Grey partridges, Boora, Co Offaly

The video below shows  a Pine Marten, Grey Partridges, a Hare, and a Pheasant pass a trailcam in Bord n Mona’s Boora Discovery Park, Co Offaly, during January 2018. We were delighted to record these Grey Partridges. It is interesting that we also recorded a Pine Marten and they are increasing their range in Ireland. This camera was set for one week.

Once a common native farmland game bird in Ireland, numbers of Grey Partridge declined drastically due to agricultural intensification in the 20th century – and this bird nearly went extinct here. Indeed, by 1999 just 22 individuals survived, and these were limited to the Bord na Mona boglands at Boora, Co Offaly.

Grey Partridges were originally a species of the eastern steppe grasslands, and they can survive only in fields and hedgerows which are farmed in a traditional environmentally-sensitive way. The Irish Grey Partridge Conservation Trust manages the habitats at Boora to help this species and its numbers are stable and increasing here. However it is still considered to be endangered in Ireland and remains a red-listed species – but there are now also a number of other projects to help the species return to other areas.

PS: After I posted the above video I was contacted by the local NPWS ranger via messenger who said the video was “amazing”. However he wanted to know the grid references of the cameras “for his records”. I did not tell him this. Then he rang me up and again said that he was impressed with the video, but again asked me for the grid references of the cameras. I told him I would give him the locations and the results when I retrieved the cameras. However, he pressed me to give him the general area where the cameras where – I repeated again that I would tell him at a later date. He then asked me if I had cameras pointing at the cameras or if they were separate. He then asked if I had three cameras – even though I had clearly said that there were just two – which I confirmed again. He then said that he wanted to meet me when I was in the area, and suggested this was for a general chat between two wildlife lovers and we then, in an apparent friendly manner, went on to discuss Pine Marten’s etc. over the phone. I agreed to meet, and intended to do so. At no point did he say that NPWS had an issue with the cameras, and he did not ask me to remove them.

I was unexpectedly passing near Boora the following Saturday evening and decided to go and retrieve my cameras – but they were both gone. I contacted the ranger by text and told him the cameras had been stolen and said that I suspected that one of the staff at Boora had stolen them – as they were in places that could not be found accidentally. I did say that I was suspicious over the requests from him about the locations, grid references, and wanted an explanation. Trying it on – I said that he should tell the staff there that I was going to report this theft to the Guards if the cameras (worth €600) were not returned. I warned him that I was going to make a lot of trouble about this.

Following the above NPWS admitted that they took them – no less the Regional Manager took them. After ringing me and asking me for the grid references they obviously launched a major operation to find my cameras and take them. I was never told about this – they knew they were my cameras. I would have removed them if I had been asked to do so. There are no laws/regulations/guidelines about trail cameras but I clearly was not causing any harm. I had indeed emailed the NPWS licencing section about this a few months previous and they never responded.  Both Bord na Mona and Lough Boora Park retweeted my video and complimented me on it. So this is what our tax money funds now. Was this was the most pressing wildlife issue that NPWS had to deal with in the midlands that week? It took a major effort to find these cameras in the wide expanses of Boora. This is some waste of resources when earlier that day I came across this in the midlands. 

NPWS have agreed to return my cameras but at the current time I have not got them back. They claim now that my cameras were removed as I did not have permission to place them on NPWS lands. They said that to put out hidden cameras (- in a remote scrub area of a bog!) was “a workplace” and “child protection issue”!! I have been warned that I “don’t have a leg to stand on” if I was considering making a complaint about this. 

I have worked on contract with NPWS, I am currently working as a consultant for Bord na Mona, I have held numerous wildlife licences over the past 20 years, I am a friend of Irish Wildlife – and NPWS. But this is the hard-handed and disingenuous way in which I am treated by the agents of the state.

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