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Beautiful Belfast Harbour

Last modified: 06 March 2013

Aerial view of RSPB Belfast Lough nature reserve

Image: David Wootton

The RSPB’s fantastic Belfast Harbour Reserve is a wildlife haven for some of our most threatened species, an oasis of calm in the urban environment, located just 10 minutes from the centre of Belfast.   From the observation room visitors are treated to wildlife spectacles at very close quarters whilst relaxing in the bright, cosy room with friendly, knowledgeable staff. 

 RSPB NI’s Reserve Manager, Gregory Woulahan, ensures that the lagoon is sensitively managed and remains a special and unique place for native and visiting wildlife to flourish.   A team of experienced (and hardy!) volunteers and warden, Chris Sturgeon, help to create the ideal conditions for huge numbers of birds throughout the year.  Gregory said, ‘habitat management on the reserve is carefully modified depending on the season so that it can cater to the many different species throughout the year.  Right now we are preparing plans for the tern islands so they will be ready for the return of this summer migrant.’

 Our wildlife is emerging from the chilly winter this month to be at its loudest and most flamboyant. Many male songbirds – robins, blackbirds and song thrushes among them - are at their most colourful right now and are competing to sing the loudest and longest, all in an effort to attract a mate for the start of the breeding season.  These birds can be seen (and heard!) from the observation room and their beautiful bright plumage can be admired at close range.  The Harbour is best known for its shore birds and the reserve is preparing to welcome back flocks of black-tailed godwits (en route further north) arctic and common terns and to support the breeding moorhens, coots and mallards.  The acrobatic swallows, house martins and swifts will also be arriving back soon.

 Gregory said: “It’s a fever of activity in our gardens, parks and reserves at the moment, we’ve already received reports of frogspawn in some garden ponds and birds in their summer plumage; a few warm days will bring more colourful flashes of bees and butterflies zipping through the air, the first of the daffodils and the croaking of common frogs.  This chorus of singing, buzzing and croaking and bright bold colour is almost a sensory overload, but of course there’s real purpose behind it; it’s all geared towards new life.”

Gregory continues; “Spring is a fascinating time to be outdoors experiencing these often shy creatures dancing and singing for all they’re worth, other species like hedgehogs, and even some bat species are coming out of hibernation right now too.”

 Come and visit RSPB’s Belfast Harbour Reserve and you'll be able to see a huge variety of busy birds and bright plantlife, at extremely close quarters. Staff and volunteers are happy to answer any questions, assist with using the binoculars and telescopes and help with identification. Our next event at the reserve is a spring themed walk on 30th March, check our Facebook page (RSPB Northern Ireland) or email for more information or to book a place.


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