RSPB NI has revealed the results of its record-breaking curlew breeding season in Northern Ireland, which saw an increase in the number of curlew chicks successfully fledging.

The long-term decline in curlew numbers on the island of Ireland has worried conservationists and bird-lovers alike for many years – but now, the latest breeding season in the Glenwherry area of the Antrim Plateau has sparked real hope for a recovery of its numbers in Northern Ireland – and here in County Fermanagh, RSPB NI also recorded further encouraging statistics.

Their reserve at Lower Lough Erne supports critical populations of breeding waders, recording some of the highest breeding densities anywhere in the UK.

This year saw the Lower Lough Erne team monitor a total of 36 pairs of curlews across 200 hectares of lowland wet grassland. A phenomenal 69 fledged curlew chicks were recorded in Glenwherry this season, building on last year’s 28 chicks, itself a record.

A further 11 chicks, at least, fledged from RSPB NI’s Lower Lough Erne Reserve; so in total at least 80 curlew chicks in Northern Ireland were helped by conservation practices being carried out by farmers, landowners, and the charity on working farmland.

These results mark a huge environmental success considering that it is estimated that there are less than 200 pairs of this iconic species left in Northern Ireland.

Increasing and maintaining breeding success is vital to the restoration of the curlew population to a healthy state.

Amy Burns, Estate Manager for RSPB NI on Lower Lough Erne Islands Reserve, said: “Monitoring of the islands is logistically challenging due to nest densities and the complexity of monitoring across the many islands of the reserve, making accurate counts of fledglings difficult here.

“A total of 23 pairs of curlew were recorded hatching young this season in this area, with 18 nests located, 17 of which successfully hatched full clutches.

“We utilise remote camera technology to give us a unique glimpse into the life of curlews on the islands.

“We’ve been able to capture images and videos of young chicks, adults and fledglings as well as thousands of selfies of curious highland cows!”

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