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Seminar aimed at protecting birds of prey

A seminar aimed at exploring ways of protecting some of Ireland’s rarest and oldest species of birds will take place in Ballyvaughan this Saturday.

Artist Harry Guinane and his muse, Bobo, the European eagle owl, in front of his mural at the Birds of Prey Centre.  Photograph by Mike MulcaireIreland’s first annual Raptor Conservation Seminar is being hosted by Burren Birds of Prey Centre and Aillwee Cave, in association with The Irish Hawking Club. The event is an opportunity for ornithologists, biologists, conservationists, falconers and raptor enthusiasts to hear scientific reports from those on the frontline of raptor conservation, both at home and abroad, and to engage in discourse on conservation measures.
“We have teamed up with like-minded organisations to shine a spotlight on the issues that threaten the very survival of Ireland’s oldest and rarest bird species,” explained James Irons, a raptor conservationist and falconer at Burren Bird of Prey Centre.
Mr Irons noted that the upcoming seminar was “timely” as there was increasing evidence that Irish raptors were making a comeback. “After centuries of persecution and pesticide use, Ireland has the lowest population of birds of prey in Europe. A pioneering project is underway in Ireland to reintroduce three lost species – the golden eagle, white tailed sea eagle and red kite. This year for the first time in 200 years saw golden eagles and red kites breed in the Republic. After 300 years of decline, Irish raptors are making a comeback,” he said.
Among the seminar speakers is Dr Marc Ruddock, Queens University, Belfast and the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group, who will provide an overview of his studies in raptor (mainly peregrine and hen harrier) ecology, and will look in-depth at raptor monitoring programmes and the opportunities for raptor enthusiasts to engage in raptor conservation at local and national levels.
Meanwhile, the Burren Birds of Prey Centre has announced plans to increase its involvement in and development of regional and international raptor conservation projects.
Centre manager Ben Johnson said, “Burren Birds of Prey Centre is seeking to increase awareness of regional raptors and their conservation, increase collaboration with other NGOs and conservation groups, enhance falconry skills to assist and support re-introduction programmes, organise seminars and outreach programmes and increase collaboration with and encouragement of regional and national monitoring schemes.”
The centre presently features the largest display of birds of prey in the country, flying hawks, eagles and falcons. Flight demonstrations are staged daily in a grass arena accommodating 200 people and complete with a state-of-the-art sound system for informative commentary.
Staff are also engaged with a number of groups and initiatives in raptor conservation and have been involved in fundraising for vulture conservation, using their skills to assist the vulture rescue group in trapping and satellite tagging vultures to discover winter breeding grounds.
The seminar is open to members of the public and admission is free. For more, see www.birdofpreycentre.com or contact James Irons on 065 7077036 or 086 6065883.


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