Spring is finally here, birds including robins, song thrushes and mistle thrushes are already singing, the buds of birch, oak and hazel are bursting, and flowers are blooming. The RaptorLIFE team are also rearing to go! The following provides a short update on what we are up to.

Creation of wildlife corridor

RaptorLIFE has started work on a joint project with Coillte to create a wildlife corridor linking the Stacks to Mullaghereiks Special Protected Area with the Special Area of Conservation on the River Blackwater. By the end of the project an area 50m wide will be cleared of conifers. RaptorLIFE workers are currently clearing the brash (branches etc.) from the first section of cleared conifers, before moving on to planting the margin with a 10m wide strip of native broadleaves trees. This work will proceed over the next 2 years and will culminate in a 30m wide and 3km long open corridor for foraging hen harriers and other wildlife.

Regeneration of heather habitat

RaptorLIFE is currently trialling different methods for improving heather habitat. Heather is the nesting habitat of choice for hen harriers, which are ground nesting birds and it provides ideal cover for a range of other wildlife species. This spring we have started using brush cutters to create a mosaic of different vegetation heights to increase the abundance of potential prey species for raptors such as meadow pipits, skylarks and small mammals. We also plan on trialling mowing and controlled burning after the nesting season is over. Removal of wilding conifers The wilding or self-seeded conifer trees can be a problem for land located next to plantation forests, and can reduce foraging habitat for hen harrier, merlin and a suite of other species. RaptorLIFE are removing these trees by hand on a number of project farms located within the Stack's to Mullaghareirk SPA, thereby improving open habitat quality.

Merlin and Owls in Duhallow

RaptorLIFE hosted an evening talk entitled “Merlin and Owls in Duhallow” with guest speaker John Lusby. John is Birdwatch Ireland’s Raptor Conservation Officer and has been working with us to monitor both hen harrier and merlin. John told us about the new light-weight GPS (Global Positioning System) data loggers that have been used to track Barn Owls in Ireland for the first time, revealing amazing detail on their foraging behaviour. We had a great turnout and everyone left that little bit more raptor-aware!

Visit to Hen Harrier LIFE project

The RaptorLIFE team and collaborators had a very productive visit to the Hen harrier LIFE project in the UK. Monitoring techniques, outreach and data handling were all explored. Everyone got a lot from the exchange of ideas and left with plenty of food for thought! Thanks so much to Blanaid Denman and all the RSPB team working on the Hen Harrier LIFE project for hosting us.

Hen harrier and Merlin Monitoring

The start of the breeding season brings a whole new season of raptor monitoring. We are again looking for volunteers who can dedicate ~3 hours a week to monitoring these fascinating birds of prey. If interested please contact us.

Further information

Make sure to keep an eye out for future events hosted at IRD Duhallow in Newmarket. You can find out what’s on by checking our Facebook and website pages (addresses listed below). • Phone: +353 (0) 29 22181; • Web: www.duhallowlife.com/raptor-life/ • Facebook: @IRDDuhallowLifeProject • Email: ilse.corkery@irdduhallow.com or john.ballinger@irdduhallow.com or nuala.oriordan@irdduhallow.com

IRD Duhallow’s LIFE projects would like to acknowledge and thank all of the landowners, supporters and volunteers for their assistance with the projects to date.

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