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Strangford Lough ‘Share the Shore’ Panels Erected to Protect Brent Geese: Thurs 15 Oct

Brent geese flying over lough

Date: Thursday 15 October

Strangford Lough 'Share the Shore' Panels Erected to Protect Brent Geese

Strangford Lough is world-famous as the main arrival site for most of the migrating Canadian population (up to 80%) of pale-bellied Brent geese. Every autumn thousands of these birds leave their breeding grounds in eastern Canada and travel to Ireland to spend the winter. They leave Canada in late summer, travelling across Greenland, stopping off briefly in Iceland for a quick refuel before arriving in Ireland where they overwinter. Like their ancestors before them, most will arrive on the mudflats of Strangford to refuel on the nutritious eelgrass that grows in the intertidal sand and mudflats, although they will graze in the fields neighbouring the shore.

To protect these overwintering birds who arrive with their young, tired and hungry and in need of rest and food, the Strangford and Lecale Partnership has erected 'Share the Shore' panels in several sites around the Lough and at Killough Bay, (about 8km south-west of Downpatrick, on the County Down coast).

Strangford and Lecale Partnership has erected 'Share the Shore' panels in several sites around the Lough and at Killough Bay


 'Share the Shore' panels are located in several sites around the Lough and at Killough Bay

The Share the Shore project out of a study in 2015/16 where the effects of dog walking on the bird population in Strangford Lough was monitored on a particular site – Greyabbey Bay on the east shore. From this study, it was concluded that a disturbance event affecting over-wintering birds occurs approximately once every hour. The data showed that most of this disruption is caused by dogs being walked off the lead and that excluding unknown and natural causes, off lead dogs cause the most severe response from the birds.

The birds have a small window to feed on the shore - as the tide goes out. Every time they are forced to take flight, they expend a great deal of energy and lose valuable feeding time. The panels give advice on dog walking to allow the birds to feed undisturbed.

The six panels are located in Kircubbin, Cunningburn and the Floodgates on the east side; at Island Hill and Whiterock on the western shore and at Killough on the coast.
The message is " Please take the time to consider the advice on these panels and always keep your dog on a lead!".

The Strangford and Lecale Partnership's aim is to conserve the magnificent natural and built heritage for future generations. They work with, and for, local people to achieve prosperity and social well-being, particularly through heritage, tourism, and sustainable outdoor recreation.

Author Betty Armstrong, published in Marine Wildlife, visit the website Marine Wildlife, Northern Ireland Waters