The woods, meadows, wetlands, parks and farms along the Lagan are alive with wildlife.
The incredible variety includes many of the most endangered birds in the UK and Ireland. We're working to protect these birds and other wildlife to prevent further declines and make the Park a safe place for them to feed and breed.
Read more about our project
Swifts, done by Cat Lee Marr, artist and students of Botanic Primary School
Forget the World Cup – this is the result we’ve been hoping for!
Proving once again that if you put out the welcome mat, be it feeders, tasty seeds, nest boxes or wildlife friendly shrubs…. the birds definitely come.
For the last week or so, swifts have been spotted checking out the nest boxes installed at the RSPB headquarters in Belvoir Park. And hopes are high that the birds will move in and start a family next spring.
Of course the RSPB team have been pulling out all the stops to attract the swifts and create the perfect home: specially designed nest boxes under the eaves of just the sort of old building swifts like, free access into the open air, and recorded swift screeches to make these high flyers arriving from afar (they migrate from Africa each spring) feel right at home.
Wanted: noisy new neighbours
July is the time when swifts start scoping out next year’s nest sites before these amazing birds head south in August. They’ll return again next April to breed. But until then swifts spend every moment in the air, eating and sleeping on the wing. Swifts land only to breed. And only then in special nesting places high under the roofs of buildings.
These birds are particular about where they stop, and once they find a place they like, swifts are very loyal. So the RSPB is very exciting that our building has been chosen. We could be hosting a colony for years to come. Of course plans are afoot to install more boxes – as happy birds will spread the word.
Here today, gone in August
Swifts are regularly seen in the Lagan Valley Regional Park and for some time the team have felt there could already be a swift colony in the Park. Or nearby. So any reports of sightings are always welcome.
Swifts are not hard to miss. Their effortless wheeling flight, screaming cry and black crescent shape are unmistakeable. Usually they’re spotted around old buildings in the evenings. (To get an idea, just visit The Crescent Arts Centre around dusk). Time was our urban centres were swift playgrounds on summer nights, but their numbers have declined seriously due to loss of nest sites.
Even better, attract swifts to your place! With the addition of special swift boxes or even swift bricks if you are restoring an old building or building a new place, you can make your house a home for these endangered birds. To find out how to build and erect a swift box, go to (link). can you think of a more rewarding summertime project?
If you see a swift nest, let us know! Contact Nicole, the Lagan Valley Regional Park Bird Conservation officer for the RSPB: Nicole.Robinson@rspb.org.uk
Stop and smell the roses
If you are going to be in Belfast over the holiday period, take a minibreak in the Park! Make the most of the balmy evenings with: July 14 Evening Walk – the blooms are now at their peak at Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, famous for the International Rose Garden. And no time is better to enjoy them than in the evening when the perfume is pure heaven. This walk focuses on some of the less well-known aspects of the grounds and the Parks’ fascinating history.
Meet at Lower Stables car park, Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park at 7.00pm -booking essential 02890 491922
…and finally A BIG THANK YOU FROM THE LAGANSCAPE TEAM Laganscape is delighted to let you know, that as a result of your voting, we have reached the finals of the National Lottery Awards for winning environmental projects. Voting will begin on July 26th and we're hoping that we can rely on your votes to help us win.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of the Lagan Valley Park's success story. Here is how Jackson became part of it.
I chose to volunteer because, having recently retired from a somewhat sedentary career, I wanted to do something completely different, useful, and enjoyable.
Volunteering has done all that, and introduced me to new activities, experiences, and people; not to mention learning a lot about the flora and fauna of the Lagan Valley.
It’s great craic, be it slashing brambles, collecting rubbish, planting trees, making bird boxes, or mulching seeds.
I was born, educated, lived, and worked in the Lagan Valley and so have always been aware of the towing path and its hinterland, but when I go for a walk now and pass a ragwort-free field, or an area clear of undergrowth, I get great pleasure in saying to myself “I did that”.
To anyone thinking of volunteering I can only say, give it a go. It’s only as physical as you want it to be. There’s no hard and fast regime, and you don’t have to do anything you don’t fancy; having said that, you won’t know what you’ll like until you try it.
Behind the scenes Lagan volunteers are making a big difference in the Park. With their help, Laganscape has won kudos as Ireland’s top environmental project. The Regional Park’s Information Officer David Scott tells us:
We value our volunteers
The commitment and dedication of our volunteers significantly contributed to Laganscape winning the 2009 NIEA and Sustainable Ireland’s – Environmental Project of the Year. We have now completed the second phase of this five-year project.
Following last year’s success, our volunteer programme has continued to go from strength to strength. We now have a committed bunch of local people who care passionately about their local area. The wide range of skills and knowledge developed by our ever-growing team is reflected in the diverse projects they’ve completed.
Jo Boylan Volunteer Coordinator for Laganscape says, “Volunteer projects in the Regional Park are ongoing throughout the year and there’s something for everyone. You don’t need to be a specialist. All we ask is for enthusiasm and a willingness to have fun. Our quality training will take care of the rest. So if you enjoy getting your hands dirty, the fresh air, and really want to do something that makes a difference get involved!
We’re committed to giving opportunities to work on meaningful projects that meet the aims of our Laganscape project and benefit partner organisations.”
The range of opportunities covers a variety of interests. Get involved in:
Saturday Conservation Ranger Team Wildlife monitoring Red squirrel surveys Heritage Guiding Wildlife & Heritage photography
Here are some of the things conservation volunteers have been getting up to:
Removing highly invasive Himalayan Balsam helps improve biodiversity; giving native plants and wildlife a better chance to thrive. Our volunteer team targeted three areas along watercourses where the plant grows extensively. They removed the plant by pulling it from the root and leaving to decompose, so the plants cannot flower or regenerate.
Bird and bat box building
Volunteers are helping birds within the Park which are in decline due to loss of habitat and suitable nest sites. So far volunteers have built almost 100 bird boxes, for species such as blue tit, blackbird and spotted flycatcher.
Hedgerow and grass seed collection
Volunteers have collected seeds from different types of hedgerows including hawthorn and blackthorn and also grassland sites. Seeds are stored in hessian bags, and have recently been planted in a heeling-in bed to grow early next year. This sustainable seed collection will be used to strengthen existing hedgerows and improve habitats for wildlife.
Surveys are taking place around the Park to learn which flowers flourish in specific areas. Over the years, we can build a picture of how wildflower meadows change depending on the type of management.
This year volunteers created a pathway to a pond near Belvoir Primary School, moving soil, stone and sand to allow access. A pond-dipping platform was installed: children can now survey the pond to learn about the life it supports.
Hedge and woodland management along the towpath
If you’ve been enjoying the clear pathway and nettle-free trails, thank the volunteers. The main aim of this project is to enhance biodiversity. Volunteers have cut back undergrowth and coppiced some trees so that a greater variety of plants (especially wildflowers) will grow. This project also aims to improve the area for the local community who have given great feedback already.
Volunteers are working extensively, tree thinning and brashing at the Woodland Trust’s site at Belvoir. Removing self-seeded garden tree species is an important element.
Following the success of the ancient acorn project last November the oaks grown from Belvoir’s veteran trees have been planted at sites throughout the Park, and also at McIlroy Park along the greyhound stadium.
Volunteers are compiling an extensive photo collection for use in the Education Resource Pack. (This blog has benefitted too!)
Volunteers are clearing encroaching vegetation at the main education pond at Belvoir; an open body of water is vital for wildlife and for use by local schools.
Whether it’s history, nature, or working with people, our volunteer opportunities are rewarding, fun ways to make friends, develop new interests and fulfil your passion for this special place. Who needs gym membership when you can get fit with a little light balsam bashing? And your contribution will be appreciated every day by the thousands of visitors to the Park.
For more information on volunteering at the Park, visit www.laganvalley.co.uk. Or speak to Jo, our Volunteer Coordinator – Tel: 028 90 491922.