Boost for endangered species as tern chicks hatch on Antrim coast island
Two of the rarest seabird chicks in Europe have just been born on a restored island in Larne Lough as an RSPB project looks to bring the species back from the brink of extinction.
The critically endangered roseate terns have been in near-terminal decline since the late 1980s.
But now man-made Blue Circle Island, part of the RSPB's Larne Lough reserve, is one of the most important sites on the island of Ireland for breeding terns.
After suffering flooding and erosion, the island has been restored in a £391,000 project, with costs partially covered by the EU-funded Roseate Tern LIFE Recovery Project and additional match funding from Tarmac and the RSPB.
Sea defences on the island had collapsed and up to one-third of it had eroded through flooding.
Ahead of the 2019 breeding season, RSPB-led works shored up the island and extended the nesting area, making it a prime site for a roseate tern colony.
While there were between 20 and 35 breeding pairs in Larne Lough between 1985 and 1989, just one pair has been recorded in recent years.
The good news is that two roseate tern chicks have hatched, according to a survey last week by RSPB NI tern conservation officer Monika Wojcieszek.
"It's fantastic that we have two roseate chicks on Blue Circle and we're hopeful that we can see their numbers increase year on year," said Monika.
"This project was a major piece of conservation work and it was vital to safeguard this tern colony."