Note to mountain users on lower eastern slopes of Slieve Donard – Buzzard nesting

26-May-2017


As some may recall from this time in recent year, a pair of buzzards has taken to nesting near some lesser used paths leading south out of Donard Park, near the Granite Trail.  We understand they have again ‘dived’ at some passers-by again this season. Accordingly, please take care in that vicinity and spread the word to others to do so.   Birds of prey will typically ‘alarm call’ at any perceived threat that comes too close to the nest site and it is on rarer occasions they may dive at the threat if it persists. It is rarer still for a bird to actually make contact but some individuals are more aggressive and we have had one report this year. This is a natural response observed in many different types of wildlife. To the nesting bird a passing person is no different from the threat posed by a fox or another bird of prey. Alarm-calling is usually enough to deter the threat, but for those of us who are not familiar with the sounds of birds of prey we may not realise what is happening and continue innocently on our way, getting closer and closer to the nest.

We suggest that people stay clear of known nesting areas where possible until the breeding season is over, typically around the end of July. It is good to remain vigilant, with both eyes and ears when out and about, particularly if you do become aware of a bird calling repeatedly in an area. If so, please take a few seconds to think, ‘Am I potentially disturbing a bird and could it be calling at me?’ If so, the best thing is to find an alternative route for the next number of weeks – most chicks will have left the nest by the end of July and after this time the defensive behaviour of the adults should lessen.

Birds of prey in Northern Ireland are protected all year under the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985, as amended by the Wildlife and Environment Act (NI) 2011 and it is illegal to disturb them at, in, on or near their nests.  These birds sit at the top of their food chain and, as a result, are very sensitive to changes in the environment. This leaves each individual vulnerable and populations unstable. The success of breeding attempts can be affected by disturbance, with eggs and chicks at risk from chilling, predation and starvation when the adults are responding to perceived threats. One or two successive poor breeding years is enough to cause radical declines in some species. With the precautions outlined though we can co-exist harmoniously with these important birds.