ECOFACT staff are currently busy with a large number of breeding bird surveys in Ireland. In particular we are undertaking vantage point surveys to assess hen harrier activity at a number of proposed wind farm site sites across Co Kerry and Co Cork. We are also monitoring hen harrier activity at several existing wind farm sites in the same area. This survey work commenced in early April, and will extend until the end of August 2013.
We are currently monitoring a number of hen harrier nesting sites, and hen harrier chicks are now hatched successfully at two sites with parents busy feeding them. After watching a number of nest sites fail last year, we are hopeful that these will be successful this year and that we we will be monitoring the dispersion of fledgings in a few weeks time. It is clear that hen harrier populations in Ireland need to have a successful breeding year.
A feature of 2013 is that the long cold spring has delayed the bird breeding season. The cold weather also suppressed terrestrial insect production, and therefore the availability of food for hen harrier prey species (e.g. meadow pipit). This will have ‘knock on’ effects on hen harriers looking for food to feed their young at present. With hen harrier chicks having recently hatched, it is hoped that the weather stays a bit settled. Heavy prolonged rainfall, in particular, is something that could have a devastating effect on hen harriers at this critical stage. It is clear that weather (both cold winters and wet summers) has a major influence on hen harrier recruitment in Ireland, and is probably up there in significance with habitat loss and disturbance.
If you would like any information on current ECOFACT bird surveys, including hen harrier breeding surveys, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are the leading independent company in Ireland providing bird surveys and ornithological impact assessments, particularly for proposed wind energy projects.
We work closely with National Parks and Wildlife (NPWS) staff during our Hen harrier work. Also see the Hen Harrier Ireland blogspot, where you can follow the latest research on Hen harriers being undertaken by NPWS. Also, make sure to visit our main website www.ecofact.ie where there is additional information on Hen harrier surveys and bird surveys in general.