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

4th October 2020
Brent Geese arriving on Strangford Lough Brent Geese arriving on Strangford Lough Photo: National Trust

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 panels give advice on dog walking to allow the birds to feed undisturbedThe 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.

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down.

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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