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).