It’s been a mixed breeding season for the birds which make their homes at RSPB Northern Ireland’s Belfast Window on Wildlife (WOW) nature reserve, according to new figures.
This summer the charity carried out surveys across sites it manages in the bustling Belfast Harbour Estate, including the popular Belfast WOW on Airport Road.
The nature reserve is home to species from all over the world and visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the lough and the wildlife from the visitor centre and two purpose-built hides.
Surveys carried out during the summer revealed that lapwing and redshank, wader species which are of high conservation concern on the island of Ireland, were both present on the reserve.
This suggests that the hungry konik ponies, which munch the landscape into ideal habitat for these ground-nesting birds, are doing an excellent job!
More unusual residents included two pairs of grasshopper warblers, as well as two pairs of Mediterranean gulls which both fledged chicks. Mediterranean gulls are usually found around the shores of Greece, Turkey and Ukraine and had never bred in Belfast before.
As well as flocking to see these unusual visitors, local nature lovers were also treated to the sight and sound of common and Arctic terns jostling for space on the man-made rafts on the lagoon. Almost 200 pairs of common and four pairs of Arctic tern were recorded, however this was significantly down on last year’s numbers. Weather, predation and the availability of food at sea meant productivity was poor – an issue which was mirrored at other colonies along the east coast.
Peter Harper, RSPB NI’s Sea Loughs and Islands area manager, commented: “Belfast Lough continues to be a great place for birds from all over the world to make their homes.
“Breeding season is over for another year but the reserve is as busy as ever, as winged wonders from as far away as the Arctic arrive to spend the winter.”
Belfast WOW is open to the public from 10am to 5pm every day except Tuesday. Admission is free for RSPB members or £3 for adults and £1.50 for children. For more information and to plan your visit, head to www.rspb.org.uk/BelfastLough.