Birdwatchers in a flap as pair of avocets turns up at Belfast reserve

The avocets at Belfast Window on Wildlife reserve. Picture by Ronald Surgeoner
The avocets at Belfast Window on Wildlife reserve. Picture by Ronald Surgeoner

A pair of rare birds has been spotted at an RSPB nature reserve in Belfast.

Avocets – which are the symbol of the nature conservation charity – are not resident in Ireland so the arrival of the unusual visitors on Sunday at the Window on Wildlife (WOW) nature reserve had birdwatchers flocking to the Belfast Harbour Estate to catch a glimpse.

It is not known where they travelled from, although investigations are under way to trace the coloured rings on the leg of one of the birds.

Chris Sturgeon, warden at Belfast WOW, said: “I couldn’t believe it when one of my colleagues got in touch with the news. I arrived early on Monday morning and they were still here, with reports they have been seen mating.

“There’s no reason why they couldn’t breed successfully here. The reserve is in great condition and there is ideal feeding habitat for wading birds.”

These distinctively patterned black and white waders have a long up-curved beak, perfect for foraging in the mud for insects, crustaceans and worms.

Chris said: “As far as I know, having a pair of avocets mating at the reserve is a first. Everyone is really excited but trying not to get carried away.”

The avocet is the emblem of the RSPB as its return to England in the 1940s and subsequent increase in numbers is an outstanding example of a conservation success story.

Chris added: “It’s always great to see an unusual visitor to our shores but, being the symbol of the RSPB, seeing an avocet here is extra special.”