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The West Light Seabird Centre on Rathlin Island, home to Northern Ireland's largest seabird colony, has reopened.
It is not possible to allow access to the lighthouse yet, as building work has been delayed. But visitors can still access the viewing platform to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the thousands of seabirds that are starting to gather on the cliffs, beginning a busy season of breeding.
Access to the lighthouse will be available soon, when we will be introducing a small entry fee for non-members. Entry will remain free for RSPB members.
Image: Andy Hay
Rathlin Island, lying off Antrim's Causeway Coast, has a rare, untamed beauty. The wildlife is evident before you step ashore – the ferry crossing presents many opportunities to spot auks, gannets and gulls with even a chance of porpoises or dolphins. Seals and eider ducks laze around the harbour at most times of the year. On the journey from the harbour to the West Light Seabird Centre, whether travelling by minibus, bicycle or foot, look out for wheatears, peregrines, stonechats, skylarks and lapwings. Our work to create ideal habitat for choughs has paid off, and they have now returned to breed after a 20-year absence. At the Seabird Centre, get close up views of Northern Ireland's biggest seabird colony with puffins and other seabirds jostling for space as they congregate in their thousands to breed from May to July. Staff are there to provide helpful assistance, binoculars and telescopes. Part of the Commissioners of Irish Lights' (CIL) Great Lighthouses of Ireland trail, visitors can (from June 2015) explore the lighthouse and learn about its history and the people that lived and worked there.At the southernmost tip of the island, Roonivoolin is important for wildlife, especially choughs which feed here, but lapwings, corncrakes, snipe and Irish hares all benefit from targeted management of this land. Over the past 40 years, the fortunes of these species in Northern Ireland have fared badly as changes to farming practices resulted in drastic declines. Lapwing numbers declined by more than 60 per cent. Corncrakes have disappeared and only one pair of choughs remain. Choughs were extinct in Northern Ireland for nearly 10 years and bred again on Rathlin Island in 2007 after a 19-year absence.Financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, NI Environment Agency and RSPB members has allowed purchase of this land for wildlife conservation and the provision of a public walking trail. Access to the Roonivoolin walk has been granted by kind permission of local landowners.
10 am to 5 pm daily from March until September.
As a charity, we're reliant on donations from members and supporters to help run this fantastic site, which is why we will be introducing a small entry charge for non-RSPB members at the West Light Seabird Centre when it reopens fully in June 2015.
If you are already an RSPB member and have lost your card, email us or call 01767 693680 to get a replacement card sent to you.
For non-members, the charge is £3 for adults and £1.50 for children and other concessions.
Children's binoculars are available and there is child-friendly assisted telescope viewing.
Access for dogs under control and on a lead is permitted.