IRD Duhallow successfully secured its second EU LIFE+ Nature Project in 2014, which commenced February 2015. This €3million LIFE+ project is a 4.5 year project and aims to work with the local community to achieve a better environment for everyone in Duhallow. "Connecting and restoring habitats for Hen harrier, Merlin, Atlantic salmon and Brook lamprey in Duhallow, Ireland".
The first LAG in Ireland to access LIFE funding demonstrates that the Rural Development Company model is suitable for large-scale nature conservation projects.
The RaptorLIFE Project was officially launched at a conference on the 22nd of May of this year. The event was chaired by Paddy Woodworth of the Irish Times. Guest speakers included representatives from the project’s many stakeholders including Coillte, Cork Nature Network, the Golden Eagle Trust and NPWS.
Our project is innovative in a number of respects not least in that it aims to join up the conservation efforts of two important EU designated sites (Blackwater Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the Stack’s to Mullaghareirk Mountains, West Limerick hills and Mount Nagle Special Protection Area (SPA)). This is the first time that the conservation of two Natura 2000 sites (SPA and SAC) has been integrated in this way. Raptors are birds of prey and Duhallow is one of the most important areas in Ireland for these iconic and threatened birds. Hen harrier in particular has seriously declined due to loss of habitat and persecution. An 85% decline has been recorded in Duhallow in recent years. One of the aims of RaptorLIFE is to explore the positive aspects of these birds by working with the local community and relevant stakeholders to promote their conservation through better public awareness and habitat restoration. The Merlin is Ireland’s smallest bird of prey and little is known about the species. The project aims to find out more about Merlin in Duhallow and to promote their habitat.
The project has many aspects and stakeholders’ inputs are always welcome and indeed vital in the success of the project. A corridor will be opened along the upper reaches of the Blackwater to provide nesting and foraging habitat for Hen harrier and Merlin. Coillte and the Forestry Service will lend advice and expertise in this regard. Along with riverbank invasive species removal (Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed) roadside invasives will also be tackled with the welcome input and help from both Kerry and Cork County Councils and the Cork Nature Network. The Golden Eagle Trust, BirdWatch Ireland, Duhallow Birdwatch Group and volunteers will all contribute to surveying and monitoring Hen harrier and Merlin and their habitat and of course their own Environment Working Group.
Surveying and Monitoring
It is essential that the target project species and their potential prey are monitored throughout the project and compared as the project progresses to a baseline standard established at the beginning, so that project actions can be measured. The continued monitoring throughout the project will allow the documentation of benefits of the key project actions for the target species. The Golden Eagle Trust and BirdWatch Ireland will be vital stakeholders in this regard, lending their extensive expertise to the task.
Having proved hugely popular in the SAMOK LIFE project , the "Species Recording Programme" or "Nature Detective Programme" is now underway in the national schools in Duhallow, as a part of Raptor LIFE. This programme encourages school children to take an active part in the recording of wildlife in their locality which is then put onto an online map. With the assistance of Mary Immaculate College (UL) we are analysing the trends from the nature recordings collected by the children to date and have discovered some interesting facts. You can view our online Wildlife Species Recording map at www.duhallowLIFE.com