After nearly half a century of decline in Northern Ireland, lapwings have re-established themselves at an RSPB reserve.
The rare birds plummeted in Northern Ireland by 70% over the last 45 years due to changes in farming, but grant aid helped five pairs to successfully raise young on Portmore Lough this summer.
The RSPB have spent 12 years trying to get Portmore Lough back into a condition that would encourage lapwings to breed and their charges have met with success over the last three years.
Portmore Lough RSPB warden John Scovell said: “In the past three years breeding lapwing have responded and numbers have increased, but breeding success has been low. This year we had great breeding success with every pair successfully rearing two young.
“With the help of additional funding, we were able to complete large projects across a greater area and bring more of the meadows into the condition that breeding lapwing prefer. We are hoping more birds come back and do the same next year.”
With their flamboyant crest, poetic flight and distinctive call, lapwings or ‘pee-wits’ are the charismatic bird of farmland.
Changes to farming practices altered their habitat so drastically that they now only breed in very few places across Northern Ireland. Portmore Lough is now one.
This year’s success was made possible in part through habitat management supported by the Alpha Programme who provided £48,000 funding towards work including meadow mowing, scrub removal and predator fencing.
The Alpha Programme is managed by Groundwork NI and uses landfill tax credits from Alpha Resource Management’s operations at Mullaghglass landfill site to support community amenity and biodiversity projects in the Belfast and Greater Lisburn areas.
“The Alpha Programme has always championed the importance of biodiversity. It is an extremely satisfying feeling when we know that the money has been so effective,” Lyle Andrews, Alpha Resources Management and Steering Group member, said.
Portmore Lough is used by the local community and visitors from further a field as the ideal place to ‘get away from it all’. To visit it for yourself go to www.rspb.org.uk/reserves or call the RSPB on 02890491547 for directions.