Raptor Monitoring in the UK & Ireland

Monitoring in the UK & Ireland

There is a paucity of survey data and knowledge of breeding parameters and temporal trends from raptor species within Ireland. Decadal surveys undertaken for some species e.g. peregrine and hen harrier provide important insights into the status of populations (e.g. Norriss, 1995; Banks et al., 2003; Barton et al., 2006; Sim et al., 2007). However, populations can exhibit marked inter-annual and multi-annual fluctuations, and inter-annual variability can increase complications of wildlife population estimates (Reid et al., 2007) and detection of trends. Recent research in Northern Ireland highlighted critical flaws in the monitoring system for some raptors (Ruddock et al., 2008) with efforts found to be non-standardised, inefficient and often duplicative and the potential for disturbance to breeding raptors is high (see also Ruddock & Whitfield, 2007; Whitfield et al., 2008). As such, it is vital that data collection is co-ordinated and collected systematically across regions. The benefits of “monitoring for and with raptors” are widely recognised and an ambitious program of work is underway within Europe to integrate and co-ordinate all raptor monitoring data (EURAPMON) since raptor monitoring has considerable social, environmental, economic and legislative importance (Kovacs et al., 2008; Duke & Movalli, 2011).

Annual monitoring of raptor breeding attempts and parameters, within defined grid squares, or study areas, take place in Europe (e.g. Saurola, 2005; 2008; Kovacs et al., 2008) but most raptor monitoring in Ireland (see IRSG, 2008; Ruddock, 2008) and Britain (Wernham et al., 2008; SRMG, 2003 – 2011) to date has been on a more ad-hoc site by site basis and usually observers concentrate on one or two favoured species. There is an exemplary scheme operating as a partnership in Scotland (Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme) and supported by the employment of a Raptor Monitoring Officer (RMO). The surveying and monitoring of raptor species is usually undertaken by volunteers, such as members of Raptor Study Groups (RSGs), other raptor enthusiasts and by paid biologists. The data they collect are important as they are used by the government and other agencies to help inform conservation decisions e.g. statutory designations, planning applications and for regional and European level reporting.