Arson attack threatens bird conservation project in Co Tyrone

An arson attack has threatened a bird conservation project in Co Tyrone. Credit: UTV

An arson attack has threatened a bird conservation project in Co Tyrone.

A shed housing essential equipment for a comprehensive study of wildlife in the Killycolpy area of Lough Neagh was burned down.

Peter Harper, shoreline environment officer at the Lough Neagh Partnership, said the fire, which was reported to PSNI, has dealt a crippling blow to the project at Killycolpy.

"It's hard to understand why this happened," he said.

"However, apart from burning down a shed, whoever did it could have easily started a major wildfire incident threatening wildlife, livestock and, potentially, property in the surrounding area.

"This is an important project and despite this setback we will be continuing with our work."

The project, led by Lough Neagh Partnership in collaboration with bird ringing expert Aidan Crean, aims to monitor and protect avian species through data collection.

The Constant Effort Bird Ringing initiative involves capturing small birds in mist nets, applying unique metal rings on their legs, recording their weight and releasing them unharmed.

By monitoring bird populations, the project provides valuable insights into migration patterns and guides conservation efforts to protect vulnerable species.

Mr Harper said the destroyed shed was an important part of the research.

"We are just at the beginning of what we hope will be a very exciting, long-term project," he said.

"The shed was an important element of our project as it was used to house minor equipment and as a base for our staff and volunteers."

Mr Harper also highlighted the international importance of the Lough Neagh site.

"One of the birds we ringed had already been ringed in France. Smaller birds like willow warblers, travelling from as far away as West Africa, choose to nest at Killycolpy, underscoring the significance of this site for understanding migration patterns," he said.

"The Lough Neagh ranger team, in collaboration with Aidan Crean, has been diligently collecting data on a wide range of bird species and this project is one of only nine ringing sites on the island of Ireland.

"The information gathered helps to inform our understanding of bird migration patterns and overall numbers."

The project has now resumed operation and will continue until the end of August.

Anyone with information or an interest in the bird ringing project can contact the Lough Neagh Partnership by emailing info@loughneaghpartnership.org.


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