Cyclists are being advised to steer clear of the Drumneath Road, Banbridge after a buzzard sank its claws into a rider’s crash helmet.
Banbridge Cycling Club’s James Curry felt the full force of the bird’s tallons in an attack probably aimed at protecting nearby chicks or a nest site.
Dromore Cycling Club’s Steven Lindsay was also identified as a predator and dealt with accordingly by the buzzard, although thankfully it was the pair’s helmets that took the brunt of the impacts.
“I was just cycling down the road and this big bird slapped me on the back of the head,” said James.
“It was massive. I didn’t expect it to be honest. It used my helmet as a landing spot and ripped into it.
“Then I shouted at it and thankfully it flew off, although its wing hit me on the shoulder as it did.”
Dromore man Steven was warned off twice in successive mornings - a rather abrupt wake-up call on the way to work.
“On the first morning, I was hit at the top of the rise after turning onto the Drumneath Road off the Castlewellan Road,” he said.
“The next morning I was cycling along the Drumneath Road before the Quarry Road junction when I received a blow to the head again.
“I’ve been chased by dogs and abused by motorists but I never thought I’d be attacked by a bird.”
To avoid a repeat of the incidents, Eimear Rooney from the NI Raptor Study Group, who has been keeping a watch on this particular bird since 2010, has advised cyclists and walkers to stay away from the area for the next fortnight.
“This pair has nested quite late and so the chicks have just hatched,” she explained.
“”At the minute, the female is staying near the nest to protect the chicks but that will stop after the next two weeks. The chicks will be old enough to stay on their own and the mother will be away hunting.”
James Curry echoed those warnings, claiming the buzzard could cause serious injury.
“If I wasn’t wearing a helmet, I could have been badly hurt,” he said. “The bird is huge. It has quite a small body but its wings are as big as your arms and its beak is massive.”
Eimear also pleaded with locals not to not to take matters into their own hands but instead contact the relevant authorities if any more problems arise.
She said: “It’s illegal to disturb birds of prey during the nesting season. The birds are protected under the Wildlife Order.
“If people have any concerns, the best thing to do is to contact the NI Environment Agency’s Wildlife Licensing Team. If any animal is causing havoc, they can take steps to deal with the situation.”
You can contact NIEA’s Wildlife Management and Licensing department on 028 9056 9605.