Irelands Lost Birds

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Going back to the recent TallaFest, I had an unexpected opportunity to meet some really stunning birds. I never really had an interest in birds except for the numerous pairs of budgie’s we had as kids, and to be honest the only experience I have had shooting (with a camera) these gorgeous birds was at the Brian Boru Festival  last year. Little did I know, that this was about to change. When I first spotted the Display enclosure on the grounds of the Priory, curiosity got the better of me and I went over to have a closer look. Seeing the birds on display, standing on their perches reminded me of the first time I saw a bird of prey in action. It was at a medieval re-enactment about 15 years ago in Kells. One of the re-enactors had brought two Peregrines’ and a Kestrel with him. Watching the Falcon soar up into the sky was quite impressive, but what happened next was amazing. After circling a nearby field a couple of times, she suddenly dive bombed in a matter of seconds, disappearing in the long grass, only to reappear clutching another smallish bird in her talons. Ok so we have all seen this on the TV, but to see this in person is a completely different experience.

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James the Golden Eagle

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Before I go on, I have to say a big thank you to both Carol and Donal, including all the team from WoodlandsFalconry  for inviting me into the enclosure and for spending so much time educating me about these great creatures. I never would have thought when I got up that morning that I would be lying on the ground, looking through my cameras viewfinder, only feet away from a bird of prey.  It was amazing and the birds were so well behaved, not once did I feel anyway threatened, even when the young  Sea Eagle periodically jumped of his perch and started flapping around. That said, you still need to respect their awesome power and majestic qualities. From a previous post you would have seen James, the Golden Eagle, so allow me to introduce you to the rest of the gang.  Their was Layla the Long Eared Owl, followed by the young  and rather feisty white tailed Sea Eagle known as Angry Angus, Baidhbhin the Barn Owl, Peadar the Peregrine Falcon, Grace the Red Kite, and last but not least Seamus the Kestrel.

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Layla the Long Eared Owl

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In ancient times many of these birds were quite popular with our ancestors. Evidence of Falconry dating back to 3000B.C. has been found in places like Dalkey Island and Newgrange. The first recorded reference to Birds of Prey comes from a 12th century Manuscript based on the early Christian Abbot, Colman of Lann. Entitled “Betha Colmáin Maic Lúach’ain; or the life of Colman, son of Lúachan”. It describes how the Ard Ri, (High King) had in his possession, a pair of hunting hawks. Even the 12th century chronicler Giraldus Cambrensis, whom I have mentioned in previous posts, spoke about the quality of the Irish Birds of Prey, ‘Ireland has none but the best breed of falcons’. Medieval Ireland had many laws in place concerning Falconry, and there were restrictions on taking these birds out of the country.

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Baidhbhin the Barn Owl

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Sadly many of these birds have gotten a bad rap over the years as farmers would blame them for killing sheep etc. And so their persecution by shooting and or poisoning eventually led to their demise. It is quite hard to believe, but many of these native birds were extinct in Ireland until recently. Up until 2007 the Golden Eagle had not been seen on these shores in over 100 years. After being reintroduced in Donegal, there is now a small population flourishing. The White Tailed Eagle had not been seen in 110 years, but have now settled in Kerry. As for the Red Kite, they were missing from our skies for over 200 years. The first one hatched in Wicklow in 2010. A tremendous amount of work has gone into reintroducing these birds back into the Irish Landscape and it continues as various conservation groups attempt to preserve their place on Ireland. This involves a lot of hard work, such as monitoring nests, tagging and tracking, research, and educating the public.

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Peadar the Peregrine Falcon

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Even with all the great work being done, there have been a number of shootings and their food chain has been affected by illegal poisoning whether intentional or not! I would love to know what sort of idiot would go out and intentionally shoot on of these stunning creatures. As you could imagine, the process of reintroducing these birds and the ongoing conservation work costs a hell of a lot of money. If you would like to help out, you should check out the Golden Eagle Trust where there is a vast array of information on the work that they do. Or if you would like to get up close and personal with some of these birds, I highly recommend paying a visit to the nice folks in Woodlands Falconry. They are based down in Carlow and run a Birds of Prey centre. I know I will be taking the kids down to see them, also check out and follow their Facebook page for regular updates.

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Grace the Red Kite

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Seamus the Kestrel

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About edmooneyphotography

Photographer, Blogger, Ruinhunter, with an unhealthy obsession for history, mythology and the arcane.
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39 Responses to Irelands Lost Birds

  1. willowdot21 says:

    Fabulous photos truly magnificent!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. newsferret says:

    Great shots and they remind one that taking care of our nature is a priority.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. avemi says:

    imponujące spojrzenie – piękne zwierzęta 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. beetleypete says:

    Some good close-up shots of the birds, Ed. I love those owls, always have.
    Sadly, there will always be people who will destroy beautiful creatures, for their own misguided reasons. But we are lucky to have the conservationists redressing the balance. Red kites are common in the Chilterns. When we visit friends in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, we see them circling above, a great sight. Here’s a link.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, now that was some pretty impressive footage. They would put the RAF to shame 🙂
      I like the Owls aswell, but they always remind me of the Harrypotter movies 🙂
      Hopefully thinks will improve and they will be a more common sight in our skies.


  5. belshade says:

    Another string to your bow – photographing wildlife.Versatility is the name of the game.Nice shots. Me – I find things that don’t move more cooperative. Des.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Des, I initially shyed away from Wildlife because all the guys and gals in the camera club were going around with these enormously expensive lenses to capture the birds.
      So like you, I picked a more suitable subject.
      In fairness though, all these shots were taken using a standard 18-55mm kit lense, so maybe there is hope 🙂


  6. I’m not sure if I ever saw a Red Kite this close…
    I only ever see them when they soar through the sky high above us, looking for food.
    They are by the way called (Rot)Milan in German (rot = red), which is a bit closer to their Latin name (Milvus Milvus).

    Over here it is also way easier to see one of the falcons or the Kite, sometimes even an Eagle, than catching a glimpse at an owl. Those few times I saw Barn Owls or Long Eared Owls were all during Falconry shows or in zoos.

    Great pictures and great creatures!

    By the way: In Germany we have this superstition that when you hear an owl at night you or someone in your household will die – like a Banshee of sorts. Is something like that known in Ireland as well?
    I remember you talking about Banshees before, but I can’t remember if you mentioned anything like this…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thats interesting, the owls are harder to spot in the wild as they are mostly nocturnal.
      That supersition is common in Africa and other places. In Ireland the Owl is a symbol of Wisdom. Ok they are creepy if you are out in the dark late at night and you see those beady little eyes staring at you, but I quite like them. Athena in Greek Mythology was said to have swapped her Raven for an Owl. As for the Banshee, no connection as far as I know off.


      • We see the owl as wise as well, but there is still that superstition regarding its call at night, but I don’t know if it’s a local occurrence or something more common. Interesting that it is common in Africa…

        Did you know that ravens are actually way smarter than owls? 😀

        Owls are amongst my favourite animals and some of my shelves are filled with owl figurines of all kinds. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  7. oglach says:

    Great subject. The first time I saw a golden eagle in the wild I was so stunned that I couldn’t have taken a photo even if I’d had a camera with me. Incredible.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. lyonsroarforgod says:

    Beautiful, amazing birds. I love the expressions they have on their faces; so majestic and proud. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. John says:

    Beautiful photos, such magnificent creatures, never seen most of these birds before. It’s great that they are being reintroduced to your skies again. Like one comment said, your great photo skills also include wildlife. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. T Smithers says:

    Stunning shots, and beautiful birds! I spent the first 6 1/2 years of my life on an island in Alaska, so I had the privilege to grow up with both Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles. They are magnificent to watch in the wild.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Maureen says:

    unfortunately I was not able to see the photos…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Ali Isaac says:

    Wow! Wonderful post, Ed! I have always loved birds of prey, but have never been up close like that. I never knew hunting with birds of prey was done here, I thought it was more of a UK thing. Fantastic images, They are all so impressive, but the red kite is so stdiking with that red plumage! Would love to see them in action.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. noelleg44 says:

    Rip snorting good pictures! and that red kite! Ferocious!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. M T McGuire says:

    Great shots and interesting info as always. My favourite is Grace the red kite.



    Liked by 1 person

  15. Great photos! I love the red kite especially. I am in Northern CA, Lucas Valley in Marin County. In our neighborhood we have a lot of owl boxes to keep the rats under control. At the same time, there is uproar around our native coyotes who take the occassional domestic cat or small dog. I am on the side of wildlife; I haven’t noticed that the American Shorthair is endangered….I have two of them myself.

    Now get out to Skellig Michael and give us some great shots of Puffins and monastery ruins!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. It makes my blood boil when I hear farmers bleating (no pun intended) about the raw deal they get, presenting themselves as defenders of the environment, as if they’re the last line of defence against the ecological apocalypse. They’re always banging on about the noble peasant here. Never a word about what they’re doing to destroy everything ‘natural’ and the inhuman way they treat their livestock. Not my favourite people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So very true Jane, although I guess we should not tar and feather them all with the same brush. excuse the pun. There are some out there making a difference, just not enough 🙂


      • I wish they’d use a few more arguments along the lines of animal welfare and respect for the environment when they insist that home grown pork is so much better than cheap and nasty German pork. Pure, unadulterated chauvinism just doesn’t wash with me, I’m afraid.


  17. Pingback: Picture Kaleidoscope 9/2/15 | Gloria Oliver

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