Strangford Lough Special Protection Area (SPA)
The diversity of sheltered estuarine habitats in Strangford Lough means that it is the most important coastal site in Northern Ireland for wintering water birds, holding large numbers of geese, ducks and waders. It is world famous as the main arrival site for most of the Canadian population of pale-bellied Brent goose Branta bernicla hrota, which arrive in autumn to spend the winter in our warmer climate. Most of the geese disperse to other sites in Ireland, but substantial flocks can be seen all winter on the mudflats near Newtownards, feeding amid vast concentrations of wintering wildfowl. In summer, the lough supports three species of breeding terns.
A number of SPA bird species roost or feed on areas outside the EMS boundary. These areas are important for the maintenance of these species, sites occurring outside the extent of natural or semi-natural habitat, together with agriculturally improved areas utilised by swans and geese, have not been included within the boundary of the SPA, but their importance must not be underestimated.
Strangford Lough qualifies as an SPA under Articles 4.1 and 4.2 of the European Birds Directive.
The Common Standards Monitoring (CSM) baseline is the number which must be exceeded for the feature to be in favourable condition. Numbers are based on 5 year peak mean figures of individuals. The current figures are from 2005/6 to 2009/10.
1. Article 4.1:
Strangford Lough supports populations of European importance of the following species listed on Annex I of the Directive ￼
The 2013 condition report concluded that this feature is favourable because all three breeding tern species have increased significantly. Article 4.2: Strangford Lough supports populations of European importance of the following migratory species
The 2013 condition report concluded that this feature is favourable because the wintering populations of knot, light-bellied Brent goose and redshank have increased significantly since the designation of Strangford Lough as an SPA.
2. Article 4.2:
Waterbird assemblage. CSM 54080 . Currently 79569 (Includes: Bar- tailed Godwit, Coot, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunlin, Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe, Golden Plover, Goldeneye, Grey Plover, Greylag Goose, Knot, Lapwing, Light- bellied Brent Goose, Little Grebe, Mallard, Oystercatcher, Pintail, Red-breasted Merganser, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Shelduck, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, and Turnstone.
The 2013 condition report concluded that this feature is favourable.
Although not listed by Europe as SPA features, Strangford Lough also supports populations of European importance of the following migratory species. These species warrant inclusion on the list of SPA features and their status will be reassessed when NIEA implements the 2013 SPA review. Even though they are not currently SPA features, they must be protected under the Habitats Regulations.