LOUGH Erne has long been one of the last refuges for the embattled curlew in Ireland, north or south, and it is continuing to play its part in helping reverse the rapid decline of this iconic little bird.
The RSPB NI announced this week that 2022 had been a record-breaking curlew breeding season, which it said had “sparked real hope for a recovery” of the curlew, which is famous for its distinctive call.
The curlew has been in long-term decline across Ireland, worrying conservationists and bird-lovers alike for many years, however a spokeswoman for the RSPB said work taking place in both Glenwherrry in Antrim and on Lough Erne was helping restore its population numbers in the North.
At least 11 chicks fledged on the RSPB’s Lower Lough Erne reserve last year, which the charity said was “encouraging.” This comes on the back of 69 fledged chicks at Glenwherry, bringing the total number of chicks born in the North last year to 80.
“These results mark a huge environmental success when you consider that it’s estimated that there are less than 200 pairs of this iconic species left in Northern Ireland. Increasing and maintaining breeding success is vital to the restoration of the curlew population to a healthy state,” said an RSPB spokeswoman.
They added “didn’t happen by accident” and were down to a combination of tireless habitat management by local landowners and farmers, supported by the RSPB, and a good working relationship between the farmers and the charity.
Noting the Lough Erne reserve supported various critical population of breeding wader birds – recording some of the highest breeding densities anywhere in the UK – RSPB estate manager of Lower Lough Erne, Amy Burns, said the lough’s huge size made monitoring its islands “logistically challenging” compared to the Antrim reserve, making it difficult to give an accurate count of the number of chicks.
“A total of 23 pairs of curlew were recorded hatching young this season in this area, with 18 nests located, 17 of which successfully hatched full clutches,” said the Fermanagh woman.
“We had an unbelievable four nests synchronously hatching on one island on the same day in May. We utilise remote camera technology to give us a unique glimpse into the life of curlew on the islands.
“We’ve been able to capture images and videos of young chicks, adults and fledglings as well as thousands of selfies of curious highland cows.”
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