Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

Bird strike fears over Belfast park’s plan to restrict geese

Plans to prevent geese in Belfast’s Victoria Park from climbing onto the islands where they breed could increase the chances of aircraft bird strikes, it has been claimed.

Belfast City Council’s parks and leisure committee has agreed to a plan to put up a low-level fence round the edge of the lake to make the park less attractive to geese.

The plan is aimed at reducing the chances of bird strikes on planes that fly overhead from neighbouring George Best Belfast City Airport and reducing the problems of bird droppings within the park.

But park user John Collins said he was concerned that the fence could in fact increase the chances of bird strikes.

“Rather than allow the geese to climb on to the islands or the areas around the lake, the new fence will only encourage them to fly up in the air, increasing the risk to aircraft,” he said.

“The geese will continue to breed on the islands whether the fence is there or not. This will result in their young being prevented from gaining access to the water to feed which will result in starvation.

“Then we have the other wildfowl that nest on these islands. How will their young ones gain access to the water to feed? Again this will result in starvation.”

Mr Collins said the geese rarely fly about as it is and tend to “patter about” within the park.

“They’re very well fed — there is no need for them to get up and fly about,” he said.

Belfast City Council’s conservation officer Robert Scott said that the committee has agreed to the plan — proposed by ecological consultants employed by the airport — but nothing can be done without the agreement of Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

“Victoria Park is partly an Area of Special Scientific Interest so we can’t do anything that impacts on it without their consent. We’re meeting with them next week,” he said.

“The fence will be 2-3 strands of horizontal wire spaced about 2-3ft high. Any bird smaller than a goose will be able to walk under it freely.

“The idea is that this will deter geese. In theory they could fly over it but they need a certain distance to get airborne. There are a lot of trees on the island and between the trees and the fence this will not give them sufficient flightlines to get onto the island.

“There is a public safety issue in terms of aircraft and threat of possible airstrikes — no-one wants to see a plane brought down as part of a bird strike.

“The other issue is the cleanliness of the park — the sheer numbers of geese are creating problems with droppings on the car park. There’s general agreement that we need to manage numbers of geese. We don’t want to get rid of all of them as they are one of the main attractions of the park, but we need to take steps to manage numbers.

“We would not want to do anything that causes harm to the geese themselves or any other wildlife in the park. Anything we do will be monitored very closely.”

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