Harrier training workshop (Ireland)

Training workshop for hen harrier fieldworkers in Northern Ireland

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Hen Harrier chick.

In late March 2009, Natural Research held a training workshop for hen harrier fieldworkers in Northern Ireland to help support the standardised monitoring of this species in the region. 35 participants from the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group, and others, spent two days attending sessions on the basic ecology of the hen harrier, field skills, survey techniques and DNA monitoring. The final afternoon of the workshop was devoted to the development of a national monitoring scheme, which workshop participants will now lead.

The data derived from the monitoring of wildlife populations are essential to inform management and/or legislative decisions and also to understand population dynamics. Birds of prey are important indicators of biodiversity and environmental health, and can also act as flagship species for education and public awareness programmes. Raptors are also protected under regional (e.g. Wildlife Order (Northern Ireland) 1985) and European legislation (e.g. EU Birds Directive), and as such it is important to survey and monitor their populations.

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Hen Harrier expert Dr Mike Madders leads 
a session on field survey techniques.

The surveying and monitoring of raptor species in Northern Ireland is undertaken by voluntary fieldworkers, such as members of the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group and other raptor enthusiasts. The data they collect are important as they are used by the government and other agencies to help inform conservation decisions. As such, it is vital that data are collected systematically across the region. Our training workshop provided a basic framework for the fieldworkers to ensure that the data they collect are relevant and are collected in the same way at each hen harrier site.

The hen harrier is considered to have an unfavourable conservation status in Northern Ireland. So, this training workshop was timely because increased monitoring and research is now required to improve the harrier’s national status. Natural Research staff are internationally recognised for their research on harriers and many other raptor species, and used this collective expertise to provide specialised training for NIRSG members to help ensure local capacity for high quality research.

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Workshop participants practice their new 
DNA collection skills by mouth swabbing 
each other.

Important financial and logistical support for this event was generously provided by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and by Quercus (Northern Ireland’s Research Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Biology) based at Queen’s University, Belfast.

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Photos: Top: M.Ruddock Middle: R.Tingay Bottom: F.Leckie

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