Irish Raptor Study Group Conference

The Irish Raptor Study Group (IRSG) held its annual conference in Dublin on the 27th January 2018. Staff members of McCarthy Keville O’Sullivan attended the event and the following information was of particular interest. 

Barn Owls and major roads – A presentation by John Lusby, Birdwatch Ireland

Studies undertaken on a number of major road schemes have identified a number of hotspots and causes of barn owl fatalities. Mitigation measures are being developed in association with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) to minamise potential for impact on the species. The following information of interest was presented on the studies to date: 

  • Tralee bypass collisions- 13 casualties recorded over 3 years along a 13.5km.
  • Surveys on the M8 (between Fermoy and north of Thurles) has recorded 54 barn owl deaths over 2 years.
  • Studies have shown that barn owls are spending a proportion of their time hunting along grassy verges along motorways as they have been shown to have a higher level of small mammal abundance than nearby hedgerows within the breeding territory.
  • Birds have also been recorded perching on signposts and other motorway structure which they use for hunting from a stationary position. This increases their likelihood of coming into contact with vehicles as they fly from one side of the road to another.
  • As many of the birds found on the roads appear not to have much physical damage, it is thought that the turbulence of large trucks may be driving the birds into the ground alongside the motorway as they are such a light weight species for their size (300 g with wingspan of 89 cm).
  • Detailed satellite tracking has been undertaken by BirdWatch Ireland on nesting barn owls while hunting and provisioning young. This has provided detailed assessment of how and where barn owls are hunting within their territories.

This information when formally published will provide new mitigation proposals for future major road infrastructure developments and help to minimise or avoid potential for collisions between barn owls and vehicles.

Hen Harrier Project - Dr. Caroline Sullivan, Hen Harrier project

As a large proportion of Special Protection Areas (SPAs), designated for hen harrier, comprise of land managed for agriculture (often poor agricultural land, wet grassland and peatlands), this new EU funded project aims to achieve the following measures to enhance habitat quality for hen harriers:

  • Farmers will receive payment on a reward system with a scoring card developed upon which land will be assessed. Farmers will thus be paid on the quality of their land for supporting hen harriers.
  • Agricultural advisors will assess the lands and will be paid under the project.
  • The hen harrier project will pay the farmers for the quality of their lands, unlike other projects that have been paid via the Department of Agriculture.

The farmers will be encouraged to:

  • Improve habitat quality, invertebrate diversity etc. Such measures aim to increase hen harrier prey availability and thus provide better breeding and wintering habitat for the population.
  • The project will consider other ecosystem services including water quality and flood protection.
  • The project aims to be flexible by incorporating realistic measures for farmers while achieving increases in habitat quality for hen harriers.
  • The project has been designed to be compatible with the current objectives of the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS).
  • Maintain sustainable upland farming as the philosophy of the project.

 The 2017 peregrine survey – Jen Lynch, National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS)

The 2017 breeding peregrine falcon survey aimed to estimate the current population of the species following the last National Survey undertaken in 2002. Some 15 years on the following summary results have been released:

  • A minimum of 427 occupied peregrine territories were recorded.
  • The National population is estimated to be between 430-450 breeding pairs.
  • The increase in occupied breeding territories representing a 10-15% increase in range since the last survey.
  • Further analysis is needed on the results and report to be released soon.
  • NPWS now hold all the data.

The IRSG annual review can be viewed at the following link: http://irsg.ie/IRSGAR2017.pdf  


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