Lough Neagh Wetlands Breeding Wader (Redshank, Curlew and Lapwing)




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Lough Neagh Wetlands


Breeding Wader

(Redshank, Curlew and Lapwing)

Tringa totanus, Numenius arquata & Vanellus vanellus.
Species Action Plan

2008 - 2013
Breeding Waders in the Lough Neagh Wetlands
Introduction

There are three species of breeding wader in the Lough Neagh Wetlands that are the focus of this action plan - Redshank Tringa totanus, Curlew Numenius arquata and Lapwing Vanellus vanellus. The baseline figures available for all three species relate to the year 2000 when the last comprehensive survey of breeding waders was undertaken.


Redshank is the most threatened of the three species of breeding wader identified for action in the Lough Neagh Wetlands. The population of breeding redshank Tringa totanus in the Lough Neagh Wetlands is the smallest of three species being targeted through this action plan. In Northern Ireland, the redshank population saw a decline of 68% between 1987 and 1999. In 1987, the breeding population was around 550 pairs, 80 % of which occurred in the lowland wet grassland complexes of Lough Neagh, Lough Beg as well as Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh. By 1992 a 35% decline had taken place at Lough Neagh and Lough Beg alone and in 2000 just 69 pairs were recorded here compared with 214 in 1985-87. The Northern Ireland population was thought to be under 180 pairs in 2000.
The population of breeding curlew Numenius arquata in Northern Ireland declined by 58% between 1987 and 1999. By 2000, the population was around 1,750 pairs. The wet grassland complex of the Lough Neagh Wetlands has been identified as one of the key breeding areas for curlew in Northern Ireland.
The population of breeding lapwing Vanellus vanellus saw a similar decline to the others, with a 66% decline detected between 1987 and 1999. In 1987, the breeding population was between 4,000-6,000 pairs. By 2000 the population was around 1,770 pairs. The wet grassland complex of the Lough Neagh Wetlands has been identified as one of the key breeding areas for lapwing in Northern Ireland.

Background

A number of sites within the Lough Neagh Wetlands contained more than 20 pairs of breeding waders during the Northern Ireland Breeding Wader Survey of 1985 - 1987. These sites were considered to be Grade 1 Sites for Breeding Waders in Northern Ireland. Sites such as that found along the west and south of Lough Beg held almost 200 pairs of breeding waders and other sites along the west and south of Lough Neagh held between 21 and 36 pairs of breeding waders. However, numbers at all of these sites have fallen dramatically since then, requiring a coordinated effort to restore breeding wader habitat.

The breeding waders are ground nesting birds, preferring to nest in various types of unimproved wet grasslands near to soft mud and open water in drains, pools and lakes. Being close to water provides increased abundance and availability of invertebrates, which is important for feeding chicks.
Redshank

The redshank has long red legs and a red bill. It nests on unimproved, damp grasslands, lakeshores and pastoral farmland and is almost exclusively a wet grassland species in Northern Ireland. They are relatively site faithful, nesting semi-colonially.They begin returning to their breeding areas from late February onwards and nesting begins in April. Redshanks have just one brood and the young are generally fledged by the end of June. They require a mosaic of habitats, including areas of tussocks within shorter vegetation for concealing nests, a high water table providing damp or muddy areas where adults feed communally, and wet areas with some taller vegetation which provide a source of invertebrates and cover for chicks. In Northern Ireland, their distribution is very restricted and they breed almost exclusively on extensively grazed, lowland wet grassland areas, like those found around Lough Neagh and Lough Beg. The Northern Ireland Countryside Survey 2000 indicated a decline in the area of habitat potentially used by redshank between 1987 and 1998 including a 20% decline in the area of fen marsh and swamp.


Curlew

The curlew is a characteristic breeding bird of damp, rushy pastures and wet grasslands, pastures and meadows. It occurs in the Lough Neagh area in higher numbers in winter, when birds arrive from the uplands and as migrants from northern Europe to escape the colder conditions. The curlew is one of Europe’s largest wading birds. It is predominantly a brown, streaked bird with no outstanding plumage features. However, its long legs and the extremely long, gently decurved bill are very distinctive. In flight, it shows a triangular white patch above the brown barred tail. The curlew returns to its breeding grounds in the early spring when its bubbling display song can be heard during aerial display flights. The curlew conceals its nest on the ground amongst long grassy vegetation and four eggs are laid. The chicks hatch after about 28 days and rapidly become mobile, fledging in about 36 days. The curlew has one brood each year. Not long after fledging, adults and young birds form flocks and move to coastal localities or to the areas around Lough Neagh.



Lapwing

The lapwing frequents a wide variety of farmland or wetland habitats. It is recognizable by its striking dark green and white plumage, obvious crest and distinctive pee-wit calls. These features have given rise to local names for the species such as green plover or peewit. Lapwings require short vegetation or bare ground in the spring for nesting and feeding. The best nesting areas are located on wet grassland near open water in drains, pools and lakes. Just like the other waders, being close to water often provides increased abundance and availability of invertebrates, which is important for feeding chicks. In the Lough Neagh Wetlands, they are likely to be most abundant on lowland wet grasslands, although cut-over bogs and spring sown cereals can also be important in certain areas. Several birds also nest along drains in the open flat industrial landscapes of peat extraction sites in the wetlands, however, this is opportunistic and short-term in most cases. They begin to breed from mid March onwards, often in loose colonies, enabling them to flock together to drive away predators such as hooded crows. Post-breeding flocks begin to form as early as June and by late summer, most lapwings have dispersed from the breeding sites. They are joined by migrants from eastern and northern Europe, giving rise to large winter flocks around Lough Neagh. Numbers of national (all-Ireland) importance occur outside the breeding season in the Lough Neagh and Lough Beg complex.




Threats
Loss of habitat

Loss and fragmentation of wet grassland


Whilst over-grazing a grassland site can help lapwings by creating a shorter sward, increased livestock numbers and heavy spring stocking can also lead to nest trampling of this and other breeding wader species. Over-grazing sites that are important for redshank or curlew can remove essential cover, for example, intensive grazing creates a more uniform sward with few tussocks which are important for redshank.
Agricultural operations such as rolling and the application of fertilizers can lead to increased nest losses.
A reduced number of farm animals grazing wet grassland, leads to under-grazed sites that quickly become covered in unsuitable, rank grasses and eventually scrub and are no longer suitable as breeding sites.
Cut-over peat bogs, important breeding habitats for waders, have been affected by agricultural improvement and peat extraction.
Predation

Loss and fragmentation of wet grassland, due to drainage and land improvements, concentrates breeding birds into smaller areas, where they are less effective at driving away predators such as crows and foxes and, therefore, causes high rates of nest failure.




Opportunities
Habitat restoration

Restoration, creation and management of wet grasslands to join up fragmented sites and create large contiguous areas of habitat adjacent to existing breeding wader habitat. Lough Beg, the south west shore of Lough Neagh and the area around Portmore Lough are among the sites that continue to retain breeding waders, and/or show the most potential for recovery work.


Recovery programme

A co-ordinated Breeding Wader Recovery Programme for the Lough Neagh Wetlands should aim to extend beyond designated sites. Recovery work should focus on priority sites (at Lough Beg, south-west Lough Neagh, and Portmore Lough) and aim to expand onto adjacent low lying grassland where large scale capital works can take place in partnership with local landowners to restore sites and encourage birds back. Once restored, these sites should then be prioritised by DARD Countryside Management Branch and managed under agri-environment as priority breeding wader sites, to ensure their sustainable long term management.


Predator management

Monitor breeding waders to confirm the level of nest and chick predation at sites where the habitat appears to be in otherwise favorable condition, to confirm the importance of predation as a factor in species decline.


Legislation

Redshank and Lapwing are protected under the European Community (EC) Council Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds, Appendix 3 of the Berne Convention and Article 4 of the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. The Curlew is protected under Article 4.2 of the EC Birds Directive, Appendix 2 of the Berne Convention and as a quarry species, under Article 4 of the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.


Lough Neagh & Beg has been designated an Area of Special Scientific Interest. This designation is strengthened by The Environment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002 which recognizes the importance of working in partnership with landowners and occupiers and facilitating the positive management of these sites. The lowland wet grassland complexes of Lough Neagh and Lough Beg have been designated as ASSI’s partly because of their importance for breeding waders and the ASSI designation and Environment Order offers opportunity to develop local effective partnerships to manage the sites positively.
Lough Neagh and Lough Beg has been classified a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the European Birds Directive because of the number of winter waterfowl and breeding waders it contains. This is one of only three sites classified as SPA in Northern Ireland.
Provide Legal protection

The habitat for breeding waders should be protected under the Northern Ireland Wildlife Order to ensure that relevant planning policies can be devised and implemented.



Annex 1
EHS fund and/or undertake a regular programme of surveys of the key breeding wader sites in the Lough Neagh Wetlands. Data from these surveys can be collated and used to target areas where breeding wader numbers have been falling.
DARD’s agri-environment programme contains habitat prescriptions that benefit breeding waders. To qualify, the land must have at least one breeding pair of waders. These options provide farmers with payments to manage sites appropriately for the benefit of the birds. Funding is available to agri-environment scheme participants to create wader scrapes and raise water levels.


Breeding Waders - Curlew, Lapwing & Redshank - Objectives & Targets































Objectives & Targets


































OBJECTIVE










TARGET



















BW/O1

Map location of all known breeding sites for curlew, lapwing and redshank within the Lough Neagh Wetlands

2008



















BW/O2

Maintain the current breeding population of curlew, lapwing & redshank in Lough Neagh Wetlands using the figures available for the year 2000 as a baseline

2009



















BW/O3

Increase the breeding populations of curlew, lapwing & redshank in the Lough Neagh Wetlands using the figures available for the year 2000 as a baseline

2013



















BW/O4

Raise awareness of breeding waders and their habitat requirements within the Lough Neagh Wetlands




2013



















BW/05

Prevent the loss of Breeding Wader Sites e.g. to development or agricultural improvements





2013



Breeding Waders - Redshank, Curlew & Lapwing - Action































Actions





































ACTION

LEAD PARTNER

PARTNERS

TARGET DATE

OBJECTIVES MET

BW/A1

Prepare a map inventory of all fragmented breeding wader sites away from the Lough Neagh/Beg shore and strategically target the expansion of 1 site per year

RSPB

DARD / EHS / LNAC / LNP / CBC

2008

BW/O1, BW/O3, BW/05

BW/A2

Investigate the extent of predation on wader nests at 1 site where habitat is in prime condition by installing remote cameras to identify the predatory species involved, and use this information to inform future management plans for breeding waders

RSPB

EHS / LNP / LNAC

2008

BW/O2, BW/O3

BW/A3

Set up a Breeding Wader Education Programme linked to a key site in the Lough Neagh Wetlands

RSPB

LNAC / LNP / CBC

2009

BW/O4

BW/A4

Establish a method of monitoring the status of breeding waders and establish an annual monitoring programme at all key sites within the Lough Neagh Wetlands, recording the results on the Lough Neagh Wetlands GIS and at CEDAR

EHS

DARD / RSPB LNAC / LNP / CBC

2010

BW/O2

BW/A5

Establish 2 demonstration sites to transfer knowledge on applied restoration / management work carried out for breeding waders and hold 1 workshop every two years

RSPB

DARD / EHS / FWAG / LNAC / LNP / CBC

2010

BW/O4

BW/A6

Produce advisory material to ensure planners and developers are aware of the importance of habitats used by breeding waders

LNAC

DARD / EHS / FWAG / LNP / Local Authorities / Planning Service / RSPB / CBC

2010

BW/O4



BW/A7

Produce advisory material on habitat creation, restoration and management for breeding waders, and distribute to landowners within 2 km of known breeding wader sites.

LNAC

DARD / EHS / FWAG / LNP / RSPB / CBC

2010

BW/O4

BW/A8

Restore 1500ha of wet grassland habitat in the Lough Neagh Wetlands via a Lough Neagh Wetlands Breeding Wader Restoration Programme, targeting large and contiguous areas of land.

RSPB

Rivers Agency / EHS / DARD / MDC / ABC / BBC / UWT / QPANI / CBC

2011

BW/03

BW/A9

Re-profile and manage 1000m of DESIGNATED drainage ditches (c.200m per year) in areas adjacent to breeding wader sites, to provide feeding opportunities for chicks. This should include ensuring adequate water levels within ditches, tackling water quality within ditches, and ensuring that they do not become clogged with vegetation.

RSPB

EHS / LNAC / LNP / Rivers Agency / RSPB / DARD / CBC

2013

BW/O2, BW/O3, BW05

BW/A10

Re-profile and manage 500m of UNDESIGNATED drainage ditches (100m per year) in areas adjacent to breeding wader sites, to provide feeding opportunities for chicks. This should include ensuring adequate water levels within ditches, tackling water quality within ditches, and ensuring that they do not become clogged with vegetation.

RSPB

EHS / LNAC / LNP / Rivers Agency / RSPB / DARD / CBC

2013

BW/O2, BW/O3, BW05

BW/A11

Liaise with DARD CAFRE Greenmount Campus to raise awareness of habitat restoration and management for breeding waders and provide an input into 1 management course per year

RSPB

DARD / EHS / FWAG / LNAC/LNP

2012

BW/O4

BW/A12

Write 1 article per year to raise awareness of the breeding waders of the Lough Neagh Wetlands and their habitat requirements

LNAC

DARD / FWAG / LNP / MDC / CDC / D&STBC / CBC / LBC / ABC / BBC / RSPB

2013

BW/O4

BW/A13

Raise awareness, on an annual basis, among agri-environment scheme advisors of the need to promote the take-up of agri-environment options that benefit breeding waders in the Lough Neagh Wetlands.

LNAC

DARD / EHS / FWAG / LNP / RSPB / CBC

2013

BW/O4



Lough Neagh Wetlands Breeding Wader Species Action Plan



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