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Tue26th Nov 2013

Report on the investigation of possible crane habitats in Ireland.

Sigvard Lundgren & Björn-Åke Andersson

(Swedish Crane Working Group)

The Golden Eagle Trust of Ireland invited members of the Swedish Crane Working Group (SCWG) to visit Ireland in 2011 to look at the potential for a Crane release programme. The visit took place on July 27-31. The first days were designated to Bord na Mona owned bogs, in different stages of harvesting and also to some locations where peat bog restoration was undertaken.

During the last days we visited several areas in the Counties Roscommon, Longford, Leitrim and Cavan. 

Our field experience of cranes mainly has it origin in an area in southwest Sweden, where the breeding density of cranes is high to Swedish standards, and where we have conducted studies on cranes for roughly 20 years.

Crane breeding habitat requirements

Cranes need a suitable nesting place and feeding territory to be able to successfully breed and raise young.

The nest, which is made of vegetative material, is placed where it is surrounded by water to make it more inaccessible for mammal predators, mainly foxes and badgers. If water level gets lower during incubation the breeding often fails. Cranes have some ability to defend the nest against predators, but dry and warm weather during incubation leads to many failed breeding attempts. Cranes may breed relatively close to human settlements, but this seems to be due to differences in individual crane behaviour. Even so, cranes are often extremely secretive when incubating. A relatively undisturbed habitat is essential, however to what extent depends upon the individual pair.

The feeding habitat must be able to support the newly hatched chicks with accurate food items close to the nest for the first days in life. The adults can serve the chicks food items, but as the chicks are small they cannot move far from the nest, i.e. food must be found near the nest. As the chicks grow the family may move further away from the nest, and when 5-6 weeks old (at the size of a heron) they can be found 1-2 km from the nest. The family normally returns to the nest in the evening and spend the night there, provided that it still is a safe place. If food availability is scarce where the family is, one of the adults can leave the rest to feed on a better place. The other adult stays with the young.

During growth crane chicks need protein. Cranes are quite opportunistic in the choice of food. Many kinds of invertebrates constitute the majority of food items, but when available also frogs and rodents are taken. In July, when the young cranes usually are more than 6 weeks old, berries, not the least blueberries (Vaccinium myrtillus), are important. However, the single most important food is probably earthworms (Lumbricidae), which can be found when rainfall has made it possible to find them on the soil surface.

Crane families searching for food can be observed in cultivated areas, especially when grass has been cut for ensilage or hay. In heavily fertilized fields the vegetation seems to be too dense and food items are more difficult to detect.

When the young are able to fly at 9-10 weeks of age, they still often stay in their territory if food requirements are good until migration starts. Other families may join other cranes in autumn groups that are visiting suitable feeding locations, such as harvested cereal fields.

Bord na Mona bogs as breeding habitat

Peatbogs are not common as breeding places in Sweden, although it often was stated so in literature. The edges of the bogs however, with a wet fen, can provide a suitable nesting place. The shore of a small, slowly running, stream, or of a lake, often quite small, are preferred nesting habitats. The nest should be concealed within vegetation, and is rarely easy to detect. During our visit to Ireland we could recognize many places that fulfil these requirements. The restoration of cutaway Bord na Mona bogs should provide good possibilities to create suitable nesting sites. In Sweden several crane pairs have readily accepted newly constructed ponds on farmland as nesting sites, which show the great adaptability in cranes to respond to and take advantage of man-made habitats.

Food availability in the Irish habitats we visited is difficult to assess. At some Bord na Mona locations (i.e. Ballycon, County Offaly) we had the impression of food scarcity because there were very few birds, even if the time of year was taken into account. At the restored bogs at Boora/Blackwater (County Offaly) the vegetation at several places looked too dense to serve as good feeding areas.

Conclusions

The possibility to create habitats suitable for cranes and other bird species, when restoring peat bogs, provides good conditions for establishing a breeding crane population. We suggest computer simulationsto produce images of how the wetlands will look after the restoration. Then it may be possible to identify possible improvements or changes to the models. Areas in question are large enough to hold several breeding pairs, which is important as cranes normally find their future territories not far from their natal area. And because of this we suggest thatcranes should preferably not be released in an area that often gets flooded.

When the first phase of reintroduction is over there seem to be many areas in the counties visited that should be suitable for cranes. The possibilities of the crane once again becoming a breeding bird in Ireland looks promising.

Eurasian Crane
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Thu26th Sep 2013

The Golden Eagle Trust have since 2011, and the loss of several red kites to rodenticide poisoning in North Dublin, been working with a suite of project partners including statutory and non-statutory agencies to help combat secondary rodenticide poisoning of wildlife.

 

Nine red kites were found dead in the autumn and winter of 2011 after the releases in Fingal. Subsequently six of these were confirmed to contain brodifacoum, a second generation anti-coagulant rodenticide (SGAR). This unfortunately this included the death of the satellite tracked red kite Blue White @ (depicted in the photo) that had travelled more than 190km out west to Co. Mayo in her first weeks after release and was subsequently found dead near Lusk, Co. Dublin a few weeks after her return.

 

Red kites are particularly susceptible to accumulating rodenticides and eat large numbers of rats and they are specialist scavengers. In particular they may eat dead or dying rats and may therefore be exposed (accidently) to rodenticides in their prey.

 

The Golden Eagle Trust welcomes the launch of the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU) in Ireland and urges people to get involved, spread the information and think about the use of rodenticides and our native Irish wildlife.

 

For more information please visit www.thinkwildlife.organd the press release for CRRU Ireland can be downloaded at http://www.thinkwildlife.org/launch-of-crru-ireland-the-campaign-for-responsible-rodenticide-use-in-ireland/

 

CRRU Press Release (25th September 2013)

 

At the Ploughing championship today the Irish Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use was launched by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney.

 

Anticoagulant rodenticides used to kill rats and mice have been detected in many of our top predator wildlife species. Recent scientific research has shown that they now occur in over 80% of our barn owls who feed mainly on mice and rats. Other rodent-eating species such as kestrels, long eared owls, kites, buzzards as well as pine martens, stoats and foxes are all vulnerable too.

 

While pests such as mice and rats which can contaminate food and carry disease must be controlled, the rodenticide industry has recognised the need to protect and enhance wildlife. In order to ensure that rodenticides are used correctly and in ways that minimise the exposure of wildlife, the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU) has been initiated in Ireland. It has been set up under the chairmanship of Dr. Mark Lynch, former Senior Inspector in the Pesticides Control Service of the then Dept of Agriculture and Food. It is supported by all the main manufacturers of second generation anticoagulant rodenticides that are in use in Ireland.

 

Poor pest control practice has a negative effect on wildlife. CRRU Ireland will be raising awareness of how to use rodenticides in a responsible manner by having a planned approach, by using enough baiting points and by never leaving bait around at the end of treatment. Owls and birds of prey play a role in keeping down rodent numbers around farms and food manufacturing plants. It is vital to ensure that rodents that are dead or dying after ingesting rodenticides are disposed of correctly and are not available to wildlife higher up the food chain.

 

Launching the company Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said “I am very proud of the clean green image that our food products have, both here and overseas. It is equally important that we maintain this clean healthy reputation for our wildlife as well. While it is essential that rats be controlled it should be done in a manner that does not harm non-target species such as barn owls and kestrels”.

 

For more information about the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use Ireland log on to www.thinkwildlife.org or call Eanna Ni Lamhna on 0876147506

Launch of Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU) Ireland
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Fri20th Sep 2013

 

A red kite recently discovered in Vartry Reservoir, Roundwood, Co. Wicklow has been confirmed as poisoned. The bird, identified as Blue Red 42 an Irish bred kite, was reported by a concerned dog walker to Birdwatch Ireland who informed the local National Parks and Wildlife Service staff. An investigation into the matter was immediately begun.

 

A National Parks and Wildlife Service Ranger responded to the incident and located the carcass which lay only a few hundred metres from residential houses and a local pre-school. The bird which appeared in good condition had a mouth and crop full of fresh food, indicating that cause of death was most likely poisoning. The Vartry Reservoir is used for recreational walking and angling and provides drinking water to the southern suburbs of Dublin.

 

Minister Deenihan said "The Red Kite is a magnificent bird of prey and is protected by law. I know every effort is being made to find the culprit in this incident, and I would call on any person with any information about this matter to contact the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department or An Garda Siochána. The use of this type of poison is strictly limited to the eradication of mice and rats, and should at no time be used in the reckless way it was."

Tests were immediately ordered under the bird of prey post-mortem protocol. A scheme operated by the National Parks & Wildlife Service, the Regional Veterinary Labs (Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine) and the State Laboratory (Department of Finance). Within 48 hours thanks to the experts within the Regional Veterinary Lab and the State Laboratory, both located at Celbridge, the bird was confirmed as having been poisoned by alphachloralose. The legal use of alphachloralose is restricted to the control of rats and mice. Furthermore the stomach contents of the red kite indicate that the poison was placed on meat bait, a practice now banned, largely for the protection of birds of prey. Searches of the area for further casualties or poisoned baits and door to door enquires were conducted by National Parks and Wildlife Service staff and local Gardaí.

 

The Kite was a wild-bred Wicklow kite from 2012, only 14 months old whose parents were originally brought over from Wales in 2008. The landowner, on whose land the kite was born is very disappointed to hear it has been found dead. Red Kites have only recently made their way as far north as Roundwood and it will be disappointing for many of the locals that had been enjoying their presence to hear of the poisoning.

 

Dr Marc Ruddock, Red Kite Project Manager, for the Golden Eagle Trust said “This is the height of recklessness and it is imperative that communities and individuals take responsibility for getting the people who are still laying poison to stop immediately. The costs are high for Irish wildlife and the potential human consequences of this incident don’t bear thinking about!” Dr Ruddock, urged people to report any information to National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) or An Garda Siochana and also report poisoning to their local Department of Agriculture office.

 

The National Parks and Wildlife Service in Wicklow welcomes any information on this case and the use of illegal poisons generally. You can contact the Wicklow Regional Office in Laragh on 0404-45800 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . The Department of Agriculture can also be contacted about poisons at the Dublin Office on 01 6072000 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it       

Ended life like this...face down in Vartry Reservoir
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Wed21st Aug 2013

The Dublin Red Kite Blue White B3 has been helped by the amazing actions of Nessie Bergin and north Co. Dublin farmer David Garrigan. Mr Garrigan who initially found the tagged kite in a potato field knew it was from the reintroduction project. He alerted Nessie who was able to deftly capture the red kite and place it in a box for the Golden Eagle Trust volunteers to collect and take to the project vet, Fintan Browne at Anicare Vets (Blanchardstown).

The kite appeared weakened and was clearly in need of some care and very low in weight. It was found a short time some bad of weather and horrendous thunderstorm which may have downed the bird. A few days under Fintan’s expert care and the bird was transferred to aviaries getting lots of food in the form of dead rabbits and crows to speed its recovery.

Blue White B3 was one of the original Dublin kites which was collected in 2011 near Rhayader in Wales with project partners the Welsh Kite Trust on the 12thJune 2011 and released from Newbridge Demesne on the 26thJuly 2011. She has been seen on numerous occasions by the project team at winter roosts since her release over two years ago and had set up a territory earlier this summer.

The 29 pairs of Co. Wicklow kites produced 29 young during 2013 and whilst five pairs were located in north Co. Dublin, none of these were recorded to successfully breed. The Dublin project was initially set back by the loss of nine birds of which six were confirmed to have been subject to accidental secondary poisoning by rodenticides (rat poison).

Dr Marc Ruddock, Red Kite Project Manager said “We were devastated at the initial losses, but we have done considerable awareness raising of the issue and there is extensive support amongst landowners and communities within the area for the birds and we are not aware of any further losses. The Dublin kites are still very young to breed at only two years of age but it is an encouraging sign that pairs have been established – we hope next year, 2014 will see the first Dublin red kite chicks.

Dr Ruddock continued, “We would remind people especially as we approach the autumn when rat populations disperse following harvesting to be mindful of the red kites and other wildlife when using rodenticides.

Before she was released the project team, under specialist licencing, have tagged Blue White B3 with a satellite transmitter to allow us to follow her progress and movements over coming weeks and months.

The bird was returned to the wild by Nessie who rescued the bird and she said “I have decided to name her Hera who was a goddess of the sky and I hope she finds a good man goes on to have many young red kite chicks in the coming years”.

As Nessie opened her hands to release the bird back to the wild she said “Fly free” and a silence descended over the small group of volunteers and locals as we were all humbled at being part of the process to allow the bird another chance at freedom in the wild.

The Red Kite Project is a partnership between the Golden Eagle Trust, National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Welsh Kite Trust and in Dublin was funded by the Fingal LEADER Partnership and the Department of Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht and supported by KPMG, Fingal County Council, Fingal Conservation Volunteers, Birdwatch Ireland, Irish Raptor Study Group, AOL Monster Help Day and Burren Bird of Prey Centre. The local NARGC also provided all the food for the kites whilst they were in the cages.

The Golden Eagle Trust are grateful for the interest and support of all the residents and farmers of north Co. Dublin for the Irish Red Kite Project and particularly would like to thank David Garrigan, Nessie Bergin, Ciaran O’Keefe, Lorcan O’Toole, Samantha Rhodes, Fintan Browne (Anicare), Trevor Roche (Dublin Falconry), Ciaran Dunne, Derek O’Brien (NARGC), NPWS and British Trust for Ornithology for their help in returning Blue White B3 – Hera – back to the wild. Special thanks also to Paul Kavanagh and Outdoor Studio, Skerries (Eamon & Christine O’Daly) for the photos.

Fly free
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Thu25th Jul 2013

Two White-tailed Eagles have successfully fledged in Ireland for the first time in over 110 years. In the last week the two birds were seen away from the nest and yesterday both chicks were seen flying near the nest on Lough Derg, near Mountshannon, Co Clare. This pair also created history in 2012 when they nested for the first time.   It is another significant milestone in the long arduous effort of restoring these magnificent birds to Ireland’s wetlands and coastline.

These are the first Irish born chicks of the high profile reintroduction programme, which began in 2007 with the release of young Norwegian eagles in Killarney National Park.  The White-tailed Eagle reintroduction programme is managed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with, and funded by, the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. 

Over the coming years, we expect more of the 10 territorial pairs of White-tailed Eagles monitored and located this spring, between Cork and Galway, to nest, lay eggs and hopefully rear young.  Other maturing birds, released in recent years are also likely to augment the breeding population over time.  It is hoped that in time these Irish bred chicks, from Lough Derg, will survive and breed themselves in 2017 or thereafter.

All White-tailed Eagle and Golden Eagle breeding attempts are prone to natural failures, over the long 4-5 month breeding season and can encounter a range of constraints and obstacles.  Young pairs of breeding eagles are prone to failure before they gradually gain the wide array of skills required for successful breeding.  These skills include nest building, continuous uninterrupted incubation, maintaining female body condition and continuously provisioning chicks with regular live prey.

This year 3 White-tailed Eagle pairs attempted to breed and laid eggs in Counties Kerry and Clare.  One pair failed toward the end of the 6 week incubation period.  This pair is still on site and hopefully in a mere 6 month’s time they will begin to breed again next spring.  Another pair that nested in Killarney National Park hatched at least one chick which survived to within 3-4 weeks of fledging.  But it was very disappointing to find that the new nest had collapsed causing the death of the chick, shortly before it was due to fledge.  It seems likely that the nest material (vegetation, sods and dead branches) dried out and shrank significantly in the recent dry spell of weather. 

The Mountshannon nesting pair also faced its own problems before the two strong chicks took to the skies.  As part of the plan to enhance the security around the well known nest site and increase public awareness of eagles a camera was installed near the nest and several branches were removed.  This allowed for the continuous guarding and monitoring of the nest from a safe distance on the Lough shore.  These changes apparently triggered a negative response from the adults and the adults only flew near to the nest subsequently, without landing on the nest.  The well grown chicks were provisioned with food on the nest and subsequently fledged in great condition and at the anticipated date.

The two chicks are expected to stay around the islands and western shoreline of Lough Derg, north and south of Mountshannon, for the coming weeks with their parents.  Sometime in the autumn these juveniles will leave their parents’ territory and begin a 3-4 year nomadic life before settling in their own separate territories before attempting to breed themselves.

The eggs were laid in County Clare in late March. The Mountshannon breeding adults, a five year old male and four year old female, were both collected on the island of Frøya, off the west coast of Norway. This pair laid eggs in 2012 but failed to hatch chicks. However by January 2013 they had already built a new nest.

The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, T.D., said, “I am truly delighted with this news, marking a great step forward in this ambitious project. It is a joy to see these magnificent birds of prey being reintroduced in Ireland. Congratulations to all involved in Killarney and Clare. My wish now is that these young eagles will have a long life in our skies.”

“This day has been six years in the making but to witness the first flight of a wild Irish-bred White-tailed Eagle here in Mountshannon was a fabulous moment”, said Dr. Allan Mee, project manager for the Golden Eagle Trust. “These two young eagles represent the first of what we hope are many more Irish bred White-tailed Eagles to fledge from nests over the next few years and themselves form the basis for a viable self-sustaining Irish population. The signs are good that we can achieve this with 10 or more pairs likely to breed annually over the next few years. While there is still a lot of hard work to be done to achieve this goal we shouldsavourthis day as a really important milestone in the recovery of this iconic species.  And what better place for White-tailed Eagles to make their comeback than Lough Derg with an abundant supply of potential nest sites and fish for food and set amongst some of Ireland’s most wonderful scenery! This is the second year this pair has nested here and provided a unique opportunity for both local people and visitors to watch nesting eagles. It is likely that this pair will nest here for many more years to come and not only contribute to the recovery of the species but to the growing awareness needed to safeguard our natural heritage.  We look forward to many more years of chicks flying from nests in East Clare.  Along with the help and close cooperation of local communities, such as at Mountshannon, we can help safeguard their future.”

John Harvey, Chairman of Mountshannon Community Council, expressed the delight felt locally at the news of the first White-tailed Eagles to fledge in Ireland in over 110 years. “The pair of White-tailed Eagles took up residence here two years ago and has been an unexpected but very welcome addition to the heritage of East Clare. Ever since they began nesting this year in February local people have taken a keen interest and helped monitor the progress of the pair. Last year the pair failed to hatch chicks so we were really hopeful things would work out this year and we would see chicks leave the nest. We hope that the association between Mountshannon and the eagles will continue for many years to come!”

Despite all the problems and setbacks Irish White-tailed Eagles have endured since they were first released in 2007, they continue to make important incremental steps each year, as part of the long term restoration project.  The challenges facing fishing or hunting birds can be periodically difficult as can the challenges facing breeding birds.  But as the small Irish White-tailed Eagle breeding population grows, we can hopefully see these breeding birds gain experience and slowly expand their limited range.

The Golden Eagle Trust would like to publically acknowledge the support of scores of individuals, volunteers, landowners, walkers and boating enthusiasts for their support and protection of territorial eagles from Galway to Cork, but especially in Mountshannon, Co. Clare and in Kerry.  Despite a few incursions onto the nesting island by outside visitors, the local boating and fishing community in and around Mountshannon have been totally supportive and co-operative, which has been central to the successful fledging of these birds.  We hope more people can visit Mountshannon and hopefully enjoy the unique spectacle of a family group of eagles wheeling above the beautiful scenery of Lough Derg.

Wild White-Tailed Eagle chicks fledge in Ireland after 110 years
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