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.