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.

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