The first-ever baby kingfisher has been recorded at a city centre nature reserve next to a major motorway.
Volunteers from the Friends of Bog Meadows in west Belfast found the young male kingfisher during a recent morning visit to the area.
Aidan Crean from Friends of Bog Meadows said he is absolutely thrilled at the appearance of the brightly-coloured bird in the midst of such urban surroundings.
“Bog Meadows is one of the last remaining wildlife sites in the city, but due to its relative isolation and bustling location beside the M1, it’s an unlikely spot to see these very vulnerable and shy birds.”
Bird ringing – placing metal or plastic tags on bird’s legs so that they can be identified and counted – has taken place at the site since 1995.
However, until an adult kingfisher was found at the site earlier this year, none of these birds had ever been recorded there.
Mr Crean said there has been several sightings of adult members of the species along the ponds and streams since the start of spring.
“This is a good sign that there’s plenty of fish to catch and, most importantly, clean water and good habitat,” he added.
A spokesperson for the RSPB said it was wonderful to know kingfishers are breeding in Northern Ireland as they were amber-listed (of medium conservation concern) in the most recent Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland list.
“Ulster Wildlife have put in a lot of hard work to make this a great place for nature and we’re delighted it seems to be paying off,” they said.
A spokesperson for the Ulster Wildlife Trust said that finding a baby was a good indication that the species may now be breeding in the area.
“None of the other sites in Belfast would have kingfisher,” they said.
“It’s really exciting to see them return.”
The spokesperson said it was uncommon to have the birds in the heart of the city, particularly in an isolated pocket of wetland like Bog Meadows.
Andy Crory, nature reserves manager at the Ulster Wildlife Trust, said that the appearance of the juvenile bird shows that water quality in the area has improved.
Mr Crory said: “The presence of kingfishers tells you that Belfast is a cleaner city.”
Over recent years, Ulster Wildlife has undertaken major habitat improvement works at Bog Meadows, from deepening and widening ponds and ditches and removing invasive species to controlling scrub, to help rejuvenate the wetland.
Other new additions to the Belfast nature reserve include breeding reed warbler, normally a passage bird in Northern Ireland which has now started to raise its young here, and spotted flycatcher.