Irish Hen Harrier Survey 2015


As spring approaches, the enigmatic Hen Harrier will begin displaying and looking for a place to nest in the uplands, typically on deep heather moorland and in young forest plantations or scrub habitats. There is no greater sight than the "sky-dancing" display of a male advertising himself in spectacular undulating flights which rise and fall rapidly hundreds of metres in mid-air.

The Golden Eagle Trust, Irish Raptor Study Group and BirdWatch Ireland have formed an exciting conservation partnership and collectively are co-ordinating the 2015 Irish Hen Harrier Survey on behalf of the National Parks & Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht.

Hen Harrier
Male Hen Harrier (Photo: Ron Mccombe)

Hen Harrier is protected by the EU Birds Directive and listed on Annex 1, and monitoring, research and protected areas are vital to the conservation of the species. Survey and monitoring data collected during national surveys are vitally important as these data are used by the Government and other agencies to help inform management and conservation decisions.

Several regional declines were recorded during the last survey in 2010 (click here for details) and it is important that we re-survey to establish the status of the species in Ireland, including within six Special Protected Areas that have been designated to maintain and enhance Hen Harrier populations. This survey will begin in April 2015, and in the coming weeks the project co-ordinators will be running a series of training workshops to ensure that all surveyors are familiar with the methods involved and to offer opportunities for new fieldworkers to participate to help monitor the Hen Harrier population.

As in previous years, the survey will examine all suitable Hen Harrier habitats during the breeding season (April– August) and look for evidence of Hen Harriers breeding in or using these areas. It will be important for observers to record any Hen Harrier behaviour as well as their preferred habitats and any threats or pressures in the nearby areas.

To effectively survey all areas where Hen Harriers occur during the breeding season is a significant undertaking. The survey relies on the support of a substantial volunteer network, and we hope that interested members of the public will consider volunteering to support this conservation task and to cover a 10 km square (or two), and indeed perhaps to form small survey teams to cover a number of squares. Standardised methods will be available at the workshops and by email.

Members of the public are also invited to attend any (or all) of our upcoming survey training workshops: these will cover Hen Harrier ecology, methods, reporting and other research opportunities during the course of the survey. These workshops will also allow potential volunteers to meet other fieldworkers and to discuss the methods and survey requirements. Survey material will be available at the workshops, but we will also forward potential survey allocations, recording forms and detailed survey instructions electronically in due course. Anyone who wishes to participate in the survey but is unable to attend any of the workshops is also invited to contact us so we can forward all the necessary information to them electronically.

Participation in the workshops is free. While numbers are not limited, participants are asked to indicate their preferred venue and date and to register in order that we may estimate numbers of participants with the hotels for catering purposes. Intending participants are asked to please browse through the workshop material and then follow the instructions on the booking form to confirm their preferred venue or correspondence details for electronic communication in relation to the surveys.

For more information on upcoming survey workshops, please click here.

Written by: BirdWatch Ireland