We were captivated by The Chronicles of Erne which hit our screens earlier this month on BBC Four. Packed full of nature, gorgeous scenery, soothing narration and featuring RSPB NI’s very own Amy Burns as a lead character – what’s not to love?

Filmed over a year, the documentary features our Lower Lough Erne Islands nature reserve and our work to preserve and maintain the habitats of some of our most endangered species including curlews.

Not your average nature reserve

Lower Lough Erne isn’t your average RSPB reserve, as it is made up of over 40 islands, which are home to species including lapwings, redshanks, snipe and curlews. The islands are accessible by boat, and the team use a livestock cot to transport up to 150 cattle and 60 sheep back and forth to islands which are managed through conservation grazing. The grazing helps create variation in vegetation height that ground-nesting birds such as curlew like to nest in.

The team works tirelessly year-round to change the fortunes of some of Northern Ireland’s most at risk bird life. Curlews have declined in Northern Ireland by 89% since 1987. County Fermanagh is home to 10% of the curlew population on the island of Ireland, with 39 pairs on the RSPB Lower Lough Erne Islands reserve in 2019. Without the work of Amy and the team, there is a real risk that this species could become extinct here.

Our Top 5 moments from the series

1) The gorgeous views across Lough Erne. The sun doesn’t always shine in Fermanagh, but rain or shine it could easily be one of the most beautiful places on earth.


2) The Highland cows island staycation!
In Episode 1: Spring, we are treated to an unusual sight, a herd of Highland cows being expertly transported across the open lough on a livestock cot. The cattle are being transported to some of RSPB NI’s island reserves on Lough Erne. These hairy beauties are conservation heroes, as they munch up any new vegetation growth to help maintain the perfect habitat for ground-nesting birds such as curlews.

In this episode we also get introduced to Fermanagh’s very own ‘Trump cow’, so named for its distinctive hairdo.

3) Episode 2: Summer, brings us calling curlew
. Is there a better sound? This call indicates breeding has been successful. RSPB NI’s Amy and Ken seek out the nest site and use temperature trace technology to work out the curlew chick’s hatching date. 

4) The trail cam reveals…. surprise Highland cow selfies! And the sight we’ve all been waiting for - fluffy curlew chicks! The final confirmation that breeding has been successful this year.

5) A winter workout like no other! Who needs a gym membership when there’s gorse to clear? In the final instalment of the series Episode 4: Winter, the RSPB NI lower Lough Erne team and a group of dedicated volunteers, ignore the chill in the air and get to work clearing vegetation from the island reserves.

Their hard work will ensure curlews and other ground-nesting birds have suitable nesting habitat waiting for them when they return to the Lough Erne islands to breed again next summer.

Thanks to the Amy Burns and the team who took part in Waddell Media’s documentary for the BBC, for sharing the inspirational journey through the seasons and for giving us a glimpse into life on the Lough.

If you missed the series you can still catch it on BBC iPlayer https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/m000fv4t/the-chronicles-of-erne

If you have been inspired by this story and would like to support the work of the RSPB, you can do so here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/join-and-donate/join-us/

Image credits: Waddell Media