Allot to do about birdwatching
Last modified: 27 January 2012
The Belfast Hills are a haven for wildlife. From ravens to curlews, the area is packed with some of the most iconic birds on this island; which is why the RSPB is holding its main Big Garden Bird Watch event there this year, today (27.01.2012).
The wildlife conservation charity is teaming up with Colin Neighbourhood Partnership and Groundwork Northern Ireland this year to find out what birds frequent the allotments near the Colin Glen nature reserve. The allotments are relatively new and still establishing themselves, which, according to Stephanie Sim, RSPB, makes it quite exciting.
“I have surveyed birds up in farms around here and I’ve seen snipe, curlew and buzzards. This however, is a very different survey of course, and it would be fascinating to see if the bird population does change through the life of this allotment,” she said.
The Big Garden Bird Watch takes place annually. It consists of looking at birds in your garden, or any park, for an hour and then reporting the results back to the RSPB. This year its taking place on the 28 – 29 January. It can all be done online, on www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch, or you can call the RSPB on 02890419547 for a form.
“I have known about the Big Garden Bird Watch for years,” said Mick McEvoy, Groundwork NI, Community Gardening Officer, “and when we got the allotments, it seemed to make perfect sense to find out what kind of wildlife uses the site.
“Allotments are not only useful social places for people, but birds as well. They also tend to use less pesticide and other artificial additives, which makes them more wildlife friendly. We are expecting to see all the usual garden birds, such as finches and sparrows, but we may well spot the occasional kestrel or buzzard. That would be really exciting.”
Colin Glen Community Gardens and Allotments are a partnership between the Colin Neighbourhood Partnership and Groundwork Northern Ireland’s Sharing Our Space programme funded through the EU’s Peace III programme under priority 2: Contributing to a Shared Society, Theme 1 creating Shared Public Spaces.
“We’re very excited to discover the range of bird life that is visiting the community gardens and allotments,” said Michael George an allotment holder from the Colin Neighbourhood Partnership. “Wildlife and biodiversity will be a big part of gardens and we really enjoy looking after the birds here.”
Last year, the number one bird in Northern Ireland was the starling, followed closely by the house sparrow. Despite being extremely common place, both birds are on the Amber List, indicating that they are in trouble.
“People often think of these birds as extremely common, but the truth is that there used to be far more of them. Surveys like the Big Garden Bird Watch enable us to keep a close eye on the figures and spot any worrying trends,” said Stephanie.
However the news is not all bad.
“Goldfinches have gone up dramatically,” said Stephanie. “They used to never figure in the top 15 as recently as eight years ago, and now they are in the top ten, if not top five in every county and across Northern Ireland. They are actually a good news story – it shows that with a bit of TLC, nature can and will recover.”
To take part in the Big Garden Bird Watch go to www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch or call 02890419547 for a form.
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