Why do hen harriers find Ireland so hard to live in?
Fragmentation of the uplands, however, is foremost in Barry O’Donoghue’s mind as he weighs the loss of Blackwater and Sky. “This summer,” he writes in his blog, “we witnessed parent birds travelling massive distances over forestry before they even reached their hunting grounds, and there were days when chicks may have received just one food item in a day, whereas they should have received around 20 . . . Many nests in Ireland did not rear any chicks at all this year due to lack of food and predation.” Even harder, then, for the newly fledged young to find food when, after three weeks of parental nourishment, they are left to fend for themselves.
Meanwhile, O’Donoghue and his fellow researchers press on with another winter survey of hen harriers at their communal roosts, often in coastal reed beds. This, he enthuses, offers “many amazing and unforgettable moments”, from seeing seven or eight birds in the sky at sunset to “watching harriers perched on ice-capped fence posts”. With co-ordination by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, surveys by teams of volunteers have located more than 80 winter roosts, and any sightings of hen harriers between now and March will be eagerly received at email@example.com.
Eye on nature
On a forest path I came across several little piles of rowan berries looking as if they had been regurgitated or excreted – at any rate only partially digested.
Tom Wilmot, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal
Probably excreted by a pine marten, which are known to gorge on rowan berries.
I watched 12 ravens fly from the sea at Ross westwards towards the uplands. I usually see them alone or in pairs. I see the collective nouns for ravens are a conspiracy, murder or unkindness, and even a storytelling.
Denis Quinn, Killala, Co Mayo
Juvenile ravens flock after breeding season, but ravens also flock if there is a source of food around.
I found some shellfish on the beach near Hook Head, Co Wexford, attached to one another with black tubes, firmly attached to a plastic container and still breathing. Heather Dunwoody, Blackrock, Co Dublin
They were goose-necked barnacles, which float about in the ocean until they find a solid object on which to fasten.
On a recent dive in Mulroy Bay, Co Donegal, Sheephaven divers observed two separate pairs of very large mature lobsters fighting most likely for territory. You can watch a video of them at youtube.com/user/SheephavenSAC.
Dearn McClintock, Letterkenny, Co Donegal
Michael Viney welcomes observations at Thallabawn, Carrowniskey PO, Westport, Co Mayo, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a postal address