Cornwall Red Kite Influx Weekend 9th -11th May 2020

Red KIte and St Michael’s Mount – Brian Shipman

A relatively recent addition to the birding calendar in Cornwall has been the annual spring influx of Red Kites into the county. Each year, usually in late spring as high pressure builds and winds from an easterly bias set in, non-breeding birds from all across the UK disperse and funnel down the country. As the landscape narrows into our very own bottleneck for birds we can hope to enjoy the spectacle of seeing these graceful and distinctive raptors. Quite why Red Kites undertake this partial migration is still up for debate, it could be that they are prospecting for new breeding territories in the future or perhaps they are using their migratory instincts as many of Britain’s naturalised population derives from introduced birds from the more migratory populations of Scandinavia and Spain. This last weekend has shown perhaps the biggest Red Kite influx to Cornwall in history and with even more eyes to the skies during lockdown the Cornwall Birds (CBWPS) news team were inundated with sightings from across the county and it was clear to see that they brought both joy and excitement to many people. Below you will find a day by day summary complete with maps which shows the true scale of the Red Kite influx.

The preceeding week:

4th – 6th May – a single report received, on Tuesday 5th at Polbathic Creek.

Thursday 7th May – scattered reports of mainly singles, with a flock of 13 at Polgigga. Eleven reports in total, widely spread throughout the county.

Friday 8th May – no reports were received

Saturday 9th May

The vanguard of the main arrival is noted, with small numbers of birds noted at various locations through the county. Some birds were presumably already in the county, with new arrivals mainly noted in the evening. Pale yellow for counts fewer than 10, dark yellow for counts higher than 10.

Note: by opening up the map to full page (top right icon), the map can be explored further for individual counts etc

Sunday 10th May

Clearly the day when the vast majority of birds arrived, with a few record counts received. Purple stars are the largest counts, of 50 or more; darker red markers show counts of between 10 and 49 and paler red marker show counts of 9 or fewer.

County Recorder Dave Parker who counted an amazing 306 from his garden overlooking Marazion: “The vast majority of my birds came north along the ridge of Virgin Hill or appeared to the north of the hill and flew west along the A394 and A30. Presumably coasting birds that didn’t like being squeezed over the town so cut inland round the hill before carrying on. However, quite a few birds slipped through behind me (south), so goodness knows how many I missed! I’m guessing most birds east of this will be included in my count, but those further north ie Truro, Redruth, Camborne or St Erth were probably different? Also birds further west before say 11:30 (I started counting at 11:15) were also probably different”

Monday 11th May

The majority of birds have seemingly passed through, although there were still quite a few moving east, often low in the strong NE wind. Blue stars indicate counts of 50 or more, darker green markers for counts of more than 10 and paler green markers for counts of 9 or fewer.

Tuesday 12th May

Reports continue to come in, with some birds re-orientating and others staying in the area … large flocks tending to disperse as birds move out into the wider countryside or move unseen back upcountry.

Red Kite – Robin Chiffers


There were a fair few reports on the 9th, seemingly a small number of birds arriving in the afternoon, but also some that had been present for a few days. The major arrival in the west of the county was noted on 10th, with a maximum count of 306 and more than 100 individual reports, throughout the county. The birds were widespread but due to the fairly strong NE wind, the greatest concentrations seemed to occur on the South coast. Interestingly, kite movement was predominantly over in mid-Cornwall sites, such as Truro where passage slowed by 10:30, by mid-morning, whereas further west strong passage continued into mid afternoon. Some birds were seen heading back east from about 16:00 with more northerly sites connecting. A few birds were still moving east on 11th but in very strong winds, (and not being a weekend perhaps) fewer reports were received. All birds that were aged were immatures and the vast majority were in significant inner primary moult, with only 5 or 6 outermost primaries still retained. These are assumed to mainly be 2nd calendar year birds investigating for territories while adults are breeding.


Wing tagged Red Kite – Tony Blunden

Wing-tagged birds are occasionally encountered in these flocks, and one such bird was encountered on the Saturday in one of the Lizard flocks. This bird was one of three chicks ringed at a nest in Grizedale Forest, Lake District, in 2019. Previous wing-tagged birds have come from as far away as Scotland, adding to the weight of evidence that these birds are of UK origin, and likely to be from the introduced population as opposed to the more sedentary native Welsh population.

Smaller influxes of Red Kites have been noted elsewhere at coastal locations in the UK in May and June, such as southeastern England, however they don’t seem to be in such notable numbers. Prior to this year the highest counts in Cornwall were of 202 at Nanjizal on June 8th 2015 (and slightly lower number nearby on the same date) and 156 on 26th May 2017 on the Lizard. The timing of these influxes seems to vary year on year – often a second larger or smaller wave can occur. Outside these influxes in May and June the Red Kite tends to be a relatively rare or infrequent visitor in Cornwall, with no known breeding records, and absent altogether for much of the year.

As mentioned, it is thought that these are UK non-breeding birds (it would be too early for adults to have finished breeding, apart from the wing moult and ageing evidence). There is no evidence that these birds continue south and west, not moving on to Northern France for example and Red Kite remains a relatively rare bird on the Scillies. It is assumed that the large numbers dissipate and birds spread out again on the return journey. Notable flocks are not generally encountered elsewhere in the UK until they start to run out of land and bottleneck along the coast, but it still remains something of a surprise and quite the wildlife spectacle when they start to appear down here in Cornwall in their now-annual late spring appearance!

A big thank-you must go out to all the people who contacted us over the weekend and contributed to our records, it just goes to show what incredible data on birds we can all compile in a short space of time. If you haven’t seen a Red Kite yet this week don’t give up yet! There are still many birds touring the area as they relocate and further influxes of new birds could still be expected. Remember in the future too that we welcome sightings of all bird species as recording their numbers helps with their protection and conservation so keep up the good work! Better still if you aren’t yet a member of Cornwall Birds please consider joining us in enjoying, protecting and conserving birdlife in Cornwall. You will receive our annual Birds In Cornwall reports, quarterly Palores Newsletter and gain access to our stunning reserves and hides.

We hope to publish a more in-depth article on the influx with further analysis as we continue to receive records of birds in the County. Meanwhile, see below for our gallery of Red Kite images received over the weekend, record shots and stunning captures both.

R Veal, D Chaney, B Bosisto

Red Kite, Kevin Bowers

Red Kite, Kevin Bowers


Red Kite, Tim Pinfield

Red Kite, Tim Pinfield

Red Kite and Rabbit, Dave Flumm

Red Kite – Brian Shipman

Red Kite – Tanya Smith

Red Kite – Michael House

Red Kite – Brian Shipman

Red Kite – Dave Flumm

Red Kite – Dave Flumm

Red Kite – Dave Flumm

Red Kite – Dave Flumm

Red Kite – Dave Flumm

Red Kite – Steve Rogers

Red Kite Lowenna Luke

Red Kite – Kerry Ward

Red Kite – Danny Cooper

Red Kite – Danny Cooper

Red Kite – David Hastilow

Red Kite and Rabbit, Dave Flum


Tuesday 12th May 2020

Birding in Lockdown: Links to Garden Lockdown Listing League and our Birding Ideas Page, helping to make the most of extra time as a result of the lockdown. A great 13 minute video of Walmsley Sanctuary by final year student at UoE Penryn, Dylan Jackaman can now be found on the above ‘Birding Ideas Page’ – well worth a watch.

Late news, 11/5, Landue (5km south of Launceston): 1 Red Kite. (S Tetley)

Late news, 6/5, 6 miles south of Launceston: 1 Red Kite between 6th and 11th May. (J Batey)

Chyandour: 1 Osprey headed East over. (M Elliott) Later seen from Marazion and Gulval, before moving up the St Erth valley toward Hayle. (S Rogers, J Hawkey, R Veal)

Polgigga: 1 Lesser Whitethroat still. (M Wallace) 1 Turtle Dove along Bosistow Lane. (K Wilson)

Hayle Estuary RSPB: Early morning 80 Dunlin, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Red Kite Ryan’s field. (S Turner) 1 Yellow Wagtail ssp. over at 07:10. (R Veal)

Downderry: 14 Whimbrel on the beach early morning. (A Payne)

Par Beach: 2 Linnets (m & f) on gorse at eastern end of beach. (R Barlow)

Winnards Perch: 1 Red Kite at 07:20. (S Grose)

Tredrizzisk: 1 Red Kite, 2 Shelduck, 12 House Martin over private garden. (S Grose)

Praa Sands: 1 Hobby off the sea immediately started hunting House Martin (J Evans)

Penzance: Raven calling above my head in a tall ash tree. (T Newborn)

Goss Moor: (all counts are singing males) 5 Cuckoo, 30 Blackcap, 45 Chiffchaff, 90 Willow Warbler, 21 Garden Warbler, 3 Sedge Warbler, 2 Common Whitethroat, 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 3 Reed Bunting. Also 4 Red Kite, 2 Treecreeper & 5 Dingy Skipper butterfly. ( B Bosisto L Payne)

Gluvian: 2 recently fledged Mistle Thrush. (B Bosisto)

Truthwall: 14 Red Kites. (C Wyatt)

Carbis Bay: 11 Red Kites over our house, coming from the  west to east, on toward Hayle Estuary. Couldn’t see any tags 9:55 -10:10. (S& H Hodder)

Bodmin: 1 Red Kite over Little Kirland at 10:50. (J Macadam)

Truro: A Red Kite flew over our house on the eastern edge of Truro at about 10:30 this morning.  It circled around for about four or five minutes before drifting off westwards. (D Curtis)

Kenidjack: 4 Red Kites including a second calendar year (moulting into adult) with rabbit prey. (D Flumm)

Ventonleague, Hayle: 7 Red Kites moving East  from 07:45 to 10:06. (J Rutter)

Callestick: 3 Red Kites over today, all singles heading NE at 08:38, 13:04 and 13:08. (T Wilson)

St Keverne: 5 Red Kite, 2 Swift, 7 Buzzard. (A Williams)

Carbis Bay: 1 Red Kite 10:15. (J Rushton)

St Ives Island: 4 Whimbrel (G Jones)

Pendeen: 4 Red Kite. (P Clement)

St Austell: 10 Red Kite. (J Chapple)

Trescowe: 3 Red Kite. (L Hodges)

Crowlas: 1 Red Kite. (R Veal)

Nancledra: 3 Red Kite. (S Turner)

Stithians: 1 Greenshank. (S Turner)

Rame Head: 20 Whitethroat, 2 Stonechat, 6 Dunnock, m Yellowhammer, 1 Common Buzzard, 2 Wren. (R Napp)

Mylor Harbour: 2 Red Kite. (J Pricthard)

Sancreed: 5 Red Kite, 7 Swift, 20 House Martin. Also female Broad-bodied Chaser & pair Large Red Damselfly in tandem. (D Flumm)

Drift Reservoir: 35 Canada Geese incl pair with 3 goslings, 1 Little Egret, 2 Common Sandpiper, 2 Garden Warbler. Also male Common Blue Damselfly. (D Flumm)

Freathy: 1 Swift flew east, and 2 Great Northern Diver on sea this evening. (M Jordan)

Gunwalloe: win plum Great Northern Diver. (A Witheywood)

May 2020 News

West Penwith Virtual Garden Bioblitz today: The Penwith Landscape Partnership is organising a ‘virtual garden BioBlitz’ across West Penwith, from St Ives to Marazion westwards. This is running from noon today (Friday 15th) to noon Saturday. They want to generate lots of biological records which will feed in to all the Cornwall recording schemes, and also celebrate the wildlife that we can all enjoy close to home whilst staying within the current CV-19 restrictions. Of course, the BioBlitz needs bird records (and they will all go to CBWPS), but PLP are urging everyone to look at everything, from ‘weeds’ and wildflowers, to insects, lichens and mammals. With the help of Derek & Sally of local environmental education and natural history training organisation ‘Budding Nature’, and other local experts and enthusiasts, they will be trying to offer identifications to anything posted on instagram, twitter or facebook with the #penwithbioblitz hashtag. They’ll be generating an overall species list of everything recorded in West Penwith over the 24 hours, and making sure that this opportunity is taken to promote and celebrate the huge diversity of wildlife which this part of Cornwall is blessed with.

PLP has created a facebook event, and there will be regular updates there, and on twitter and Instagram, but you can also get involved by email – or post! They hope lots of people will get involved. To find out more about the event, you can visit:—join-us

Swift Survey Update – 11th May 2020:

This update is based on guidance from the BTO issued this afternoon. We’re sure that many of you will have watched the Prime Minister’s statement of 10 May and are now waiting to hear how this will impact on the restrictions around the Swift survey that was planned for this summer.
The full Government guidance, giving the detail underpinning last night’s statement was published at 14.00 today; this adds a lot of detail to last night’s statement, which the CBWPS board will need to digest and discuss with our partners, the BTO, CWT, RSPB, NT and others
At present there will be no change to our current position, which was outlined on 26/4 on the CBWPS website, restricting survey work to gardens or equivalent private areas, until the review is completed; we will update those who have volunteered for the Swift survey directly.
We do understand that this is a very difficult time for all of our members and we are grateful for the feedback and support received. We must ensure that we continue to look after the welfare of the wider public in the most appropriate manner, so please bear with us while we carry out this review, and thank you for your patience.

Coronavirus/COVID-19 and CBWPS Sanctions

The board have considered the constantly updated directions and recommendations to counter the spread of Covid 19/Coronavirus. In order to ensure full compliance with the restrictions outlined by the UK Government, the Board and wider Bird News Team have corresponded at great length about whether, and to what extent, various aspects of the Society requires some temporary alterations and change whilst the lock down is enforced. This has been a very difficult decision and the consensus that we have reached is outlined below:

Publication of the daily sightings page will continue, but we will only publish news of garden birds or birds seen on local dog or exercise walks. We won’t publish any news from excursions which are likely outside of these very tight but very necessary restrictions.

The Bird News Team will continue to accept your sightings (and we really do encourage you to send them in), but some records may not be published on the website as outlined above. The record of daily sightings is a fundamental part of the Society’s recording process, and even if your records do not immediately see the light of day on the website, they will form part of this very valuable resource. Note also that the selected reports in Palores are compiled from this and particularly notable sightings will continue to be reported at a later date.

It has been decided that the only compliant and safe decision is to close the Society’s hides. This will include Windmill Farm car park and access road. This will remain in effect until such time that any lock down and social distancing restrictions implemented by the UK Government are lifted.

Naturally, the Society walks programme has also been suspended. This will remain in effect until such time that any lock down and social distancing restrictions implemented by the British Government are lifted.

We hope that you’ll understand and agree with these measures and we’ll have some better news in the near future and promote ways that we can all contribute and share our garden birds with each other.