Birdwatch: Sociable bird of prey swoops in for rare visit

The black kite pictured over the Wykeham raptor viewpoint near Scarborough.  Pic: Dave Mansell
The black kite pictured over the Wykeham raptor viewpoint near Scarborough. Pic: Dave Mansell
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RED KITES are, as the result of a successful reintroduction programme, now a familiar sight in Yorkshire.

But a much rarer visitor to the county from Europe, a black kite, was photographed by Dave Mansell, drifting over the Wykeham raptor viewpoint near Scarborough last Friday and it is hoped it will turn up again.

This was only the third record for the Scarborough area – the last was nearly 20 years ago – although black kites are seen each year in Norfolk and Cornwall, and in 2006, a black kite that had been roaming the Scottish Highlands for several years bred with a female red kite producing two young.

Black kites are slightly smaller than the red with only a slightly forked tail. The black kite’s plumage is a duller, darker brown than that of the red and lacks the distinctive white panels in the underwings. They are most often confused with female or immature dark brown marsh harriers, particularly those that have lost tail feathers during their moult.

Black kites are found all across the Old World from France to Australia and have expanded northwards with the first pair breeding in the Netherlands in 1996 and between 10-20 pairs in Finland.

Unlike red kites they migrate to Africa south of the Sahara for the winter with the majority of those from western Europe crossing the Mediterranean via Gibraltar and from the east over the Bosporus, sometimes in spectacular numbers.

All kites are highly sociable birds and perhaps this black kite will join a group of reds.

Up to three honey buzzards have also been seen at Wykeham, turtle doves around the tree nursery and, at dusk, churring nightjars in the forest clearings.

Another overshooting bird from Europe, bee-eaters, have been seen along the Yorkshire coast with five at Old Fall, Flamborough later seen at Wold Gate, Bridlington and singles at Kilnsea, Easington and Skeffling, East Yorkshire.

The red-necked phalarope lingered at Holderness Pools Kilnsea until Sunday while on the same day an Alpine swift flew past the Warren and there was an unconfirmed report of a Pacific swift at Barmston. A red-rumped swallow was seen at Kilnsea on Monday evening.

A first-summer common rosefinch was singing in the Bay Brambles and Gorse Field at Flamborough Head.

A spoonbill was seen at Spurn, Kilnsea and Sunk Island on the Humber and four common cranes over Rawmarsh, Wath Ings and the Old Moor reserve, South Yorkshire.

Ospreys were seen over Rivelin and Ladybower reservoirs and Rossington, South Yorkshire, Tophill Low and Fairburn Ings.

A brood of Montagu’s harriers at Blacktoft Sands is expected to hatch any time now and may have already done so. The male is bringing in food regularly to the female, best seen from the First, Townend and Singleton hides.

Visitors are reminded that the reserve opens from 9am to 9pm with no access outside these times.