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Eddie Irvine's race centre boasts gull-winged flying machines

By Linda Stewart

Published 25/03/2016

A herring gull
A herring gull
Eddie Irvine at his track

They aren't the kind of high-living tenant that Fast Eddie usually goes for.

Ex-Formula One driver Eddie Irvine recently put his luxury home near Dublin up for short-term let for a mere £15,300 a month - but he is earning considerably less from a group of 12 squatters at his indoor racing centre in Northern Ireland.

Bird experts who are trying to uncover the secret lives of herring gulls found that more than half the gulls they tracked in an experiment appear to be strangely drawn to the roof of Irvine's racing track in Bangor.

Shane Wolsey of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) caught 20 gulls on the Copeland Islands and fitted them with body harnesses carrying a GPS device powered by a small solar panel.

Only 18 of the birds transmitted back full data on their movements - and 12 of these appeared to be drawn to the star's racing centre, according to a paper published in the Northern Ireland Seabird Report 2015.

Herring gulls are included on the red list, the highest level of conservation concern, as they have declined in Northern Ireland by 96% since the 1960s.

"This is letting us be able to understand better what the gulls are up to and how they behave," Shane said.

"We found individual gulls do their own thing. We found they're quite habitual - they keep going back to the same sites."

Birds from the southern and western side of Big Copeland tended to forage to the west, concentrating in Bangor but also feeding in Belfast docks and Dundonald.

Birds from the eastern side of the island preferred to forage further to the east and south.

"Industrial areas, such as Balloo Industrial Estate in Bangor, were favoured and the birds spent a lot of their time sitting on buildings in the industrial estate," the report said. "For example, of the 18 birds for which we received more than 100 locations, 12 individuals spent time sitting on the roof of Eddie Irvine's indoor racing track." The Seabird Report, published by the NI Seabird Steering Group, charts the fortunes of Northern Ireland's seabirds and shows that kittiwakes, guillemots and razorbills did relatively well last year, while the colony of Arctic terns on the Copeland Islands failed to breed in 2015.

Mr Wolsey said that if Eddie was keen to get involved in finding out more about the herring gulls, any support for the BTO would be gratefully received.

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