Lough Erne breeding wader project

Lough Erne is one of the last remaining strongholds of breeding waders (curlew, lapwing, redshank and snipe) in Northern Ireland, with breeding wader abundance long associated with the lowland wet grassland habitats stretched around the shores of the lough.

Aerial view of Lower Lough Erne Islands, Northern Ireland

Overview

Since the 1980s, breeding waders in the area have experienced significant declines. A baseline survey undertaken in 1986 recorded 514 pairs in 19 sites across the upper and lower lough. A repeat survey completed in 2011 as part of the INTERREG funded Halting Environmental Loss Project (HELP) revealed only 98 breeding pairs remained, a staggering 82 per cent decline. 
 
This decline was the result of habitat loss driven by changing agricultural management, in particular the intensification of land through drainage and reseeding, along with field abandonment and scrub encroachment. 
 
To reverse these changes and aid population recovery, support in the form of advice and training was offered to farmers in these key breeding wader areas. This advice was offered in and out of agri-environment schemes. 
 
Enthusiasm from the Lough Erne farming community has been immense and our breeding waders are beginning to respond. In addition, this routine management has also benefited other species, including the Irish hare, marsh fritillary butterfly, Irish damselfly and Irish lady's tresses orchid, creating a more species-rich farmland landscape. 

Objectives

  • To encourage management on farmland to enhance lowland grassland habitat for breeding waders and all nature species, such as the Irish hare, marsh fritillary butterfly, Irish damselfly and Irish lady's tresses orchid.
  • To provide ongoing, one-to-one advice in conjunction with periodic training events.
  • To promote and celebrate wildlife-friendly farming within the Lough Erne catchment area and the wider Fermanagh countryside.
  • To increase community knowledge of breeding waders through ongoing engagement.
  • To collaborate with statutory agencies to achieve breeding wader recovery in the area.

Progress

  • March 2011 - Beginning of the Halting Environmental Loss Project (HELP) and advisory in Lough Erne.
  • April 2011 - First round of breeding wader surveys across 19 sites.
  • October 2011 - Training event for farmers focusing on autumn/winter management.
  • March 2012 - Training event for farmers focusing on spring/summer management.
  • April 2012 - Second round of breeding wader surveys across 19 sites.
  • October 2012 - Training event for farmers focusing on autumn/winter management.
  • March 2013 - Training event for farmers focusing on spring/summer management.
  • April 2013 - Third round of breeding wader surveys across 19 sites.
  • October 2013 - Training event for farmers focusing on autumn/winter management.
  • March 2014 - Training event for farmers focusing on spring/summer management.
  • April 2014 - Fourth round of breeding wader surveys across 19 sites.
  • November 2014 - Celebration event for farmers to mark the end of the Halting Environmental Loss Project (HELP).
  • December 2014- Presentation of results and successes to DARD and the end of HELP
  • April 2015 - Fifth round of breeding wader surveys across 18 sites.

Planned Work

  • To continue to advise 140 farmers/landowners who own and manage 12 square kilometres of breeding wader habitat.
  • To offer periodic training events - two events per year.
  • To expand outreach work in local schools.
  • To work closely with the local community and statutory agencies.
  • To continue to monitor breeding wader abundance across all advisory sites, including the presence of all nature species.

Results

  • 2011 - Breeding wader records report 98 pairs overall, 53 pairs of snipe, 19 pairs of lapwing, 25 pairs of curlew and a single pair of redshank (over 19 sites).
  • 2012 - Breeding wader records report 113 pairs overall, 53 pairs of snipe, 30 pairs of lapwing, 26 pairs of curlew and four pairs of redshank (over 19 sites).
  • 2013 - Breeding wader records report 154 pairs overall, 99 pairs of snipe, 31 pairs of lapwing, 20 pairs of curlew and four pairs of redshank (over 19 sites).
  • 2014 - Breeding wader records report 163 pairs overall, 108 pairs of snipe, 29 pairs of lapwing, 22 pairs of curlew and four pairs of redshank (over 19 sites).
  • 2015 - Breeding wader records report 187 pairs overall, 132 pairs of snipe, 34 pairs of lapwing, 19 pairs of curlew and two pairs of redshank (over 18 sites).

Funding

RSPB funded

Contacts

Coast on a stormy day

Sarah McCaffrey

Conservation Adviser, RSPB

sarah.mccaffrey@rspb.org.uk
Tagged with: Country: Northern Ireland Habitat: Farmland Habitat: Grassland Habitat: Wetland Project status: Ongoing Project types: Species protection