Carlingford Lough SPA
Green Island in Carlingford Lough Photo: RSPB Images/David Wootton

Like the islands in Larne Lough another noisy tern-filled, low-lying island we’re working on is Green Island in Carlingford Lough. Carlingford Lough straddles the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland on the east coast. As a scenic glacial fjord bordered by the Mourne mountains in the north and the Cooley mountains in the south and just over an hour away from both Belfast and Dublin it is a popular tourist destination.

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Ferry passes by Green Island  Photo: Tessa Coledale

If you stand on the deck of the Carlingford Lough ferry crossing from Greencastle in the north to Greenore in the south, you will get an excellent close-up view of Green Island (Don’t forget to practice good biosecurity whilst travelling by following our handy tips!). Just 600m out from Greencastle this island is within swimming distance for many mammalian predators, although strong tidal streams help to protect the island the journey would still be possible. This tiny shingle island is home in the summer to a small colony of common, Arctic and sandwich terns. During the autumn the island is used as a haul out site for common and grey seals. There is no public access due to the sensitivity of all these species to disturbance.

GreenIsland with Mourne mountains in the background RSPB images AndyHay

Green Island with Mourne mountains in the background  Photo: RSPB images/Andy Hay

The island is owned by the National Trust but managed by the RSPB. Since the Biosecurity for LIFE project has started, a biosecurity plan has been written by the RSPB site manager and two wax block monitoring stations have been placed on the island. These devices are checked weekly during the seabird breeding season for evidence of chew marks. These checks coincide with existing seabird count and productivity check visits in the summer and visits to carry out management work in the spring. Invasive non-native mammalian predators are often easiest to detect during winter months when alternative food sources are low, and animals are ranging far in search of food. Green Island is however difficult to access in the winter and due to its small size, any incursion by a rodent would require an island-wide eradication. This means routine monitoring focuses instead on keeping the island free of mammalian predators immediately prior to, and throughout the bird breeding season.

SandwichTern RSPB images ChrisGomersall

Sandwich terns are one of three tern species to breed on Green Island  Photo: RSPB images/Chris Gomersall

The biosecurity plan includes details of how to respond in the unfortunate event that rodents were detected, and the site manager has been trained in rodenticide use so a quick and effective incursion response can be mounted if needed. Incursion response is something you will hear us talking about much more as the year progresses. We have ambitions to develop incursion response hubs across the UK that can provide trained volunteers to island SPAs in support of biosecurity incursion response teams if needed. So, keep an eye on our website for future opportunities to get involved latter in the year.

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April 2020

Skokholm, Skomer and Middleholm

Together these islands are estimated to hold a remarkable 67% of the world population of breeding Manx shearwater. These birds are diurnal but will only come ashore or go out to sea under the cover of darkness and nest underground so you’re unlikely to see them when you visit the islands unless you stay overnight. You will see that the ground is covered in burrows and is therefore extremely fragile so take care to stay on the paths when you visit. Skokholm is also home to the fourth largest storm petrel colony in the UK, holding 8% of the UK breeding population. These birds’ nest in crevices in stone walls or quarries and are also nocturnal when on land to avoid predation. The islands most famous resident however is the puffin, these birds nest underground but come out in the day so you are likely to see rather a lot of them if you visit between April and July. All these ground-nesting species are particularly susceptible to invasive non-native mammalian predators, they would not survive if rats, mink or stoats arrived on the islands.

March 2020

Grassholm

Grassholm is one of those islands that assaults your senses upon approach with both the smell, noise and sight of over 36,000 pairs of gannets. On a round island boat trip you’ll see them on their nests or flying overhead like aeroplanes before folding their wings back and diving at speed to catch their prey in the surrounding waters. 6.8% of the world population of Northern gannets breed on this lump of rock just 10 hectares in size. In fact, the majority of the island is now white in colour due to the animals and their guano, with only a relatively small strip of grass remaining where they are yet to colonise. Grassholm is the third largest gannetry in the UK after the Bass Rock and St Kilda – two other sites we’re also working on.

March 2020

The Farne Islands

Lying only a mile off the Northumberland Coast, the Farne Islands archipelago hosts one of England’s most impressive seabird colonies, managed by the National Trust. Depending of the state of the tide, the Farnes boast between 15 and 28 islands, the largest being just 16 acres in size. Onto these small isles, an assemblage of over 160,000 seabirds crowd together each summer to breed.

Illustration of birds

Contact Us

If you’d like more information or would like to report a sighting of an invasive predator please contact us using the form below: