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.