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Is Casement work a threat to nesting birds?

By Francesca Ryan

The GAA has rejected accusations that they are disturbing nesting birds as preparation work for the redevelopment of Casement Park gets under way.

Residents of Owenvarragh Park contacted us to complain that trees and bushes were being felled despite the nesting season having officially started on March 1.

“They came late last week and started cutting down the foliage,” said one resident.  “We complained and the next day got a letter from the Ulster GAA notifying us of the work, but that was only after it had started and we had complained.

“They say they have a qualified ecologist there on the site but nobody has seen anyone, it just looks like young ones cutting down the bushes. The birds are going mad, you can see and hear them.”

Another resident said they had contacted the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to notify them of the “wildlife crime”.

“They aren’t supposed to go near bushes and trees during the nesting season,” she said.  “That season starts on March 1 and continues to the end of August. But these people have just landed in with their tools in the middle of it and started chopping all round them, that can’t be right.”

While the nesting dates are advisory rather than legally binding, it is recommended that contractors carry out checks if they are to begin disturbing bushes and foliage between spring and autumn.  An Ulster GAA spokesperson said they have sought advice from ecologists and environmentalists.

“Work being carried out at Casement Park at the moment is being overseen by a qualified ecologist and the team are also in constant contact with Northern Ireland Environment Agency,” he said.

“This work will be completed within the weekend and is being done within strict guidelines outlined by the statutory authorities.

“While the work is being carried out on the Casement site, we also took measures to ensure neighbouring residents were informed last week,” he added.

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