Since 2005, the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey (IHHWS) has been researching on a national scale, the non-breeding season of Hen Harriers, which actually accounts for 8 months of the year (August-March)!
Prior to this, very little was known about the non-breeding distribution of Hen Harriers in Ireland, where they roosted, where they hunted, their numbers, their habitats, their behaviour and so on.
Whereas before, we were not in a position to say whether harrier numbers were steady, increasing or declining, we now have a significant body of work to inform and support conservation initiatives. We now know where Hen Harriers are roosting (although there are always more roosts waiting to be found!), the threats faced by the harriers during the non-breeding season and what can and should be done to help this rare and declining native Irish raptor.
Watching Hen Harriers at a roost in winter is one of the great sights in Irish nature. Many amazing and unforgettable moments can be recounted by volunteers of the IHHWS, from watching 7 and 8 Hen Harriers in the air together as the sun set, to watching harriers perched on ice-capped fence posts. There are so many other sights at Hen Harrier winter roosts, from Merlin zipping along scrub bushes to thousands of Starlings darkening the sky before alighting in a reedbed for the night. Hen Harrier roosts really are magical places.
If you are interested in becoming part of the Irish Hen Harrier Winter Survey, or have a sighting of a Hen Harrier between the months of August and March, please contact project co-ordinator Barry O'Donoghue at firstname.lastname@example.org