Some good news!
The West Light Seabird Centre on Rathlin Island, home to Northern Ireland’s largest seabird colony, is reopening this coming bank holiday weekend (Saturday 23 May)!
This little guy is very excited
The bad news...
Construction has been delayed, so we are unable to allow visitors access to the lighthouse itself just yet, but you can still access the viewing platform in order to enjoy the sight, sound and smell of the thousands of seabirds that are starting to gather on the cliffs, beginning a busy season of breeding. There is a new team at Rathlin, who will on hand to give a warm welcome and whatever help you might need!
The West Light Seabird Centre is undergoing major refurbishments as part of the Commissioners of Irish Lights’ “Great Lighthouses of Ireland” project, which will allow visitors to explore the lighthouse, learning about the history of the building, as well as enjoying the wildlife that makes its home nearby. The works are at their final stages, but unfortunately it’s not possible to open the lighthouse itself until later in June. However, together with CIL, we wanted to grant visitors access to the site as early as we could.
When the lighthouse opens in June, we will be charging a small entry fee (although RSPB members will not be charged), but until then, admission remains free.
The Seabird Centre will be open from 10am each day until 5pm. The West Light can be reached by a private bus from the harbour on Rathlin Island. For information on how to get to Rathlin Island, visit rathlincommunity.org/travel.
We're very grateful for your patience and understanding while these refurbishment works have been ongoing.
With the breeding season in full swing, a team of dedicated volunteer surveyors have been out and about in east County Down as part of RSPB NI’s Farming Together with Nature project.
The project, now in its third year, focuses specifically on this area of Northern Ireland as it’s been identified as a ‘hotspot’ for six threatened species – yellowhammers, linnets, reed buntings, tree sparrows, skylarks and lapwings.
This year, 25 farmers have granted us access to their land to find out which birds and wildlife are making their homes there. Each area of farmland will be surveyed four times between April and July – meaning quite a few early mornings for Conservation Advisor Philip Carson and his band of volunteers!
Once all the data has been collected, farmers will then be able to avail of tailored advice to help make their land even more beneficial for nature. Even making one small change, like planting wild bird cover or leaving wet areas for lapwing chicks to forage for food can make a big difference.
So far this year Philip has visited three of the participating farms and was amazed at the wealth of wildlife he saw.
He said there was farm in particular where ‘yellowhammers were popping out of the hedge every five or 10 metres’ – an amazing thing to see considering these bright and beautiful little birds are now red-listed in Ireland.
If you’d like to see and hear more about this project, why not join Philip on a Farm Walk on Sunday, 14 June? You’ll have the opportunity to explore land between Strangford and Downpatrick which is rich in all sorts of wonderful wildlife.
For more information or to reserve your place, call 028 9049 1547 or email email@example.com.
The Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime in Northern Ireland, which RSPB NI is part of, has issued a reminder about the importance of protecting bats as they wake from their long winter hibernation.
The common pipistrelle is the most common bat in Northern Ireland, and is the smallest of the eight bat species found here. They vary between 35 and 45mm in length and three to six grams in weight – less than a 10p coin!
Common Pipistrelle. Credit Hugh Clark Bat Conservation Trust.
Although bats mate in the autumn, females do not become pregnant until they waken out of hibernation, so baby bats (also known as pups) are born mid-summer when there are plenty of insects for them to eat.
However with fewer trees available for female bats to use for nursery roosts, these expectant mothers can sometimes decide people’s homes are a safe place to have their pups.
Bats usually prefer to be outside, under the eaves, but can also sometimes find their way into attics. Not all bats within the roost have pups, but those who do only give birth to one pup per year.
The bats do not bring nesting material or chew wires, they simply hang up and have their baby. They do not even bring food into the roost to feed the babies, as the pups are fed on mother’s milk.
As soon as the pups are weaned they are straight outside on the wing hunting with their mothers.
Bats have a beneficial impact on the environment, eating insects which attack crops and carry diseases. In fact one tiny pipistrelle can eat 3,500 midges in a single night!
They have a very short window to feed and put on a third of their body weight before they again go into hibernation.
Bats and their roosts are protected by the law and it’s an offence to disturb, capture, injure or kill a bat, as well as damage a roost even if it’s not in use.
For more information visit the Northern Ireland Bat Group website - www.bats-ni.org.uk.