Visitors give bird watchers a rare treat at Belfast RSPB reserve
Bird watchers in east Belfast got a special treat at the weekend with the arrival of a pair of extra special visitors to our shores.
Rare to Northern Ireland, the two avocets caused quite a stir when spotted at the RSPB's Belfast Window on Wildlife (WOW) nature reserve.
The birds, which are the symbol of the nature conservation charity, aren't resident in Ireland and had the twitchers flocking to the Belfast Harbour Estate to catch a glimpse.
It's not known where the unusual birds have travelled from, although investigations are underway to trace the coloured rings spotted on the leg of one of the birds.
Chris Sturgeon, warden at Belfast WOW, said they have high hopes the pair may even mate and bring more generations to live here.
"I couldn't believe it when one of my colleagues got in touch with the news. I arrived early this morning and they're still here, with reports they have been seen mating," he said.
"There's no reason why they couldn't breed successfully here.
"The reserve is in great condition and there is ideal feeding habitat for wading birds."
These distinctively-patterned black and white waders have a long up-curved beak, perfect for foraging in the mud for insects, crustaceans and worms.
Chris said this type of bird is an extremely unusual sight in Belfast and excitement levels are high.
"As far as I know, having a pair of avocets mating at the reserve is a first. Everyone is really excited but we're trying not to get carried away."
The avocet is the emblem of the RSPB as its return to England in the 1940s and subsequent increase in numbers is an outstanding example of a conservation success story.
Chris added: "It's always great to see an unusual visitor to our shores but, being the symbol of the RSPB, seeing an avocet here is extra special."
Belfast Window on Wildlife is located at 100 Airport Road West, Belfast Harbour Estate, BT3 9ED.
The reserve is open 10am to 5pm every day except Tuesday. Admission is free for RSPB members or £3 for adults and £1.50 for children.