Saturday, 1 March 2014

Heather and Miranda as of 01 March 2014, last winter roost watches of the 2013/14 season


The 1st day of March is here and we are so glad to have Heather still with us, but remember her sister Sally


The majority of studies on bird of prey survival have shown that if a Hen Harrier makes it to the 1st day of March, out the other end of its first winter, then its chances of surviving to make future birthdays is greatly increased. It is with great joy then that we find Heather and Miranda still with us in Ireland (GrĂ¡inne and Hattie are also well in Scotland, see www.langholmmoorland.blogspot.com).

When we look back on both Heather and Miranda's experiences in their first winters, there is just so much that we could talk about (and that's nothing compared to what the birds themselves would have seen).

Heather went from the moors of Kerry to the mountains of Wicklow to the shores of Lough Neagh to the coast of Cork, settled in different places, used different roosts, hunted different habitats, met different harriers. Miranda made the great leap from Scotland across to Ireland via the Isle of Man. She explored the reedbeds of the River Shannon, the rugged Malin Head, the glens of Antrim and the expanse of NW Mayo.

Satellite tracking has enabled a great insight into these birds movements. Just imagine what the birds themselves would have seen and experienced along the way! Now that the days are stretching, allowing the solar panels on the tags to charge well, Heather and Miranda's tags are transmitting regularly and giving full sets of data. Let's hope for more great experiences in the future, particularly now as we look forward to the impending breeding season!

At this time, we should also remember the majority of Hen Harriers born last year that weren't so fortunate to have made it and would have unfortunately died. Research by Dr. Barry O'Donoghue of the National Parks & Wildlife Service has shown about 5 out of every 6 Hen Harriers in Ireland die in their first winter, a mortality rate that is just too high to sustain a population.

Finally, March is your last chance to get out and do a roost watch for the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey. Could all volunteers please submit their records for this season to harriers@ahg.gov.ie at their earliest opportunity please.

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