Restoring breeding waders at Lough Beg and Foyle

Following the huge success of the INTERREG funded Halting Environmental Loss Project (HELP) between 2010 and 2014, the RSPB has been continuing to work closely with farmers to maintain and expand the populations and range of breeding waders in their historical strongholds in Northern Ireland.

Lough Foyle RSPB reserve Co. Londonderry, N. Ireland. Panorama of mud at low tide & mussell beds


This suite of birds has been significantly declining throughout the north for more than 30 years. However, HELP has demonstrated that suitable habitat restoration and management could help reverse such declines and bring a wealth of other benefits. 
Conservation advisor Gareth Bareham is working with farmers in two very distinct regions within Northern Ireland – Lough Beg, a part of the Lough Neagh Basin wetland complex in the centre of the province, and the Lough Foyle Polders, a large area of reclaimed, intensively farmed predominantly arable ‘polder land’ along the shore of Lough Foyle in the north-west.
The species targeted for action in these areas are breeding waders - curlew, lapwing, snipe and redshank at Lough Beg, and breeding lapwing, barn owl, yellowhammer and other farmland passerines at Lough Foyle. 
Habitat management work for these species also benefits other wildlife including Irish lady's tresses, Irish hare, marsh fritillary butterfly and Irish damselfly. 


  • To maintain 5 square kilometres of wet grassland at Lough Beg for breeding waders and other priority species associated with these wetlands, such as Irish lady's tresses orchid and the rare beetle Pelophila borealis (a survivor from the last ice age).
  • To encourage farmers within both areas to implement specific habitat management measures on their land.
  • To promote and celebrate wildlife-friendly farming and the conservation, economic, and health and well-being benefits this brings to the wider community. This includes running events for farmers and the public as well as training and demonstration events for staff from statutory agencies such as the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).
  • To recruit and train volunteers to perform ecological surveys and monitor and run promotional events.
  • To use project areas as demonstration and best-practice studies for large-scale conservation through RSPB Futurescapes projects and partnerships with farmers, communities and conservation or statutory bodies.

Planned Work

The Lough Beg Management Plan 2010–15 is being reviewed and rewritten for the next five years. It will include farm plans for all farmers within our area.
At Lough Beg, cutting rushes with our specialised low-pressure Soucy tracks, advising farmers on grazing management (stock types, densities and timings) and control of invasive scrub.
Regular advisory visits to all farmers in each area will be followed up by a demonstration/workshop event once a year. At Lough Beg this focuses on management of wet grasslands and, at Lough Foyle, on management of arable production such as promoting the value of spring-sown crops, installing and maintaining fallow plots and managing field operations to minimise impacts to breeding lapwing.
To continue our series of highly successful public engagement events to promote the astonishing ‘all-nature’ quality of these sites, including our now famous Orchid Walk at Lough Beg which searches for the iconic Irish lady’s tresses orchid and other plants of international renown.


Coast on a stormy day

Gareth Bareham

Conservation Advisor, Reserves
Tagged with: Country: Northern Ireland Project status: Ongoing Project types: Advocacy Project types: Species protection