Bird watchers flock to this area for the variety of its native birds and seasonal migrants
Bird watchers flock to the area for the variety of its native birds and seasonal migrants. Arctic and common terns arrive in early spring to breed off Groomsport. When they depart in September, flocks of lapwings start to appear, a wonderful sight in the sky.
Other seasonal variations are our summer visitors, the willow warblers, chiff-chaffs, swifts and swallows. In winter there are red-breasted mergansers, plus red-necked and great northern divers.
Groomsport Harbour is the place for ringed plover whilst Belfast Lough also has significant populations of redshank, black-tailed godwit, oystercatcher, curlew, turnstone and purple sandpiper.
The famous ‘Bangor Penguins’ (black guillemots) have risen in numbers thanks to the recent provision of artificial nesting under Eisenhower Pier.
Strangford Lough is of international importance for nature conservation and is one of only 3 Marine Nature Reserves in the UK. It affords great birdwatching opportunities at any time of year. Perhaps the most remarkable birdwatching event is the arrival each Autumn of almost the entire world population of light-bellied Brent Geese from High Arctic Canada to Strangford Lough attracted by the eelgrass on the nutrient rich mudflats at the northern end of the Lough.
Wintering waterfowl and waders such as curlew, redshank, greenshank, golden plover, blacktailed godwit dunlin, knot and oystercatcher are common sights on the north of the the Lough and perhaps can be best appreciated from the comfortable hides in the Wildfowl & Wetland Trust’s Reserve and Visitor Centre at Castle Espie. Other good spots are the Floodgates at Newtownards, the Strangford Lough Lookout at Mount Stewart and Horse Island near KIrcubbin.
The British Trust for Ornithology has a dedicated research and monitoring station on Lighthouse Island off the Irish Sea coast at Donaghadee. Here a large breeding colony of Manx Shearwater are ringed and their movements monitored. The Island is not generally open to the public but ornithologists may gain access by contacting the BTO. Boat trips are available around the islands in the Copeland Islands group during the summer months.
The Irish Sea coast of the Peninsula provides good seabird watching opportunities.
The river estuaries flowing into the Lough near Comber are home to Kingfisher and the fertile farmland beneath Scrabo Hill is a good spot to see yellowhammer. Large numbers of lapwing can be seen on the flat fields in this area too. The small patchwork fields around the Lough, with their varied and often ancient hedgerows, provide good opportunities to see many species of farmland birds.
At the southern end of the Ards peninsula, Ballyquintin Nature Reserve is also home to yellowhammer as well as shoreline birds such as whimbrel.
Bird watch at Castle Espie
Last Wednesday of every month - 10.30am-11.30am. See website for full details.
Woodland or Wildfowl Bird Watching Tours
T: 079 5626 7116
Bird Watching along the Coast
Brian Meharg’s Bangor Boat
T: 075 1000 6000
John Erskine Boat Charters
T: 078 0157 1830