There are only 135 breeding pairs of curlew left in Ireland
It's been three years since Bord na Móna and the No to Derryadd Wind Farm group clashed horns on the former's plans to construct a 24-turbine wind farm in Derryadd and, this week, a glimmer of winged hope has arrived in the form of an unlikely saviour: the curlew.
A protected species due to a severe decline in numbers, the curlew is the essence of Ireland, a symbol of marsh, bog land and windswept coasts as well as farmland.
Not long ago they graced every county – but today they are in crisis. In the 1980s it is estimated there were over 5,000 breeding pairs in the Republic of Ireland. Last year the official estimate was just 135 pairs.
The chances of a pair of these endangered birds making its home in Longford are slim, but for a pair to take up residence in the bog land of Derryadd is an incredible stroke of luck that has brought hope to the local community.
“A member of the public spotted them and contacted us,” said PRO of the No to Derryadd Wind Farm group, Niall Dennigan.
“So we went out and we initially found nothing. But when we went out again I saw one pop its head up.”
Video footage was taken of the birds and this was sent to the relevant organisations to confirm the curlews' appearance.
“We’re hoping that Bord na Móna will sit up and take note now and that the Mid Shannon Wilderness Park should prevail over the windfarm,” said Mr Dennigan.
“It just shows that the wildlife is returning here. There are only 135 known breeding pairs in the country and to have one right on our doorstep is a big deal. To take that away would be a shame.”
A Curlew Conservation Programme was put in place by the National Parks & Wildlife Service of the Department of Culture, Heritage & the Gaeltacht in 2017 in an effort to protect the declining population.
“They have to be protected, they just have to be. It’s a glimmer of hope for us. Whether or not Bord na Móna take notice of it, we don’t know, but we’re thrilled to have them here,” Mr Dennigan concluded.