Curlew Comeback In County Antrim

Under-threat curlews make a comeback in County Antrim

Juvenile Curlew - Neal Warnock

FOR the first time in 20 years, curlew chicks have fledged at a County Antrim farm.

Last year a pair of curlews attempted to breed at Greenmount Hill Farm in Glenwherry for the first time since 2005 - only to fail to hatch young.

But this summer RSPB NI’s Conservation Advisor Neal Warnock was delighted to see that two pairs arrived back at the farm and he can confirm that one of the pairs has successfully fledged three young.

It is believed that these are the first curlews to fledge from the site since the 1990s. The happy news is a real boost considering that over the past two decades curlew numbers across the UK have almost halved. In Northern Ireland we have lost more than 80% of the curlew population since 1987.

Since 2009, RSPB NI, the Irish Grouse Conservation Trust (IGCT), the College of Agriculture, Food & Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) and other partners have been working as part of the Glenwherry Hill Regeneration Project (GHRP) on an integrated management approach in the area in a bid to ‘give nature a home in Glenwherry’.

“When news broke that one of the pairs had hatched three young, their progress became the talk of the community,” said RSPB NI’s Neal Warnock. “It was a very long six-week wait watching them grow until they finally stretched their wings and departed. Curlews only rarely fledge three young, so this was terrific news for all involved in the project and should help see them become established on the farm.”

Graeme Campbell, CAFRE’s GHRP Project Manager, added, “We are delighted with this year’s curlew success and that the work to attract breeding waders over the last six years has also resulted in increasing numbers of snipe breeding on the farm.”

Farmers and landowners have a crucial part to play in helping to halt and reverse the decline of curlews. The Glenwherry Hill Regeneration Project has undertaken a string of measures to make the area attractive to curlews and to encourage them to return. This has involved habitat management measures including rush cutting and tree removal, as well as predator control carried out by the IGCT.

Joanne Sherwood, Director for RSPB NI, added: “This is such fantastic and heartwarming news. It highlights that this partnership work makes a real difference to the fortunes of threatened species. We see this as a milestone on the way to what we hope will be the recovery of curlews and other breeding waders in Glenwherry.”

Sites across the UK are amongst the most important in the world for breeding European curlews, hosting around a quarter of the global breeding population. Yet their numbers have declined due to factors including a loss of suitable habitat and increased predation.

The Antrim Hills and County Fermanagh are the last remaining hotspots for curlews in Northern Ireland.

In the wider Glenwherry area, there are approximately 45 breeding pairs recorded annually. The area is also home to Lapwings and Snipe.

(left to right) Alex Rodgers (Irish Grouse Conservation Trust), Lewis Davidson and Willie Warwick (CAFRE), Neal Warnock (RSPB NI) and Graeme Campbell (CAFRE) at Greenmount Hill Farm in Glenwherry

Bird News Thursday 17th August

This morning Belfast Lough RSPB reserve had a Ruff, Common Sandpiper, Raven and a Sparrowhawk. (Derek Polley).

A Mediterranean Gull was at Whitehead, see picture below. (Cameron Moore).

Two Little Egrets were feeding at Islandmagee bridge. (Jim McKeown).

A Whooper Swan was on the River Lagan between Lisburn and Hilden. (Ian Enlander).

A Kingfisher was off Kinnegoe hide at Oxford Island (Shane McGarvey).

Thanks to Cameron Moore for the pictures of the Mediterranean Gull and the Common Tern and to Ian Enlander for the pictures of the Whooper Swan and the Kingfisher.

Bird News Wednesday 16th August

A Balearic Shearwater and 2 Storm Petrels were seen on a seawatch at St John's Point between 3pm-4.30pm. (Tim Murphy)

A Long-eared owl was seen, flying last night at Millhouse Meadows, Antrim. (Sandy McWilliams)

Ballykelly had a high count of 19 Little Egrets with another Little Egret at the Bann Estuary (Hill Dick/Peter Robinson)

Two Arctic Skuas were seen on Rathlin (Ric Else / Hazel Watson)

Thanks to Wilf Swain for this pic of a Grey Heron:

Bird News Tuesday 15th August

Late news for yesterday and a Green Sandpiper was heard flying over Portrush Golf Club at 1045pm (Colin Guy)

3 Garganey were in the South-west corner of Lough Beg (Jeff Larkin).

A Red Kite was in a field on the Ballykenver Road in Armoy. (Ray Hamilton).

14 Little Egrets were at Ballycarry Bridge in Larne Lough. (Cameron Moore).

An adult Mediterranean Gull was at Portballintrae. (Colin Guy).

Thanks to Cameron Moore for the picture of the Greenshank and to Wilf Swain for the picture of the Mistle Thrush.


Bird News Monday 14th August.

RSPB Belfast Harbour Reserve had 1 Ruff, 3 Common Sandpipers, c 60 Dunlin. Kinnegar Pond had 1 Greenshank and 3 summer plumage Turnstone (Tom Ennis)

Bird News Sunday 13th August

A probable adult American Golden Plover was with 5 Golden Plover at Myroe before been flushed by a Peregrine. (Stuart McKee / Garry Armstrong)

A Greenland White-fronted Goose (with a damaged wing) and a Whimbrel were at the Roe Estuary (Garry Armstrong)

A high count of over 20 Little Egret were at Ballykelly (Philip West)

Two Arctic Skua were at Burial Island, Co Down (Richard Weyl)

Victoria Park, Sydenham had a Greenshank and 60 Black-tailed Godwits (Ian Enlander) 

14 Greenshank, 3 Little Egret and 145 Mergansers were at Glynn (Gerard McGeehan / Shirley Dunlop)

Thanks to Michael Latham for this picture of a Crossbill taken at Capanagh, Co Antrim. Note the bird has two faint wing bars:

Bird News Saturday 12th August

An Osprey was at Lough Beg this evening (Gary Cunningham)

2 Dippers were at Terryhoogan Locks, Newry Canal, this evening (Fulton & Janet Somerville)

Thanks to Christine Beggs for the pic of the Turnstone from Whitehead and Jason Bain for the male Hen Harrier from Co Antrim:

Turnstone, Christine Beggs:

 Hen Harrier, Jason Bain:

Bird News Friday 11th August

2 Green Sandpipers were in a pool beside the Newry Canal about 3 miles south of Poyntzpass. (Joe Devlin).

A Spotted Flycatcher was in the wood adjacent to Knockmore Road in Lisburn this evening. (Kevin Kirkham-Brown).

Thanks to Thomas Campbell for the picture of the Buzzard, to Christine Beggs for the picture of the Common Terns, to Wilf Swain for the picture of the Goldfinch and to Hill Dick for the picture of a leucistic Dunlin.



Bird News Thursday 10th August

Late news for yesterday was that a seawatch from Torr Head in the afternoon produced 1500+Kittiwakes and 800 + Manx Shearwaters (Colin Guy)

Also yesterday a Red Kite was seen not far from the Causeway Coast, in north Antrim. (Dick Glasgow)

Barn Owls have been seen recently at Waterloo Road, Lisburn and Magheradartin Road, Hillsborough (Garry Wilkinson \ William Martin)

A Peregrine was at RSPB WoW today (Stephen Maxwell)

Thanks to Dick for this pic of the Red Kite:

A6 Judicial Review

Due to a bereavement the A6 Lough Beg - Heaney Country Judicial Review case has been re-listed for 10:30 on Tuesday 15 August in the Court of Appeal, Chichester St, Belfast. This case is important for nature conservation in Northern Ireland where some of Europe's most important bird areas (IBA) have been under siege for decades. The case aims to ensure that EU Nature Laws which came into force 25 years ago are properly applied and enforced. The legal challenge was launched when the Dept. for Infrastructure announced on 17 August 2016 that construction was due to begin on a controversial off-line dual carriageway that would sever the grazing meadows of the largest population of Whooper Swans in Ireland (WWT, RSPB et al) from the principal swan roost in the Lough Neagh basin. It is held this will cause irreparable harm to the integrity of the SPA, particularly Lough Beg, where RSPB recently acquired a new reserve.  Under the terms of the Birds and Habitats Directives EU Member States have an obligation to protect wetlands, particularly wetlands of international importance such as Lough Beg and Strangford Lough, another IBA threatened with unsustainable development. Conservationists need to be vigilant in making full use of these Directives and resist the temptation to settle for an offer of mitigation, or compensation, or neither. There is a public gallery in the court room and any support would be welcome. 
Chris Murphy

Bird News Wednesday 9th August

Late news for yesterday was that a Turtle Dove was seen at New Road, Donaghadee. This could be the same bird seen in the area earlier in the summer (Billy Miskelly)

On Lough Neagh an Osprey was just north of Ballyronan (Shane McGarvey)

Little Egrets seem to have had another successful breeding season. 40+ were at Dundrum Bay yesterday (Fulton Somerville) and 26 were in Killough Harbour this morning - where the previous highest count was 16 (Chris Murphy)

Two Crossbills were in Kinramer Wood, Rathlin this morning. (Ric Else / Hazel Watson)

The Bann Estuary was still holding the Spotted Redshank now in quite grey plumage; also present: 1 Greenshank, 1 Ruff, 60 Dunlin one of which was a "leucistic" bird, 6 Sanderling, 25 Black-tailed Godwits, 12 Bar-tailed Godwits, 50 Sandwich Tern, 1 Little Egret and 1 Peregrine. (Hill Dick)

Thanks to Jason and Jeff for our pics this evening. You can see more local bird pics at:

Cormorants, Jeff Silvers:

 Wheatear, Jason Bain:

Bird News Tuesday 8th August

Dundrum Inner Bay north had 40+ Little Egrets at the high tide roost at the north of the bay and 14 Greenshanks. Dundrum Inner Bay south had 2 Whimbrel, 20+ Dunlin changing from summer plumage and 6 Turnstone in summer plumage. (Fulton Somerville).

Several Spotted Flycatchers were at Mount Stewart. (Jonny Andrews).

Thanks to Thomas Campbell for the picture of the Tree Sparrow, to Jonny Andrews for the picture of the Spotted Flycatcher and to Fulton Somerville for the picture of the Whimbrel.

Bird News Monday 7th August

Yesterday, an immature Marsh Harrier flew east over Collin Road, Ballyclare at 2pm (Thom Shannon)

The Pectoral Sandpiper was still on the spit at Mullagh, Lough Beg this evening. A juvenile Hen Harrier was also in the area. (David Steele)

Rathlin Island was quiet but an immature Arctic Skua was the highlight from a seawatch at Rue Point this morning. Also a good passage of Manxies looked promising. Also two Black-tailed Godwits (Ric Else and Hazel Watson)

The adult Med Gull was still at East Strand Car Park, Portrush (Colin Guy)

As always, many thanks to all contributors for sharing news on rare and scarce birds.

Thanks to Wilf Swainfor this ic of two Little Egrets:


Bird News Sunday 6th August

An adult Pectoral Sandpiper Was on the spit at Mullagh, Lough Beg (David Steele)

A Ruff and 4 Knot were at RSPB WoW Reserve. 4 Whimbrel were at Glynn (Garry Armstrong)

Three Greenshank, a Common Sandpiper and five Little Egrets were on the Comber River today (Gerard McGeehan \ Shirley Dunlop)

Thanks to Thomas and Harry for the raptor pics below:

Red Kite, Rathfriland, Thomas Campbell:

Peregrine, Scrabo, Harry Byron: