BEST BREEDING SEASON FOR YEARS
The familiar haunting call of the Curlew is evocative of a healthy, productive countryside but this once common resident of our meadows and uplands has suffered a massive decline in recent years. Now our largest wading bird, with the trademark-curved beak is making a comeback in the wonderful wilds of Lower Lough Erne Islands Reserve! The RSPB has worked hard to create the right conditions on the islands for the benefit of these beautiful birds and this area of Fermanagh is recognised as one of the best wet grassland sites in Northern Ireland for breeding waders.
This success is the direct result of considerable investment and partnership working in the area. The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) through the Natural Heritage Grants Programme has supported the work on the islands of Lower Lough Erne for many years. Since 2011, significant additional funding has been received to deliver two major restoration projects within the Lough Erne Islands. Funding from SWARD via the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme, and from Fermanagh District Council has helped us to undertake scrub clearance, install predator-proof fences and develop interpretation for visitors at Lusty More and White Island. The Halting Environmental Loss Project (HELP) funded scrub removal on a number of islands including Horse, Ferny and White Island South. HELP is delivered with funds from the European Regional Development Fund via the INTERREG IVA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.
RSPB Area Manager for Fermanagh Reserves, Brad Robson said “ The HELP project has already been in place for almost two years and will run until the end of 2014. Both projects are part of the RSPB’s vision to halt biodiversity loss and to save nature. Local contractors have been employed to deliver much of the habitat management elements of the projects and there has been considerable help from local landowners and farmers”.
This year the RSPB recorded an increase in the wader population to 192 breeding pairs. This included the threatened Curlew, which signifies an important boost to the number of these distinctive birds on the island of Ireland. Birdwatch Ireland has estimated that there are only 200 pairs of Curlew left in the Republic; this year there were 39 pairs on the reserve, of which 26 pairs successfully hatched young. This is the highest total since 2006 and the first year that the population has increased since 2005, firmly establishing that these Fermanagh birds are vital to the population as a whole.
Other waders also recorded an increase, including; Lapwing, which showed the highest breeding total in twenty years; Redshank which reached their highest total ever recorded, Snipe and Dunlin.
Research suggests that the main causes of the decline in the rest of Ireland and the UK have been changes in land management practices and issues about the impact of predation. Non-breeding birds can be seen on other RSPB reserves such as Belfast Harbour and Lough Foyle , many will have arrived from northern Scotland and Europe to spend the winter months on our shores. Our natural environment is an amazing asset and through taking action on crucial issues both worldwide and more locally the RSPB works to ensure these amazing and special places and species are protected for future generations.
For more information, please contact:
Brad Robson , Fermanagh Area Manager
RSPB Fermanagh Reserves.