Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Solidarity

Miranda. Who is Miranda? Who was Miranda?

Miranda was a female Hen Harrier who had a magnificent journey. She was a special Hen Harrier -just like all Hen Harriers are special. She had an individual life story. She was an individual soul making her way in the world.

Miranda was born in Langholm, Scotland. She visited us here in Ireland, just as many Hen Harriers from Scotland have visited Ireland over the years. We know this because she was sat-tagged (see langhommoorland.blogspot.com) and we were lucky enough to be given the rare opportunity to follow the progress of a special, individual soul as she made her way in life. She travelled throughout much of Ireland, from Dublin to Mayo, from Donegal to Antrim and it was one of the most fascinating journeys that has been witnessed. All along the way, she opened up new insights to a young Hen Harrier's ecology. After some time, she was more Irish than Scottish, spending far longer in Ireland than she did in Scotland or indeed the Isle of Man where she also visited briefly. Then, radio silence.




Lissycasey 7. Who is Lissycasey 7? Who was Lissycasey 7?

This was a beautiful young Hen Harrier born near Lissycasey in West Clare in 2008. She was fitted with green and yellow colour wing tags. She was the first confirmed record of an Irish born Hen Harrier venturing all the way across the sea. She spent her entire first winter in Wales, on the beautiful Skomer Island (fox and mink free and full of fat skomer voles!). There she became a local celebrity and many of the public in Wales got to see and enjoy this stunning looking bird. After a good winter, Lissycasey E decided to return home to Ireland and could well have become part of the breeding population here. Very sadly, the elements conspired against her and she met a storm when crossing the Irish Sea. She was unable to keep up the fight travelling westerly against a raging winds, rain and high seas and the next time she was seen was on the tide line of the Welsh coast. Another light extinguished.




Ireland and Britain have for longer than anyone knows, been home to one connected population of Hen Harriers. Hen Harriers do not recognise boundaries. They are literally as free as a bird. We have a metapopulation. What happens to Greenland White-fronted Geese, Redwings and Whooper Swans in the north has direct implications for the birds we see arrive here each winter. What happens to Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Swallows in the south has direct implications for the birds we see arrive here each Summer. What happens to Hen Harriers in Britain has direct implications for Hen Harriers in Ireland - if they continue to be shot in Scotland or England, this lessens the chances of young birds coming to Ireland - perhaps even Irish birds travelling to Britain may be shot. What happens to Hen Harriers in Ireland has direct implications for Hen Harriers in Britain - if Hen Harriers reared in Scotland or England come to Ireland to make a life for themselves yet year after year their nest is predated or if they too are shot, this lessens the chances of the population stabilising in Britain or Ireland.

This may seem a bit "sciencey" but it is science and we are in the age of knowledge.

Know then that the spineless killing of Annie (see here) has more than a ripple of implications in Ireland and we stand fully in solidarity with those who love and watch and research and drive themselves into the ground in search of a future for this most superb of species. For anyone thinking that's a Scottish or English problem - it is not....

...Heather. Who is Heather? Who was Heather?


Lissycasey 7



Thursday, 9 July 2015

The Hen Harrier Diaries




Welcome to the third installment of The Hen Harrier Diaries.

Since our last update the majority of our six pairs are still going strong, Our pairs have been extremely busy providing food for their young nestlings.


Pair 1. Heather's Mom and Dad. This pair chose to nest in close proximity to a young sitka spruce plantation, it really is a precarious location with lots of predators in the vicinity. Last week one of our volunteers witnessed the Male attempt to expel two Ravens for a full hour, the Ravens  were dangerously close to his nest, in the end the persistent Male won the day. Lets hope this pair have fledged chicks for the next update.

Pair 2. The Neighbours. Unfortunately the pair decided not to nest in the area this year, we hope they are safe and have a successful breeding attempt.

Pair 3. Both Male and Female are now busy providing food for their young nestlings.The variety of prey the Female has been returning with has just been amazing, from Lizards to small Mammals, Frogs and small Birds it has been remarkable to watch.They have also had the company of a young Female over the last few days, she is also keeping a close eye on the chicks.Their nest is also in a hazardous location, hopefully they can be successful rearing their young nestlings

Pair 4. This pair are also safe and sound. The Male and Female are working vigorously providing for their young. The Male is especially diligent in his hunting, hunting from dawn till dusk, one evening returning with food so late he was guided by the light of a beautiful full moon.

Pair 5. The glen nesters. The professionals have yet again been impressive in their breeding attempt , they have two beautiful chicks, Mom and Dad are now encouraging their chicks to fly, they are no longer dropping food into the nest but are forcing the chicks to fly to receive the food, it was incredible to witness these young Birds take their first flight.While they are nearly fledged they are still not out of danger, fingers crossed they remain safe over the next couple of weeks.

Pair 6. New Kids on the block. Penny and her charming Male have been kept extremely busy over the last few weeks, they have three nearly fledged chicks,some of the chicks are now dispersed around the surrounding area of the nest, only returning when Mom or Dad return with food, Penny really is an adoring Mom tending the chicks every need, returning the other day with a big Rat to the delight of her young chicks. Hopefully all her chicks will  fledge soon and take their first flight. The world is their oyster.


                                                       Stay tuned for further updates

                                                                     Bye for now
                                                             Hen Harrier Ireland


                                           

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Hen Harrier Diaries



This is the second installment of The Hen Harrier Diaries.

Over the past few weeks our small team of volunteers have been working diligently to establish the exact location of our six breeding pairs. Have they settled down to nesting and if so, where are their nests?

Here are the latest updates on our six pairs.



Pair 1. Heather's Mom and Dad. This pair have been kept busy entertaining their energetic guest, they have been accompanied by a juvenile Female for the last couple of weeks, hopefully they will settle down soon and choose a nest location.

Pair 2. The Neighbours. While we still have not confirmed this pair yet. In the last couple of weeks
we have had both a Male and Female sky dancing near last year's nest, we even had a juvenile Male showing us his dance moves.
Fingers crossed we will have an established pair for the next update

Pair 3. This pair are now well established they have chosen their preferred nesting spot of previous years. Pair 3 have got off to a difficult start, a fire destroyed most of their territory, but hopefully they recover from this set back and have a successful breeding attempt.

Pair 4. They have carefully selected a nest location very close to where they nested last year. The Male has worked relentlessly, providing his Female with food. Hopefully they will be as successful as last year.

Pair 5. The glen nesters. The assertive Female has kept her devoted Male busy tending her every need. The pair have chosen a ridge of bramble and heather as their nest location in the secluded glen they have nested in previous years.

Pair 6. New Kids on the block. As you might have seen in a previous post, we named this Female Penny. Well Penny and her Male companion have chosen a hidden glen as their nest location.The Male has been looking after his girl with great care, bringing her plenty of prey to feed on, we wish them well.


                                                                         Bye for now
                                                                     Hen Harrier Ireland

Friday, 1 May 2015

COMPETITION TIME!!!

To All Primary Schools and Secondary Schools:


Hen Harrier Ireland is organising a competition entitled "Celebrating our Hen Harriers".

Hen Harriers have been found in the Irish countryside for thousands of years and they are one of the most spectacular birds in nature, with their acrobatic sky dances and awesome food passes! It is time to celebrate the Hen Harrier as a special bird, that represents a living countryside, with farming, Grouse, Curlew, Skylarks and much more.

We have lots of great prizes, including the following:

  • A pair of excellent Minox 10x25 binoculars (first prize Secondary Schools)

  • A digital camera (first prize Primary Schools)


  • The opportunity for students and an accompanying adult to watch Hen Harriers in the wild (first prize Primary and Secondary Schools)


  • Collins Bird Guides (runner up prizes Primary and Secondary Schools)


  • All entries will receive a colourful glossy A3 Hen Harrier poster.


What you have to do:

Through your school teacher or parent, send a short story (limit 2000 words), poem or original artwork about Hen Harriers in Ireland to home.of.harriers@gmail.com or post to www.facebook.com/henharrierirerland before 01 June 2015 and include your name, class/year and school address. Feel free to look through www.henharrierireland.blogspot.ie for inspiration!

Good luck to all entrants!

Hen Harrier Ireland 01 May 2015


Monday, 20 April 2015

13 - 19 April 2015 Is this a Special Protection Area?

Sun in the blue sky, light winds, hardly a cloud to be seen - what a week it was for watching the six pairs of Hen Harriers in the Stacks to the Mullaghareirk Mountains Special Protection Area that we have singled out for reporting to you through the Hen Harrier diaries. Lots of circling, soaring, dancing and loving by our birds this week! The young pair, pair 6, were especially energetic with both male and female giving as good as they could on the dance floor! We couldn't help but christen the female of this pair as Penny - she is like a shiny new penny!

Last week was made all the more enjoyable by a realisation of just how many Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs have now come to the area from Africa and the Mediterranean. These very welcome visitors add great sound to the locality, and when they breed in numbers, can be a very important part of the local Hen Harriers' diet. Like many birds of prey, Hen Harriers chicks don't hatch or fledge until later than most of their prey species, giving their prey ample opportunity to rear lots of young in advance, meaning that there is more food (prey) available when the harriers need it most (when there are hungry mouths in the nest!).

Willow Warbler - a very welcome summer visitor

Right now is also a very important time in the breeding season as regards food supply - when the adults are pairing off and selecting their territories. The harriers will look for an area with good habitat and food supply for the season ahead - a very important call at such an early stage. Also, the amount of food the females take in at this time will determine how many eggs they will lay - an ecological adaptation to adjust for the amount fo food available. If its looking like a good year ahead for the female, she will lay a good amount of eggs, maybe 5 or 6. If its not looking so great, she may limit this to 3 or 4 eggs. Obviously this has implications for how many young the pair can possibly rear this season. So its great that there has been a good influx of migratory prey species at this important point in the season. We haven't yet seen any food passes this season, but expect to soon, as well as nest building! We have seen all pairs 1-6 show particular interest in particular patches within their territories, such as patches of bramble or gorse, heather or failed patches within forestry.

Has anyone seen any food passes or nest building yet??

There were a couple of things that made us wonder if we were in an SPA for these birds.

Firstly, there was lots of habitat being cleared out - especially the bright yellow furze bushes that add such colour and aroma to the countryside at this time of year. Diggers from the celtic tiger era have certainly found a new home in the uplands - it is clear that much of this is being forced on the farmers by threats of reduced farm payments for having scrub on the land.

Secondly, the amount of fires this week (as in the last few weeks) was horrific. Massive fires that blazed their way through the heather moorland and scrub for hours and hours - one was seen to start at noon on Saturday and was still blazing when the sun came up on Sunday - 19 hours of a fire and thousands of acres destroyed. We haven't seen this reported in any media. This has all become so commonplace now - that doesn't mean it is to be accepted - far from it! This fire took out much of the territory of Pair 3 that we are following. Off to a really difficult start before they even got started.

Much of the territory of Pair 3 has been turned into dust. Red Grouse, Curlew and lots of Meadow Pipits believed to have been wiped out by this illegal fire.


Thirdly, there hills were deafening this weekend by the sounds of a car rally. This is a really sensitive time for the birds in terms of selecting nesting areas and when lots of noisy rally cars are in the area at this time, it has the potential to disturb prospecting pairs. It would be great if the rally could be held a few weeks earlier or later to give the birds that window of opportunity to get settled in, or design the stages in a way that takes them away from traditional nesting areas.

Hopefully this week we'll confirm all birds are still present, despite all the noise, fires and habitat clearance.

It really was a joyous week to be out on the hills with these special birds. This week, we hope to hear our first Cuckoos of 2015, see our first food passes and hopefully even some nest building. The weather is promised good again!

Stay tuned for further updates!

Hen Harrier Ireland.


Sunday, 12 April 2015

The Hen Harrier Diaries

Welcome to the first installment of The Hen Harrier Diaries. Over the course of the next four months,I will share with you some news from six territories in the Stack's to the Mullagharierk Mountains Special Protection Area for Hen Harriers. This is being undertaken as part of a national breeding survey; but also to extend what has been a long running study of over half a century on these mountains. How these pairs will do in 2015, we have no way of knowing but fingers, toes and everything else crossed that they will make it all the way from now until the end of the summer and come out the other side with young chicks reared!

For the safety of the Hen Harriers involved, these pairs will not be referred to by the location they dwell in, but by numbers (pair 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6). The males will be known as Males 1-6 and their corresponding partners will be know as Females 1-6.

So for the past few weeks, a small team of us have been busy going out establishing which territories are currently occupied. this is one of the most exhilarating times of the year and we have been treated to some spectacular sky dances by the males and even one female who reached 111 peaks on one of her dance sessions!! One of the sights that really puts a lump in our throats is the male and female circling together on the thermals, rising and inter-weaving with one another as the sun shines through the feathers of the brilliant white male and the rich brown female, against a beautiful blue sky. It really is something to behold. Love is the air!!

So to introduce our pairs, with whom you will become acquainted throughout the season!

Pair 1. Heather' Mom and Dad. You will remember Heather, who was born and reared in 2013 and targeted and shot in South Kerry in January 2015. Heather had travelled the country and brought so many people closer to Hen Harriers, as well as providing much needed data on the ecology of the species in Ireland. Well, Heather's parents are back for another try this spring and summer, The male has been sky dancing and has had to ''escort'' another male harrier who may been eyeing up the female. Good on him, he loves his girl and his territory! this pair have not had the best of luck and their usual nest location close to forestry, has been precarious and there have been a number of predation events over the years.

Pair 2. The Neighbours! While not yet confirmed for sure, we are hopeful that another pair will settle close to pair 1. we have had 2 females and 2 males in the area,so hopefully they will sort things out. This pair had their nesting attempt interfered with in 2014 when a well known forestry company were planting the ground right at their nest kept the adults away from the nest so long that the young died. Lets hope for better in 2015.

Pair 3. This has been a traditional nest site for a number of years now. The female tends to nest in amongst gorse scrub on a slope.Hopefully they will soon select their preferred nesting spot and start bringing nesting material for the breeding attempt that lies ahead.

Pair 4. Both male and female have been seen courting each other. they nest in an area where turf cutting is active and they were successful in rearing 3 beautiful young fledglings in 2014. Lets hope for more of the same this year!

Pair 5. The glen nesters!This pair nest in a secluded glen, which is very quite, apart from the beautiful sound of the Curlew! The male and female are considered real professionals and have been successful in rearing young for the past number of years.Once, the female was seen to carry a stoat in her legs!!

Pair 6. New kids on the block! A brand new '' out of the box '' female. born just last summer, has been seen in the company of an adult male. This is a very exciting prospect as this is a new pair and we wish them all the very best!









Stay tuned for various updates along the way .

Of course, feel free to share your own news also,BUT PLEASE DO NOT EVER GIVE ANY INFORMATION THAT WOULD DISCLOSE LOCATION  of these sensitive and rare birds of prey.


Bye for now!
Hen Harrier Ireland.

                                                                                         









Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey is on 31 March drawing to the conclusion of its 10th season,at which point the data will be analysed and published.This has been a massive piece of work,undertaken entirely voluntarily.It has documented from scratch,where Hen Harriers can be found in Ireland during the period August to March and how they have been doing in terms of numbers and much more besides.Be sure to play your part and contact the survey organiser (harriers@ahg.gov.ie) with any sightings or records from roost watches.