A record-breaking curlew breeding season in 2022 saw the number of curlew chicks successfully fledging the Glenwherry area of Co Antrim - more than double compared with 2021.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said on Wednesday 8 February that the results have sparked real hope for a recovery of its numbers in Northern Ireland.
The results show that 69 fledged curlew chicks were recorded in Glenwherry this season, building on last year's 28 chicks, which was itself a record.
A further 11 chicks fledged from RSPB NI’s Lower Lough Erne Reserve also.
This follows a long-term decline in curlew numbers on the island of Ireland for a number of years.
Conservation practices carried out by farmers and landowners on working farmland in the area are the reason for this conservation success, according to the RSPB.
"The number of individual chicks that made it to fledge put this season over and above anything that we ever thought was possible," conservation officer for RSPB NI working on the Antrim Plateau Katie Gibb said.
"Within the first two years of the Curlews in Crisis project in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ (DAERA) Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) group option, we managed to get a total of 98 chicks fledged; this is more chicks than the site produced in the previous seven years combined," she added.
Targeted projects on site under DAERA's EFS group option has also allowed farmers to implement nature-friendly farming principles on their land, Gibb said.
Temporary electrified fences were erected around curlew nests, ensuring they were being protected from ground predators at the most vulnerable egg stage, Gibb added.
"As predation is known to be one of the major factors contributing to this species’ population declines, these fences were combined with targeted predator control to give the chicks a fighting chance to survive," she said.
Meanwhile, in Co Fermanagh, RSPB NI recorded further encouraging statistics.
Its reserve on Lower Lough Erne supports critical populations of breeding waders, recording some of the highest breeding densities anywhere in the UK.
This year saw the Lower Lough Erne team monitor a total of 36 pairs of curlews across 200 hectares of lowland wet grassland.
Estate manager for RSPB NI on Lower Lough Erne Islands reserve Amy Burns said: "We utilise remote camera technology to give us a unique glimpse into the life of curlew on the islands.
"We’ve been able to capture images and videos of young chicks, adults and fledglings, as well as thousands of selfies of curious highland cows," she said.