Monday, 30 December 2013

Happy New Year! 14 HEN HARRIERS AT ONE ROOST! Heather and Miranda in Cork and Mayo. Irish Mail on Sunday Feature. 2013 round up.

Happy New Year to all readers and followers of the Hen Harrier Ireland blog!

So - who wants to do a roost watch? Please get out there and you could be rewarded with amazing sights like that in the photo below, taken by a contributor to the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey

8 of the 14 Hen Harriers at roost on 27 December 2013.  Are 7 females chasing that one male?! Photo by Paul Kelly
14 Hen Harriers in the air together at this roost!! That breaks the previous record of 12 birds at another roost - wonderful stuff!! How amazing is this?! Awesome. Why not get out there and watch your local roost or look for a new roost in your locality? Contact if you would like to contribute to the survey.

Happy to report that Heather and Miranda are well. Heather is still in North Cork and making good use of tillage fields and hedgerows along the Blackwater Valley - the very river which she was born near in Summer 2013! Miranda's tag transmitted accurate locational data for the first time in a month and she is in the very same part of Mayo as where we last had information for. It is a great joy to have seen both birds make it to the end of their first calendar year and in just another couple of days we can refer to these beauties as second calendar year females!!
The full page article by Warren Swords in yesterday's Irish Mail on Sunday (click to enlarge)
Heather and Miranda were featured prominently in yesterday's Irish Mail on Sunday, by journalist Warren Swords. The article also focussed on the conservation of Hen Harriers in Ireland and the research and dissemination of information that is helping these conservation efforts, including the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey and this website.

Thank you to all the readers and followers of this blog in 2013. It has been a big year. The breeding season was particularly poor, with most nests unable to rare any young despite the best efforts of the parents. However we have had some heartening days in following the progress of Heather as she travelled around Ireland and of course Miranda a most welcome addition from Scotland. We all look forward to following their progress in 2014 and that of all the other Hen Harriers throughout Ireland. Thank you for your records, effort and continued support and good will towards this, one of Ireland's most threatened and amazing birds.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Nollaig Shona!

Male Hen Harrier by Luuk Belgers, Netherlands.
Nollaig Shona do gach duine! Happy Christmas to all!

Thank you for following the blog right throughout 2013 and I hope it has been as fascinating and enjoyable to learn about Hen Harriers this year as it has been for me. Undoubtedly the highlight of the year has been following Heather (from Kerry) and Miranda (from Scotland) on their epic journeys. If you are new to this site, please see previous posts to learn about these two amazing young female Hen Harriers who are blazing a trail and in the process providing so much information on Hen Harrier ecology and conservation, not to mention support for this rare species among the public.

Miranda's tag transmitted a short burst of data on 19 December, without location data but with data showing that she is alive and well. At the moment, Heather is in North Cork. She is carving out a new home range for herself, having somehow managed to find a roost with three other Hen Harriers. Heather has been seen at this roost in the company of the other birds by members of the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey team. Just about everywhere Heather has spent time, she done so in the company of other Hen Harriers. It is likely that in a young Hen Harrier's first year, it is very important for a young bird to be able to learn from others, where the good hunting places are, where the safe resting places are and so on. Communal roosting is believed to offer the possibility of such 'information exchange'.

Friday morning provided a memorable roost watch at a site in East Kerry, where no fewer than 7 Hen Harriers arose from their roost together. Most interestingly, three birds (2 males and a female) perched on three consecutive fence posts, all 3 posted within 10m. There they stayed for 2 hours, perched, preening, stretching, looking at one another. One of the males left and went on his way hunting. The other male and the female stayed for another while and then left together - surely there had to be some communication/co-operation/relationship between these two birds. Fascinating and as ever with Hen Harriers, the more we see and learn, the more we want to see and learn.

Thanks again for all your wonderful support. Please join as following members of this website and continue to post comments.

Happy Christmas! Nollaig Shona!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Heather leaves her home territory in South Cork

Heather has left her long-standing surroundings of tillage land in South Cork that she has called home since arriving there in early September, over three months ago. After a long trip from Kerry to Wicklow to Meath and Antrim, Heather returned south for Cork, perhaps with an experienced female harrier and made South Cork her home, living well off the land there. Obersevers on the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey have however reported changes around Heather's roost since early December, when the stubble fields where she would have hunted were being sprayed with herbicide and ploughed up. Her day visit to West Waterford last week signalled these changes and her impending move.

Heather's is the story of the Irish Hen Harrier population - habitat loss or change pushing the birds to have to leave. Where will she go now? Tonight, she is in an area of North Cork where Hen Harriers would once have flourished, but now there is intensive dairy pastures with hardly a hedgerow to be seen. Let's hope she finds somewhere productive and safe.

Miranda's tag has not transmitted since she was last known to be in Mayo on 01 December.

Heather has left her home range in South Cork. She travelled to West Waterford, then returned to her home patch, but has since moved on to North Cork in search of a new territory since habitat loss/changes have occurred in her home territory.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Heather's day-break to Waterford

This week, Heather travelled to Waterford - the first time she has done so and adding to what is now a long list of counties that she has visited throughout Ireland from North to South, since leaving Kerry as a fledgling.

However, her sojourn was short and she returned to Cork and her home territory the next day. Why did she leave the area that she has known since the start of September? Was it to explore new potential sites while the tillage habitat that she finds her food over is currently being sprayed and ploughed? The coming weeks will be very informative. When she travelled to Waterford, Heather roosted at a site that was previously unknown to host roosting harriers - interestingly this site was less than 3km from a known roost site which until recent years has been a communal roost well used by Hen Harriers. If harriers were still using that site, would Heather now be there, rather than 40-50km away in her present home territory?

Miranda's tag has not transmitted data for a whole week now, something which we would obviously prefer was not the case but may be related to the solar panels on her tag failing to gain enough light energy, something that had been apparent in previous transmissions. We will of course keep a watching brief.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

December watches for Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey - Miranda and Heather holding fort

December - the depths of winter and only 8 hours of light will be available to our Hen Harriers - this will be a testing month - please report any sightings to and for those who participate in roost watches or in searches for new roosts - please ensure to watch your local site(s) this month - this is vital.

Heather and Miranda are conducting business as usual in Cork and Mayo.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Heather ranging across South Cork, Miranda holds on in Mayo, Slieve Blooms wing tagged bird near home!

Cork and Mayo are missing Liam and Sam, but they have gained Heather and Miranda!

Heather is now ranging a 30km area on the south coast of Cork, making use of the productive tillage landscape of cereals and root crops, hedgerows and scrub patches, all great for providing rodents and passerines.

Miranda is in a very different, rugged landscape in the north-west of Mayo, foraging over blanket bog. She has discovered a new roost location for us once again, but is less than 20km from a known traditional roost so she may yet meet up with the locals! During the week, Ranger with National Parks & Wildlife Service Cameron Clotworthy caught up with Miranda while conducting a roost watch for the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey This is the third time that Miranda has been seen in the flesh in Ireland and shows the great network that is the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey. See photo of Miranda below!

Also, one of the young birds that was wing-tagged in the Slieve Blooms earlier this summer was seen on the Laois/Offaly border near Portarlington  - some birds like Heather and Miranda range far, while others like to keep it local!
Miranda at roost in NW Mayo. Photo (c) Cameron Clotworthy, NPWS

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Miranda's massive movements - to Mayo!

Miranda is now in Mayo! She has clocked up some massive miles since moving to Ireland from Scotland via the Isle of Man. Will she settle in Mayo or continue to move on? At this stage she has clocked up thousands of kilometres since coming to Ireland. Awesome!

Heather uses 3 roost sites and gives vital data ranging from roosts and habitat use

Heather's ranging in South Cork
Since Heather arrived in South Cork, following her epic journey around the country, she has roosted in at least 3 locations. To show how well informed the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey is, all of these roosts were already known and are being watched by volunteers. Through Heather's satellite tracker, we know where she frequents and this is important in terms of establishing habitat use and ranging distance from her roost.

Meanwhile, Miranda continues to put the heart crossways on us! From last Monday until Saturday, her tag did not transmit data and various thoughts were running through our heads as to what might have happened to her. Fortunately, after ground searches for her on Saturday in Donegal, her tag transmitted data, but only for a short while. It is thought that she is still alive, though we would welcome more data to come in. Again the impressive nature of the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey was in evidence, given there is a known roost in the area she would have settled in on Saturday.

From Donegal to Cork, the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey has built a clear picture of the non-breeding ecology and conservation of Hen Harriers in Ireland. Contribute to this survey by contacting today!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Miranda back on track, Heather still in Cork. Both birds seen in the flesh on IHHWS

Miranda's movements since leaving her native Scotland
 Heather the juvenile female from Kerry has been happy to stay in the tillage fields of South Cork since early September, after an initial dispersal period that took her to the north-east of Ireland and back. She can switch between two roost sites, settling in the scrub vegetation that is so important as a habitat to much of Ireland's wildlife. Heather has been seen fairly regularly by surveyors on the Irish Hen Harrier Survey, which runs from August to March every year.

Another bird who has recently visited the north-east of Ireland is Miranda, the young female born in Scotland during the summer. Miranda came to Ireland via the Isle of Man, visited the midlands and then Donegal, before heading an a trek across the north of Ireland to Anrtim. There, she went "off line" with her transmitter failing to communicate her location or whether she was dead or alive. Happily, Miranda showed up again in Derry, roosting in some dune habitat and has since returned to Donegal and was reported doing well by one of the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey volunteers yesterday morning as she left her reedbed roost.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey continues - Heather seen at her roost

The Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey is now in its ninth year. Please contact with any sightings or information on Hen Harriers that you may have at this time of year.

Last weekend, a number of roosts throughout the country were watched by participants of the survey and vital data was collected on the numbers and types (male/female) of Hen Harriers coming into roost. When all this data is collated with data from previous years, trends can be determined as to how the local and national Hen Harrier population is doing.

Our star of the show, Heather, was seen at her roost over the weekend. She had a small bit of a tussel with a Common Buzzard (a bigger, stronger bird) before she went to roost with a couple of her cohorts.

For those who have yet to watch their local roost for November, there is still time and please get out to contribute directly to this rare bird's conservation.

For anyone with sightings of Hen Harriers, do not have them just sitting in a note book - email your news to

Beir Bua!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Miranda on the move

Miranda's move of 27 October 2013
Miranda yesterday made a move of 120km from where she spent the past week in Glenveagh, Co. Donegal, to be in Cushendall, Co. Antrim less than 10hrs later. In doing this journey, she would have flown at least 200km (she did not take a direct route to Cushendall).

Miranda and Heather are now at complete opposite ends of the island of Ireland - over 400km apart, but don't forget that both birds have now visited this part of Northern Ireland. In September 2008, a young female Hen Harrier wing tagged in West Clare as a fledgling that summer was sighted in this part of Northern Ireland. What is the draw to this area? Hypotheses include that it may be on a migration corridor between Ireland and Scotland, a place where young harriers may meet their elders; but who knows. Who knows where Miranda will go next. Will she return to her native Scotland (now just 30km away), leaving Ireland behind as Glen did in 2010? Stay tuned.

Heather saw out the stormy weather at her home territory in South Cork yesterday.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Heather snapped!

Heather in South Cork (Photo coutesy of Dave McGrath)

Heather is still holding territory in South Cork. Dave McGrath sent this wonderful photograph of her and believe it or not, this is the first time she has been photographed since she left her place of birth near Mount Eagle in Kerry at the end of the summer. It is a joy to know that she is doing well and to see her in the flesh. Heather has now been visually seen in Kerry, Kildare, Wicklow and Cork. Of course the satellite tag has given us so much more of an insight into her life, which would not have been possible otherwise.

Last night (night of 24/25 October), Heather returned to the original roost that she occupied after first touching down in South Cork, following her epic journey from Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland. This roost in South Cork was used originally for a couple of weeks until she moved to occupy her other roost less than 10km further west. She has spent well over a month at this more westerly roost now, until last night when she returned to the original roost. Was it the wet weather in the last couple of days that prompted this move? Will she return to her normal roost again? Stay tuned!

News on Miranda is good. She has spent the past week in Glenveagh National Park in Donegal now and has found another new roost for us! It is interesting that both Miranda and Heather have now spent time in two of our six national parks (Heather having spent a few weeks in Wicklow Mountains National Park).

Unfortunately, another young male harrier that has been satellite tagged in Scotland is feared to have been shot after moving to England. Let's hope that we can show a good impression in Ireland by taking care of Miranda and Heather and of course the habitats that they depend on also.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Heather doing fine in South Cork, Miranda at the other end of the island - in Donegal!

Glad to report that Heather is still doing well in South Cork, and not travelling too far from her roost - so that is a good thing - it must mean she has enough food in the local area to keep her well.

The image below shows some of Heather's habitat use today (Sunday 20 October). You will see she uses the scrub areas in particular for hunting. These are some of the most important patches of habitat on the landscape. Unfortunately, these pockets of habitats are becoming further diminished by the day, as landowners clear these "unproductive" areas so that Single Farm Payments can be derived from the land. This is happening today more than ever and much of the wildlife that lives in these areas are being lost. Heather's movements are showing the importance of these areas to an Annex 1 species which Ireland is obliged to protect - a species which indicates the general biodiversity of the area. If these patches of habitat are cleared, what will be left in terms of wildlife?

Meanwhile, Miranda has travelled to be with the Golden Eagles in Glenveagh, Co. Donegal!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Another amazing discovery as a result of Satellite Tracking!

A young female harrier from Scotland has been satellite tracked to Ireland

Heather and Miranda 14 October 2013

Over the years, as part of the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey, we have had records of Hen Harriers coming in from the Irish Sea and also travelling out across the Irish Sea. Some young harriers that we wing tagged here in Ireland have been found in Britain. However, this new development is very exciting! We have a satellite tagged Hen Harrier from Scotland among us in Ireland tonight! This young female, named Miranda, was born in the south west of Scotland and has already been blazing a trail in her native country, before visiting the Isle of Man on her way to Ireland! See for details on this extraordinary bird.

In October 2010, a satellite tagged young male from Scotland visited Ireland, but only very briefly before returning to Scotland again. See for information on this individual.
This information is invaluable in showing the links that exist between Britain and Ireland in terms of our Hen Harrier populations. In a nutshell, what happens over there can influence the population here and what happens here, can influence the poulation over there! It is noteworthy that all 7 Hen Harriers satellite tagged in Britain this year are doing fine, whereas Heather is the only one of 9 Hen Harriers satellite tagged in Ireland to have made it to 100 days of age.

It will be fascinating to see where Miranda goes next. Will she by any chance meet up with Heather, who is evidently happy to stay in South Cork?! Only time will tell, stay tuned, there may well be a Scottish Hen Harrier coming to a roost near you!

Miranda being carefully fitted with her satellite tag by Stephen Murphy in Scotland who also fitted Heather with her sat tag in Ireland

Monday, 7 October 2013

Hen Harrier Poster Launched!

An attractive poster, with original artwork by leading Irish artist and naturalist Gordon D'Arcy has been commissioned by the National Parks & Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht.

Anybody who is interested in receiving a copy can contact 

We are particularly hoping to hear from schools who can follow this blog.

For more on education, see

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Heather Going Strong!

Heather has been based at her roost in South Cork now since early September.

She has set up a home territory and visits the same stubble fields virtually every day, occasionally checking out new places. It is good that she is familiar with the area now and knows where to get her food and where she can rest safely each night. She may well have learned of all these places from the older wing tagged bird, but she would of course have explored much herself also.

Last Tuesday night, Heather was seen during a dedicated watch on the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey, where she was seen to catch a prey item successfully, just before bedtime!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey starts this week - Heather still at her Cork roost

The Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey is now in its ninth season. Official roost watches start this week, on 01 October and each roost will be watched at least once a month from now until March, just before the breeding season kicks off again.

Just about everything that we know of the Hen Harrier's ecology and conservation during the non-breeding season stems from this national survey, which is co-ordinated and carried out by a dedicated team of surveyors, entirely on a vountary basis. If you would like to know more about the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey, click IHHWS

Hen Harriers often roost communally during the winter

We hope to make this season one of the best ever. Be sure to log any sightings with the survey co-ordinator. We are always looking for new volunteers to find and watch roosts to see how many harriers come in to roost. It truly is one of the most enjoyable and worthwhile surveys in Ireland today.

What happens during the non-breeding (or winter) season has direct bearing on our national population.
Consider our star harrier, Heather. If anything happens to Heather over the non-breeding season, then it is clear that this will mean another female harrier who could potentially rear young and sustain the population would be lost. If anything happens to Heather's roost in Cork, or more importantly if anything happens to the area that she is finding her food, what will happen?

This is why it is so important to (a) record any sightings (b) find roosts and (c) conduct long-term research to establish trends at individual roosts and overall across Ireland. This is what the people involved in the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey have been doing since 2005. What do we get in return? Some breathtaking encounters with wildlife, some amazing memories and the knowledge that our data is contributing directly to the conservation of one of our most iconic Irish birds.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Heather is 100 days old today!

Heather remains in her home range in South Cork. She seems happy here. It is great to see that she is the first Irish satellite tracked Hen Harrier to make it to 100 days old!!! She has had amazing journeys and stories so far, coming from a heather moor in Kerry to Kildare, Wicklow, Dublin, Louth, Meath, Armagh, Lough Neagh and finally settling on a wonderful part of South Cork, where waves crash against the cliffs and Gannets glide across the water. Here's to the next 100 Heather!!!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Heather makes herself at home in South Cork

Since arriving in South Cork after an epic journey from Kerry to Wicklow to Northern Ireland, Heather has set up a home range and appears to be making the most of her time along the southern coast of Ireland. A young harrier may travel in their first few months until they find a place that ticks all the boxes. They may then establish a home range, visiting the same areas on a daily basis before returning back to their roost every evening. Interestingly, Heather has found a friend in the form of a wing-tagged harrier now in her fifth winter. It is hoped that Heather will learn from this older bird, about where all the good places to go are.

Heather is in a good area for the two basic requirements of any young harrier's early days of independent life - food and shelter. The tillage landscape, including stubble fields of oats, wheat and barley provide food in the form of rodents. Hopefully no poisons are being used in these fields. In Ireland, tillage fields are not as big as they would be for example in Britain and the amount of hedgerows we have in our tillage landscape is very important in supporting wildlife also. It is important that the scrubby areas that have been left alone for years are retained as an important reservoir of biodiversity.

It is interesting to see that Heather is again making some short forays out to sea before returning again. Is she thinking of leaving these shores or will the draw of food along the south Cork coast keep her in Ireland?

One of Heather's daily runs in South Cork. Click to enlarge

Monday, 9 September 2013

Heather astounds!

Heather has now travelled from Kerry to Kildare, to Wicklow, to Meath, Armagh, Louth and now Cork!
Heather has astounded us with her latest movements. Having travelled as far as Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland, she took a handbrake turn and headed all the way south to County Cork, on the southernmost shores of this island. Indeed she even travelled offshore for a while, leaving her roost on Saturday morning and heading 7km out to sea!! She turned back in again and spent the day hunting the tillage and beet fields along the coast.

Heather is now in good company too! She has met with an old friend of ours, a female that was wing tagged in 2009, now over four years old. How have they found the very same roost, more than 300km from Heather's furthest north roosting point? Did they meet up somewhere along the way, is this why Heather too a sudden change in direction? Is it weather driven (there were slight northerly winds for Heather's journey south)? Is it just hard-wired into the birds to travel to these destinations? Is it habitat driven (certainly both are in wonderful autumn harvest habitat now)? Is Heather thinking of leaving Ireland?

Stay tuned!!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Heather makes massive travels

Hen Harriers bring you on a roller coaster of emotion. 

Less than a week after the lowest low of finding Sally dead, the highest high - a close encounter with Heather - on the other side of the island!

On the evening of Friday 30 August, after telling the individual stories of Sally and Heather on Ireland's national radio station (to listen, click here), I headed straight for Wicklow Mountains National Park, where Heather had spent the previous two weeks on the heather moorland (poignantly, given the death of her sister Sally, she spent most of her time around an area called the Sally Gap). I stayed overnight in the national park and at 0400hrs checked the satellite data from Heather's tag to see where she was roosting in anticipation that I might be able to see her leave her Wicklow roost at first light. 

So, when I logged in to see where she was, imagine my surprise when I saw that she was in County Meath! I sat into my car and began the journey to the Royal County, through Dublin City with very quiet streets. I reached her roosting place just as it was getting bright and was afraid that I had arrived a little too late.. she may have already left. I stood at the gate of a field of freshly harvested oats and watched more in hope than expectation. At 0620hrs, there she appeared!! She was just taking off from the ground, flying over some oilseed rape and gaining height. The sight of this bird, now much bigger than when I saw her last, was enough to take my breath away! It is difficult to describe the feeling that came over me, seeing her there - the two of us over 250km from where we had last seen each other during the summer. A change of landscape from heather mountain and forestry, to tillage and oak trees. An awful lot of ground covered in between. She came back into view again at 0659hrs in front of a rising sun, being mobbed by two rooks as she glided beautifully over the same field.

Heather continued travelling in that direction and yesterday morning rose from roost on the shores of Lough Neagh, in Northern Ireland!! Over 300km from home, she was now far closer to Scotland than to her native Kingdom of Kerry. Incredible. At the time of writing, Heather has started to turn back south and is currently in South County Armagh, around Keady. We all hope the Armagh folk are good to this special Kerry girl!

Sally Dies

 There are no words that can describe the loss of Sally, because she represented so much. She represented herself - a beautiful young Hen Harrier; she represented her species and she represented the hopes of bringing the Hen Harrier's ecology and conservation in Ireland to the general public.

After leaving her heather nest, Sally was in explorative mood, covering large tracts of her native County Kerry and making the Stack's Mountains her home for some time before returning to her nest site further east to find her parents and siblings had long since departed. She continued into County Cork, travelling through the Duhallow area and then into County Limerick, where she spent less than a week before succumbing to starvation. She lay at the edge of a Cladium fen in West Limerick, unable to go on any further, exhausted and greatly underweight, almost half the weight she was on 13 July. 

The first steps in life for any bird of prey are fraught with danger and learning how to find and catch your own food is a most difficult skill to master. However, satellite tracking here is highlighting the disadvantages that Hen Harriers in Ireland are faced with on top of all this. Sally was just 72 days old on the day that she died. Of 10 Hen Harriers that have been satellite tracked in Ireland now, 0 have yet made it to 100 days old. In Britain, 70% of many more sat tagged harriers have made it past 100 days. 

There are no other words that can really be said, even a week on since Sally's death. It is hoped that her early fall, along with so many other young harriers in Ireland will highlight the conservation issues facing the species in Ireland.

All hopes and fears now rest with Sally's younger sister Heather.

Sally's Journey

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Sally on the Shannon Estuary, Heather in the Dublin Mountains

Sally has travelled from Kerry, to Cork, to Limerick and is now on the Shannon Estuary, making use of the farmland, scrub and hedgerows in the area.

Heather in West Limerick 24 August 2013

Heather is still in the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains, making use of the heather moorland there. It is interesting to see how close to the large suburban populations of Dublin she is!

Heather in Dublin Mountains, overlooking Dublin City 24 August 2013

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Sally and Heather begin to make their own ways in life

It is a joy to report that Sally and her younger sister Heather are now making their own ways in life.

They have left the nest, where they were cared for by their parents from May to August and are now free spirits - the world is their oyster! So, where will they go?!

Sally in Munster, Heather in Leinster

Well, so far, Sally has been more the home bird, ranging around the Stack's and Mullaghareirk Mountains, making use of the hilly farmland in particular.

Sally's latest movements to 21 August 2013

Heather has so far been the more adventurous and made little work of a >200km journey to the other side of Ireland, on the east Coast. She even flew over our capital city Dublin and has now taken up residence on the heather moorland of Wicklow Mountains National Park!

Heather's latest movements to 21 August 2013, a Kerry girl in Dublin in August, just like Kerry football supporters!

The data coming from Heather and Sally's tags are not just letting us know where the birds are, but among other things also allow us to look at their use of habitat. All this information is vital if we are to save Hen Harriers from continuing to be lost from the Irish landscape.

Heather's habitat use of the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains 19 August 2013

So, where will Heather and Sally go next? Will they ever meet each other again? Yesterday Sally began to make moves in the same direction as Heather and is now in Limerick. Will they return to their home near Mount Eagle in Kerry? Who knows, lets just hope that they stay healthy and well. Be sure to keep an eye out for them on their travels and check in with the Hen Harrier Ireland blog for further updates.

Introducing: Sally and Heather!

Sally (left) and Heather (right) on the day they were fitted with satellite trackers

Sally and her younger sister Heather were born on the heathery slopes by Mount Eagle in Kerry in the summer of 2013.

Their parents were seen sky dancing (spectacular courtship displays) in the spring and soon after they settled on a nest location (Hen Harriers choose new nest locations every year) that they felt was safe to rear their young and was surrounded by good heather moorland, young forestry and farmland to find food for their young.

The father, a striking looking silver male was a very good hunter and the mother, a courageous brown bird was very protective of the nest if any predators like foxes or crows came to the nest. The father would let the mother know when he had food and she would rise from the nest where she minded her eggs and young, to meet him in the air and acrobatically flip upside down so that he could drop the food into her talons. She would then take the food back to the nest and piece by piece feed it to the young chicks who included Sally and Heather.

Sally and Heather as young chicks in the nest

Sally and Heather grew strong with the help of their parents and just before they left the nest, they were each fitted with a lighweight satellite tracker so that we could follow their lives and find out what is happening to our Hen Harriers when they are trying to make their way in Ireland. The information derived will be directly useful in informing conservation efforts and will surely provide some interesting facts that we do not already know about the individual lives of two sisters.

Over the coming weeks, months and hopefully years, you can follow the progress of Sally and Heather as they make their ways in life. Hang on for the ride!

Sally with the antenna of the small satellite tag showing on her back

Sally and Heather are named by the local school children of Duhallow after the the two most important features on the landscape for Hen Harriers - Willow trees (Sally trees) and Moorland (Heather).

Thursday, 25 July 2013

National and International Outrage at Limerick County Councillor's Comments

Comments by Mr. John Sheahan, current chairman of Limerick County Council are being reacted to strongly by the public at home and abroad:

The Hen Harrier is an extremely endangered piece of Irish natural heritage. The link between the people and the bird is stronger in Ireland than anywhere else in its range in that we cannot have one without the other. The Hen Harrier in Ireland lives mainly on extensive farmland. When we lose people and local rural communities and when non-native commercial monoculture forestry moves in, the wildlife moves out. The Hen Harrier, as an indicator species, is representative of the overall health of our landscape as if we do not have all the other animals and birds that share the countryside, we will not have Hen Harriers.

Since 2007, the Irish government has operated a scheme rewarding farmers for maintaining and creating Hen Harrier habitat, while farmers in Natura 2000 lands like Hen Harrier Special Protection Areas have been given priority access to the Agri-Environmental Options Scheme.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

A Celtic Englishman

Forgive me but it has been too long since my last post!

Enjoying the breeding season, watching wild sky dancing displays and now food passes to females sitting tightly on eggs.

But what a note to begin blogging on once more:

It looks very much like our friend with the orange wing tag (born in England) that has spent the past few winters in Wicklow is hanging out in Wales, with a close friend of the female type!
It is a great feat to have such a good picture of an individual bird, considering he spreads across the Irish Sea! Movement across the Irish Sea is something that has become apparent through the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey and records of wing tagged birds from Ireland travelling to Britain and vice versa. This all adds great weight to the metapopulation concept whereby what happens here in Ireland can affect populations abroad and what happens abroad can affect Hen Harriers in Ireland.

Thanks to those who have reported him in Wicklow over the winters and our colleagues in England and Wales for reporting sightings of this fine bird. Now we know he is in breeding mode in Wales, we have gone a long way towards answering the burning question of where he spends his summers after leaving Wicklow each spring!

See a previous post on this blog dated 19 November 2013 about this particular individual, included in the post entitled "Little E - A Born Survivor" wouldn't it be something to also find out where Little E is!

We look forward to seeing him and hopefully some of his young ones back in Ireland this autumn/winter!
Beir Bua!

November 2010, Wicklow
November 2012, Wicklow

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Winter Draws to a Close

This is it,

The winter has come and gone, daffodils and primroses add colour to our lives and soon harriers will be turning their minds towards the breeding season - this time next month Sky Dancing should be a magnificent sight in our blue skies.

For many of us, this upcoming co-ordinated Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey roost watch weekend (starting Friday 01 March) will be our last opportunity to see Hen Harriers in our local areas during the non-breeding season. We have had some magnificent evenings watching blue-silver males glide with brown ringtails over reedbeds and bogs. Be sure to get one last taste of this before the winter is finally out - you may be waiting a long time again before seeing another Hen Harrier! If you have not been out to your local roost this winter, or checked for a new roost, why not!

Make the effort, get out there, enjoy life and make a contribution to the natural world in the process!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

More Wing Tag News!

Over the weekend, one man in Inishowen, Co. Donegal was lucky enough to see a wing tagged Hen Harrier (yellow left tag, meaning she was born and tagged in 2009). This could well be the same bird seen way up in Sutherland, Scotland in April 2012!!

The observer was even luckier to be treated to a spectacular sky dance display!!

But Hen Harriers only sky dance at the start of the breeding season right?! Hen Harriers don't have rules! Over the years I have had a number of records of sky dancing harriers during the non-breeding season and have been treated to a display myself at a winter roost. Soon enough though, our hills will be graced with this time old tradition once again and Spring will be in full flow! Can't wait!!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Some News on Wing Tagged Hen Harriers

In 2009, a fabulous individual from the Ballyhoura Mountains on the Cork-Limerick border was wing tagged with two yellow tags and the letter C. She travelled first to West Clare where she stayed for a short while in the hope of establishing a non-breeding home range. Every winter since, she has spent her time back in her native Rebel County in South Cork. She was seen here again this January, in the company of two other females, and is now in her 5th calendar year!

In 2010, the extraordinary 'Little E' was tagged in Kerry and has spent every winter since at the opposite corner of the island, with a band of other harriers in Wexford (see post on this fella!).

In 2011, a very unique looking female Hen Harrier from West Clare was wing tagged with an orange left tag (for 2011) and a green right tag (for West Clare). She is currently wintering in the Burren area, looking well. Hopefully she will soon set up a breeding territory come the months of March and April.

Here's hoping for a very successful and lucky 13!!

Be sure to report any sightings, whether of tagged or untagged harriers to for the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey.