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Donation to RSPB
Irish artist, Lorna Hamilton, has exhibited her bird paintings across the UK and United States. On March 29th Lorna met the Director, Aidan Lonergan and Chairman, Dr Julian Greenwood of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Northern Ireland at their All Ireland conference in Newcastle, County Down. Lorna had the pleasure of presenting a limited edition print along with a cheque for 25% from the sale of her painting, ‘Freedom of the Skies'. Her painting, featuring a Red Kite in flight, was purchased two weeks before the conference. Lorna said, "I am delighted that my painting has been sold and pleased to be able to present a donation to the RSPB which will be used to protect birds and habitats."

Over 100 delegates attended the conference which was a joint venture between the RSPB and Birdwatch Ireland. The weekend featured seven speakers from all corners of conservation. The events began on Friday evening with an entertaining and informative talk from Stephen Moss, Director and Producer from the BBC Natural History Unit. Mr Moss has worked on many of the top UK wildlife programmes including Springwatch and Big Cat diary.

Saturday promised to be day full of interesting lectures ranging from the unique wildlife and habitats of the Galapagos Islands to the re-introduction programme of the Red Kites into Co.Down, N.Ireland. As always in conservation there are success stories and those which require urgent attention. One of the ongoing projects was highlighted by Sarah Sanders, Overseas Territories Officer. She spoke of Gough Island, a tiny island situated south east of Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic Ocean. The Gough Bunting and the Tristan Albatross are two birds which are at high risk of extinction and have recently been added to the Red List. There are two main factors affecting the birds; in the case of the Tristan Albatross, long line fishing is having a huge impact. However predation by mice is seriously impacting the future of both birds as well as other species. Five other species on the island are also facing a high risk of global extinction. Ms Sanders showed a video of the prediction of an Albatross chick; the gruesome sight of the chick being eaten alive by the tiny mice was cut short as it was too graphic. It certainly got the message across for the plight of this precious and remote seabird colony. A project to eradicate the rodents has begun but the success of this project will be vital to secure a healthy future for the birds of Gough Island. Early reports of the project are positive.
Late morning lectures were devoted to the re-introduction of the Red Kite in Co. Down and well established White tailed Eagle programme on the West coast of Scotland. This was followed by a talk about Northern Ireland's ‘jewel in the crown', Rathlin Island. Rathlin is a very small island of the north coast and hosts a very important seabird colony. Puffins, Razorbills and Fulmars are only a few of the species breeding on the island. However in recent years there has been a dramatic decrease in successful broods, as much as 50% in some species. RSPB is currently supporting studies to determine the cause for this decline.
The weekend of lectures was closed by the CEO of RSPB, Graham Wynne. Mr Wynne spoke of some of projects the RSPB are currently involved with. There is no doubt of their active role within the UK and the rest of the world. There were many positive stories telling how habitats, birds and other mammals have been brought back from near extinction. One of the areas featured was in Sierra Leone. The Gola Forest located in the Eastern and Southern provinces is widely considered to be one of the most important conservation sites in the country and has been a flagship project in the organisation. The RSPB purchased the logging rights to the area but instead of ripping down the forest they established a new law which enables them to protect the area from logging and diamond mining. Local communities are also involved in conserving the forest; the Chiefs are paid to protect the area which in turn benefits their quality of their life and the long term health of the environment. This project is proving very successful, working with local Chiefs, the RSPB have managed to control illegal logging and instil a sense of the forest's value and importance on local people.

Saturday closed with a drinks reception and dinner. On Sunday delegates had the opportunity to visit the local area and view wildlife with an RSPB representative.

Lorna said, "It was a great honour to be present at the conference and see the difference the RSPB is making in conservation. I hope I will be able to work with them in the future, uniting art and conservation for the benefit of wildlife and the environment."


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