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!

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