Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Birdwatchers have winter wildlife treat on doorstep

Mother Nature may be dozing off this November but a host of talks mean birdwatchers - and novices - will still be able to get their wildlife fix.

RSPB will be running a series of bird identification classes at Belfast Harbour Reserve throughout the month, while bird expert Aidan Crean will explain the sights and sounds of the birds that make their home in the Belfast Hills in the free annual Birds Beyond the Skyline talk run by the Belfast Hills Partnership.

Anthony McGeehan, RSPB warden on the Belfast Harbour Reserve, will give a talk on the second Tuesday of each month at 7.30pm, starting on November 13. These will cover garden birds, ducks, geese, seabirds and others, as well as including bird calls and songs, and a number of field trips will also take place.

" These trips provide a fantastic opportunity for the novice to gain an insight into the many different birds which surround us, or for the initiated to brush up on their bird identification skills," he said.

"Either way, the RSPB has decided to give people an opportunity to visit a wildlife reserve on their very doorsteps and get acquainted with all manner of birds and wildlife."

The cost of taking part in the course will be an RSPB membership. If you are already a member, then sign up a friend and come along. Places are limited, so contact Janice Ritchie for further details on 02890 491547.

Meanwhile, Aidan Crean's talk is open to beginners and experienced birdwatchers alike and will focus on the heather, bogs, wildflower meadows, quarries and wooded valleys that provide a refuge for a wide range of birds in the Belfast Hills. A winter walk in the hills can reward even a casual observer with sightings of woodcock, snipe and golden plover, he said.

"Red grouse and snow buntings living in the hills are generally not found anywhere else in Belfast and 11 birds of prey including owls, buzzards, kestrels and peregrine falcons have been recorded in the Belfast Hills," he said.

"The area is great for birds to make their homes and for those passing through now in autumn and early next spring. It is vital that we look after the hills to ensure they continue to be a haven for these special creatures."

Belfast Hills Partnership manager, Dr Jim Bradley, said it was great to welcome the local expert back for the event this year.

"Work being carried out within the Belfast Hills to benefit birds includes habitat creation, survey work and sensitive land management and people can learn about these efforts," he said.

"Aidan has not just a beautiful set of images of the range of birds in the hills, but a fantastic knowledge of them as well. There shouldn't be too many questions unanswered on the night."

Birds Beyond the Skyline takes place at the Ballymac Hotel on the Rock Road, Lisburn on Tuesday November 6, from 7.30 to 9pm. Admission is free and refreshments will be provided. Contact the Belfast Hills Partnership for further information visit www.belfasthills.org

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