes are hundreds of millions of years younger than The Wrekin.
• The Wrekin is one of the most important pre-Christian religious sites in Britain, ranking with Stonehenge.
• All ‘True Salopians’ have climbed through the Needle’s Eye.
• It used to be said that a girl who looked back when going through the Needle’s Eye would never be married.
• The Cuckoo’s Cup or Raven’s Bowl is supposed always to contain water.
• Bonfires have been lit on The Wrekin for special occasions for many centuries.
• An aircraft Warning Beacon was erected during the Second World War.
• The Welsh for The Wrekin is Caer Gwrygon, a name older than the Welsh language.
• The Wrekin is not the highest hill in Shropshire, several are higher, but is supposed to be the highest in Britain for the circumference of its base.
• A Fern Ticket is a mythical permit to adventure in The Wrekin Forest.
• The medieval forest of The Wrekin extended from Haughmond to Lilleshall and the Weald Moors to the River Severn.
• The Hillfort was begun in the Bronze Age, extended by the Celts and abandoned in Roman times.
• A Bronze Age necropolis (city of the dead) is at Willowmoor.
• Roman Viroconium, also Anglo-Saxon Wroxeter and Wrockwardine were named after The Wrekin.
• Medieval Wellington was known as Wellington under The Wrekin.
• Most (not all) of The Wrekin has been in the county of The Wrekin (not Shropshire) since 1998.
• The toast to ‘All Friends Round The Wrekin’ was said to be ‘ancient and traditional’ in 18th. Century.
• The Forest Glen Pavilion was a venue for dinners and dances for nearly a century. It was taken to Blists Hill museum.
• The Wrekin Wakes were held on the first three Sundays in May until the mid 19th. Century.
• At Halfway House Miss Birrell had swingleboats and cooked ham and eggs. It’s still open.
• The Normans renamed The Wrekin as Mount Gilbert or Gilberti Mons, but when the English language was restored it became The Wrekin again.

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