Issue 64, January 2015
Welcome to the January 2015 issue of eWings, BirdWatch Ireland's email newsletter.
Birds of prey are one of the most important yet most misunderstood groups of animals in Ireland. Only now recovering from decades of senseless persecution and returning to their rightful place in our skies, these vulnerable creatures sadly still provoke contempt, superstition and outright hostility amongst a small but damaging minority. They are used as political pawns, their conservation can be viewed with suspicion and considered a threat to livelihoods, and their predatory nature is seized upon as evidence of the human concepts of barbarity and cruelty.

Remember that the vast majority of our birds, from the Curlew wintering on your local estuary to the Blue Tit in your back garden, are also predators. To feed themselves they too kill other creatures, and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with that. Studying such birds tells us a great deal about the health of the overall environment, as their survival is entirely dependent on that of the creatures that they eat.

As apex predators sitting at the top of the food chain, birds of prey can tell us even more again. The presence of a diverse range of birds of prey in an area is a clear sign of a healthy, properly functioning ecosystem. Their absence indicates that something has gone badly wrong, and that's a lesson that we humans need to heed. By conserving them, we are also conserving the entire environment in which they live and the entire range of flora and fauna upon which their survival ultimately depends: when we advocate the protection of birds of prey, we don't do so merely for their benefit alone.

You will see that this issue of eWings has a strong bird of prey theme. Attitudes towards these birds thankfully are changing, but need to change faster. We need you to help us to spread the word. We also need as many of you to support our work as possible. Please, if you haven't already, become a member of BirdWatch Ireland, and encourage your friends and family to do so too. We usually promote membership in terms of what you as a member get out of it, but this time let's focus on the birds. More members mean more clout to drive change, more voices calling for effective conservation and more resources to make it a reality. We can't do it without you.
To view the articles and news in full simply click on the link displayed at the bottom of each article summary.
The need to change Irish attitudes towards birds of prey
The recent controversy over ill-informed comments regarding birds of prey made by a scientific expert on The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk has brought into sharp focus once again the problems caused by negative public perception of these creatures in Ireland. These misconceptions in turn make it more difficult to generate support for the protection of birds of prey, or "raptors", as they are also known, and for the ecosystems in which they play such a vital role.

John Lusby, Raptor Conservation Officer with BirdWatch Ireland, explains why these birds are so important to a healthy environment, how they have been misunderstood and why public attitudes towards them urgently need to change. (Photo: Golden Eagle by Eddie Dunne)
Learn more about why the unjustified vilification of raptors is such a big problem
The bird behind the headlines: getting to know the Hen Harrier
The Hen Harrier has found itself in the news a lot recently. No other bird has been at the centre of such controversy surrounding its protection, nor been so misrepresented and misunderstood. Ten years ago this bird didn't even register with many people who sadly now view it in a negative light. The behaviour or ecology of the Hen Harrier hasn't changed at all during that time, but perceptions of it have: regrettably, it is now considered by some to be a threat to farming livelihoods due to the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for its conservation. Ignorance about this remarkable bird is the main reason for this, and we would like to set the record straight. (Photo: Andy Hay -
Learn about Ireland's Hen Harriers: what they are, how they live and why we need them
Spreading the message about Ireland's threatened Barn Owls
The Barn Owl is one of Ireland's most celebrated birds, but also one of its most threatened. Over the past 40 years, the Irish Barn Owl population has declined by 39%. As a result, the species is now on the Irish Red-list, meaning that we are seriously concerned about its conservation status.

With the publication this month of our new 36-page booklet Barn Owls in Ireland, BirdWatch Ireland hopes to enthuse landowners, birdwatchers and policy-makers about this special bird and to highlight the need to keep its conservation a national priority. Please help us to spread the word. (Photo: Barn Owl by Richard T. Mills)
Read about these gorgeous birds and download our new Barn Owls in Ireland booklet
Birdwatching and Conservation Break in Portugal
Portugal is one of Europe's finest birdwatching countries, and increasing numbers of tourists are now visiting specifically to enjoy its rich birdlife. Commercial birding tours to Portugal are nothing novel, but what's special about the new Birds and Conservation short break being offered by our friends at Birds and Nature Tours Portugal this June is that the participants don't just watch the birds, they actively help to monitor and conserve them at the same time: responsible nature tourism at its best.
For more details of this exciting short birdwatching break in Portugal, please click here
Help birds even more by ordering bird food from BirdWatch Ireland
Each winter, more and more people across Ireland are putting out food to help their garden birds to survive the cold weather. There is a bewildering array of different bird foods and brands on the market, and some are much better for your birds than others. How can you know which you should choose? Well, when you buy from BirdWatch Ireland, Ireland's leading conservation charity, you can be confident that you are getting the safest and most beneficial food for your birds. There are savings if you buy in bulk, and we can deliver anywhere in Ireland. Best of all, the proceeds of sale go to support our conservation work, so when you buy from us you're giving Ireland's birds a double benefit.
(Photo: Siskin on a garden peanut feeder by David Dillon)
Explore our range of high-quality bird food and order direct from BirdWatch Ireland
Patchwork Challenge: making your local birding count
Patchwork Challenge is an annual competition first set up in 2013 with the aim of promoting local patch birding across Britain and Ireland, as well as encouraging greater submission of records to BirdTrack. In essence, patch birding involves finding and recording birds at a site which you visit on a regular basis. Well over 12,000 records were submitted to BirdTrack by Irish patch birders in 2014, and 2015 looks set to be even better.
Patchwork Challenge enthusiast Niall Keogh explains all about this fun contest, including how you can take part
For some people, natural experiences are associated with remote or exotic locations. It is easy to become complacent about the wildlife which surrounds us, even though we can encounter incredible natural spectacles in our daily lives, and sometimes particularly in urban environments. Currently in production, Wild Cities is a four part Irish nature documentary commissioned by RTÉ and the BAI. Each episode will focus on the natural wonders in four Irish cities: Dublin, Galway, Cork and Belfast. This series will showcase the beauty of nature in our cities and its importance in all our lives through uncovering the hidden lives of some of the birds and animals that we encounter every day, and also revealing others which many will be surprised to find out they share a city with!

The search is currently on for interesting wildlife living in these cities, and with knowledge of the birds and animals on your local patches, BirdWatch Ireland members are perfectly placed to assist. Do you know of any unusual species or interesting urban animal activity that you think should be captured in this documentary? So far, filming has focused on a range of species such as urban Peregrine Falcons, Fallow Deer, Long-eared Owls and Starling flocks to name but a few, but information on aspects such as strange nesting locations of birds, places where Otters are regularly seen within the city, or mammals which frequently visit your garden would be really useful to hear about. The stars of the show could very well be living right beside you!

To report information or find out more about the documentary and which species the filmmakers are particularly interested in finding, please visit the Wild Cities Facebook page or Twitter. Alternatively, you can email any information, photos or videos that you might have to Please note, that to avoid disturbance you should never interfere with nesting birds or attempt to photograph an active nest. Thanks for your help!

Yours sincerely,
Niall Hatch, Development Officer
BirdWatch Ireland
Unit 20, Block D
Bullford Business Campus
Co. Wicklow
Tel: (+353)-(0)1-2819878

BirdWatch Ireland is the trading name of the Irish Wildbird Conservancy, a company limited by guarantee and registered in Ireland, no. 116468. Registered Charity no. 5703.
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