Larne Lough is home to all sorts of wonderful wildlife, including Northern Ireland's only known pair of breeding roseate terns.
Roseate terns are one of the rarest breeding birds in the UK and Ireland. The whole population in 2015 was 1,714 breeding pairs, distributed between just three colonies - Rockabill Island and Lady Island Lake in the Republic of Ireland and Coquet Island in Northumberland. The terns spend winter on the cost of West Africa and come back to these breeding colonies in May.
In a bid to protect and reverse population declines, more than £2.5m has been awarded by LIFE Programme of the European Union to the RSPB, Birdwatch Ireland and the North Wales Wildlife Trust to carry out an ambitious five-year project.
Giving terns a helping hand
While safeguarding all the main colonies through actions like increased wardening and provision of nestboxes, we will also provide suitable conditions for re-colonisation in places where roseate terns used to breed, including Larne Lough.
The island where the birds are known to make their homes has been seriously eroded by the tide, meaning less space for nesting and the risk of flooding wiping out eggs and chicks.
As part of this project, large amounts of gravel will be transported to the site the 'build up' the island and additional nest boxes will be put in place.
We'll also be liaising closely with local communities and those who use the Lough for recreational purposes to raise awareness about the species and its plight.
Birds safe from spill - for now
At the time of writing, a large diesel spill had struck in the area. Thankfully a survey of both Swan Island and Blue Circle Island came back clear, with no evidence that the 6,000+ birds nesting there had been adversely affected.
However, the long-term impact on wildlife in the area remains uncertain. Given the challenges these birds already face on a daily basis, making sure they have a safe place to call home is more important than ever.
For more information on this project, please visit www.roseatetern.org