Sunday, 25 May 2014

Heather and Miranda the closest to each other they have ever been but neither breeding

This week saw Heather stay in Mayo, very much living up to her name by enjoying the heather moorland expanse that she has found in the Lough Conn area.

It also saw Miranda make a move from where she has spent the past months, to head to the Fermanagh/Donegal/Tyrone border, before returning east again into the heartland of Tyrone.

At one stage, the two girls were just over 100km from each other - and for these individuals we know that isn't a gulf in distance. It is the closest to each other that they have ever been, even though they have both found the same places (specific patches in the Lough Neagh area and NW Mayo).

It is clear at this stage that neither Miranda nor Heather are breeding.

It is vital that the females throughout Ireland that are breeding have a successful breeding season. Literally one should never count their chickens til they have hatched...or fledged in the case of Hen Harriers as the high risk of nest predation, especially in forest areas is always a concern. Let's wish them all the best in 2014.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Heather on an incredible new journey

Heather has made massive movements in the past 20 days and has found the exact location where Miranda spent the winter

To say that Hen Harriers never cease to amaze is an understatement. Heather had made her way back home, back to the heather slopes from where she started out in life last summer. In the meantime, she had been from the top to the bottom of the country and it seemed natural that upon returning home, she might settle back to the familiar mountain tops and farmland of East Kerry. What would not have been expected would have been a sudden move to Kilkenny, followed by a 212km leg (in a straight line, in Hen Harrier terms probably at least 400km of flying) to Mayo! And not just anywhere in Mayo, but the exact spot where Miranda from Scotland spent the entire winter up until just over a month ago. Imagine if the two famous girls had met each other!! As I say, Hen Harriers never cease to amaze. How did Heather find the exact same spot in the expanse of moorland that exists in NW Mayo? At the start of last autumn/winter, how did she find the roost in South Cork where she found other birds to stay with and learn from in her first and most testing months of independence? Last data shows Heather to visit the CĂ©ide Fields and there is nothing to say that she has found her destination yet, if she has one...

Heather finds the same ground as Miranda, though Miranda is now in County Antrim

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Females settle down to nesting - what of Heather and Miranda?

When last updated, Heather had made her way back to her native Kingdom of Kerry. Well quite a lot has happened since and quite a lot of ground has been covered by Heather (the story of her life so far). Just one day was spent in Kerry before she returned east to rest between the Ballyhoura and Galtee Mountains. She spent the best part of the last two weeks at one site in particular, but as a visual on Heather has not been gained, it is not possible to say whether she has been hanging around with a settled pair (as was the case in the Ballyhouras) or whether she has found a boyfriend all of her own. The latest location data for Heather showed she had travelled all the way west again to the Abbeyfeale/Mountcollins area of West Limerick, before switching back east again. It is safe to assume at this stage that Heather is not settled and is not nesting, unlike other females. With limited habitat available to Hen Harrier pairs, it appears very difficult for a young female Hen Harrier to find a place of her own - unlike Scotland where Grainne and Hattie now seem well settled, and only a couple of kilometres from each other.

Miranda is still in Northern Ireland, but as with Heather there has been no visual so it is not possible to say whether she is paired up. She does however appear more settled than Heather and is remaining faithful to the one spot. Fingers crossed that she is breeding and may hopefully add to the population here yet!

Heather's movements of the past 10 days