The Grey Partridge, one of Ireland’s rarest and most endangered bird species, is set to make a welcome return to Donegal through a new reintroduction project based on Inch Island in Lough Swilly.
The Inch Partridge Project which is run by Inch Gun Club on Strahack Farm, Inch Island aims to use captive breeding and soft release techniques to reintroduce one of Ireland’s most endangered farmland birds into the wild. In a similar fate as the Corncrake the lessor known Grey Partridge has suffered in Ireland due to changes in farming practices and a reduction in predator control generally.
The project on Inch Island which is in its second full year has received funding from the Heritage Council and both the National Association of Regional Game Councils and Donegal Game and Wildlife Council to help develop its capacity to breed and release grey partridge into the wild and to also provide suitable safe breeding habitat for the birds.
According to Emmett Johnston of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), who are also a partner in the project, “The Grey Partridge was virtually extinct in Ireland before a captive breeding programme was begun in Borra, Co. Offaly during the 1990’s. The Borra project has since proven to be a huge success and the project on Inch island is honoured to be chosen as one of only three new locations throughout Ireland to expand the scheme to reintroduction these beautiful birds back into their natural habitat”. The Borra scheme is now held up as a best practice farmland bird reintroduction with the project receiving many international awards. Inch island was chosen above other locations due to its island geography which can be more easily managed for predators, its active gun club and most importantly a landowner who is willing to work his farm as a test or demonstration site for the duration of the project. Boyd Bryce the farmer on who’s land the project is hosted said, “I have an interest in birds on the farm and I remember hearing and seeing many wild birds when I was out working in the fields in my youth, I don’t’ hear many of them today and I’ll be happy to see the birds back on the island and to help their survival in Ireland”.
A lot of work will be undertaken on Strahack Farm to ensure suitable nesting and feeding habitats are available for the released birds. Special game crops are sown on arable field edges to provide nest sites and up to 10km of electric fence wire will be used to create a safe zone for newly release juveniles. Inch Gun club who have a lot of experience with predator management including fox, crow and rat control will also assist with the captive breeding and release pen management.
If you would like to find out more about the project, there will be an open day as part of Heritage Week on Sunday 30th of August at Strahack farm buildings, Inch Island. There will be discussion and practical demonstrations on captive breeding and reintroduction techniques, predator control and farming for high value nature. See www.inchpartridgeproject.com or facebook/inchislandpartridgeproject