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Country: Northern Ireland

Organisation: EBU - BBC Radio Ulster & BBC Radio Foyle with RSPB NI

Location: WOW - Window on Wildlife, within the harbour estate in Belfast

Belfast’s Window on Wildlife is 4.5 miles from Belfast city centre, located in Belfast Harbour Estate and looking out on to Belfast Lough. RSPB took over management of the site in 1998. The site is designated as a Special Protection area and Ramsar site, as well as an Area of Special Scientific Interest. The Belfast WOW centre was opened to the public in 2015 and offers spectacular and up-close views of birds, including the star species here: the black-tailed godwits. Belfast Lough provides a seasonal home for birds from all over the world. A wet grassland site of 13 hectares overlooking an open lagoon, the main attractions are wildfowl and wintering waders, while raptors are often spotted on site too. More than 200 species of birds have been recorded here.  For more information on WOW, visit

On Air: David Maxwell (reporter) & Claire Barnett (bird expert)

David Maxwell and Claire Barnett

David Maxwell: David is an experienced presenter and reporter with BBC Northern Ireland.For a decade he reported for BBC Newslinebefore making a move to one of BBC Radio Ulster’s most popular programmes – Gardeners’ Corner. Taking on this role has allowed him to indulge his passion for gardening and share wonderful gardens in Ireland and Britain with the large listenership. 

Claire Barnett: Claire has been working for RSPB NI since 2006 but has been listening to and monitoring birds since she was a teenager. Growing up on a farm, she happily started her RSPB career giving advice to farmers to create more wildlife-friendly spaces on their land. Now a Conservation Team Leader, her expertise has increased to cover a wide range of bird species who depend on different habitats.

Key Species: 

Blackcap: The blackcap is a distinctive greyish warbler, the male has a black cap, and the female a chestnut one. Its delightful fluting song has earned it the name 'northern nightingale'. Although primarily a summer visitor, birds from Germany and north-east Europe are increasingly spending the winter in the UK.Chiffchaff: The chiffchaff is a small olive-brown warbler which actively flits through trees and shrubs, with a distinctive tail-wagging movement. Although not always the case, chiffchaffs often have dark legs and a short pale eye stripe, whereas the willow warbler -  a very similar looking species - has pale legs and a long yellow eye stripe. It is readily distinguished by its song, from where it gets its name. It picks insects from trees and also flies out to snap them up in flight.

Common tern: These delightful silvery-grey and white birds have long tails which have earned them the nickname 'sea-swallow'. They have a buoyant, graceful flight and frequently hover over water before plunging down for a fish. They are often noisy in company and breed in colonies. The common tern is the tern species most likely to be found inland.

Common tern (photo: Richie Lort); Sedge warbler (photo: Hazel Watson /; Song thrush (photo: Chris Gomersall /

Sedge warbler: The sedge warbler is a small, quite plump, warbler with a striking broad creamy stripe above its eye and greyish brown legs. It is brown above with blackish streaks and creamy white underneath. It is a summer visitor, and winters in Africa, south of the Sahara Desert. Its song is a noisy, rambling warble compared to the more rhythmic song of the reed warbler.Song thrush: A familiar and popular garden songbird whose numbers have declined markedly on farmland and in towns and cities. It's smaller and browner than a mistle thrush with smaller spotting. Its habit of repeating song phrases distinguish it from singing blackbirds. It likes to eat snails which it breaks into by smashing them against a stone with a flick of the head.

Swift: The swift is a medium-sized aerial bird, which is a superb flier. It evens sleeps on the wing! It is plain sooty brown, but in flight against the sky it appears black. It has long, scythe-like wings and a short, forked tail. It is a summer visitor, breeding across the UK, but most numerously in the south and east. It winters in Africa.

BBC Radio Ulster's Tweets Showcasing Star Bird Species:

To read BBC Radio Ulster's Press Release about the Dawn Chorus, click here, and to listen back to BBC Radio Ulster's Dawn Chorus highlights, visit