Northern Ireland has some of the best bird watching sites in the UK and the National Trust is delighted to welcome some new visitors to our shores.
Sand martins have stormed in to colonise new dunes on the Bann Estuary and Mediterranean gulls are breeding for the first time on Strangford Lough.
One of the positives to come from the storms of last winter has been the creation of new habitat on the Bann Estuary. Last year the only sand martin colony in the area was a sand cliff on a small river bend.
This summer the returning sand martins have established new nesting sites on the fresh sand cliffs, created from the winter storms, on the eastern shores of the River Bann where it meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Toby Edwards, National Trust Site Manager for the area explains: “The fresh sand dune cliffs are still settling but so far we’ve counted 19 new tunnels at two new sites. Both sites were carved away by the winter storms, creating a new horseshoe bay close to the river mouth and extending the ‘Wee Bay’ that, post storm isn’t so ‘wee’ anymore!
The movement of the sands are all part of natural processes which can be damaging for some species, but good for others, and they soon take advantage. That’s what’s so fascinating about our dynamic coast.”
This year saw the first confirmed fledgling success for a pair of Mediterranean gulls on Strangford Lough. The Mediterranean gulls have nested in the past but this is the first time that their breeding success has been confirmed.
Andrew Upton, National Trust Coast and Countryside Manager said: We’ve suspected for some time that the Mediterranean gull was breeding here but have never been able to prove it. This year we had two pairs breeding on Strangford Lough and in early July we noticed a couple of young ones that were definitely fledged. These birds have gradually been colonising the UK, spreading northwards. If the young are successful they are likely to come back to where they have been reared.”
Andrew added: “It was also a good year for successful fledging of black-headed gulls and the second successive good fledgling year for the Lough’s internationally important sandwich terns.”