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The Survey explained

There are a number of reasons for conducting the IRD Duhallow Raptor Conservation Survey. The three target species - Barn Owl, Kestrel and Long-eared Owl each have different problems associated with their populations and conservation. Each is addressed below...

Barn Owl (Photo: Noel Marry).
Barn Owl
The problem
The species has been in continuous, serious decline in Ireland for decades, particularly in the north and east of the country. The reasons seem to be a combination of more intensive agriculture ('tidier' fields and hedgerow means fewer prey species), collisions with cars (faster country roads and motorways), rat poisons (many Barn Owl have themselves been poisoned), and a lack of nest sites (many old houses and ruins have been demolished or renovated).

The Survey
We aim to find as many nests and roosts of Barn Owls as possible in the Duhallow area. By monitoring their nesting habits and success, we can add enormously to the body of knowledge about Barn Owls in Ireland.

A full, detailed survey is to be conducted in three 10km squares in Duhallow. All suitable nest sites within those squares will be checked and assessed for Barn Owls and all sightings are to be logged and mapped. Any other sightings and possible nest sites within the region are to be investigated for nesting owls. Nest boxes are to be installed in at least an additional five sites and other sites will be assessed as to their suitability for nest boxes.

The problem
Although Kestrels are still a relatively common bird in many parts of the south and west of Ireland, there has recently been a serious decline noted elsewhere in the country, particularly the east and north. The reasons for this are unclear, but may be a combination of more intensive agriculture, poisons, lack of nest sites, or perhaps other reasons. By studying nest sites in Duhallow, we will have a much better understanding of how and where Kestrels nest, and how successful they are.

The Survey
We will look for nests of Kestrels in order to study the breeding biology, chick development and fledgling success rates. At least 10 nest boxes will be installed and they, and existing nest boxes, will be monitored during the breeding season. All possible nest sites throughout the Duhallow region will be logged and mapped.

Long-eared Owl chicks (Photo: Shay Connolly).

Long-eared Owl
The problem
Very little is known of the Irish population of this secretive species. We have no detailed information of their numbers, nor of nesting habits, diet, distribution and their preferred habitats in Ireland. Without that knowledge, we can draw no conclusions as to whether the species is increasing or in decline. We need further study to find out whether conservation action is required.

The Survey
Three 10km squares in the Duhallow region are to be thoroughly surveyed for the species, using a combination of taped calls played over loudspeakers (under licence from the National Parks and Wildlife Service), searching of suitable areas, and appeals to the public for sightings of adults and chicks during the breeding season. All sightings and nests will be logged and mapped. Several nest baskets will be installed and monitored at suitable sites in order to assess their uptake and conservation value. 

The survey in Duhallow will be mirrored in Co. Offaly and in Connemara during summer 2012. This will constitute the first co-ordinated, detailed survey of this species ever conducted in Ireland.

You can help!
There are a number of ways in which you can help.

Sightings Any sighting of a Barn Owl or a Long-eared Owl, anywhere in the Duhallow region within the past two years is of value so please report them to us using the contact details on this page HERE

Kestrels are still relatively common in SW Ireland but are in decline elsewhere. We need to understand why. If you know of any nests or nesting activity of this species*, please let us know via the contact details on this page HERE. 
* This could be a bird continuously returning to the same clump of trees, excited calling between two birds (a pair) or a bird carrying prey in its talons into trees, or a ruin, or a cliff ledge, during the period March to early July.

A part of the Survey on Kestrels will be Vantage Point Watches. If you would like to volunteer to help with a three-hour watch, near Kanturk, Rathmore or Ballydesmond, in April or early May, please let us know (contact details are on this page HERE). Further information on this aspect of the Survey will be posted on this blog soon.

Post a poster!
This is the poster which we will be putting up in shops and other outlets throughout the Duhallow region during summer 2012. 
You can help us to publicise this Survey. Simply download and print off this A5 poster, and ask your local shops, garden centre, Post Office or Community Centre to display it. It's simple, cheap and won't take too much time, and could help us enormously. You can download the ready-to-print PDF file from this page HERE (this will open another window on Simply click the green Download button. File size is 796Kb).

Ask a friend, ask a neighbour
Ask your friends and neighbours if they have recently seen or heard a Barn Owl, a Long-eared Owl, or know of a Kestrel nest. Get as much info as you can on the location and let us know (contact details are on this page HERE).

Publicise this blog
If you know of any suitable websites that might link to this blog, please ask them to do so. Just one link on another website can lead to dozens, or hundreds, of new visitors, and one or more of those might know of a sighting, or a nest site.

Nest boxes
Kestrels and Barn Owls will readily take to a nest box if it is installed correctly. All the information for the boxes is on this page HERE.

Thank you.