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New project brings feathered friends to care home residents

(l-r) Julie-Ann McStravick, care home residents Bob Richardson and David Duprey and Peter Harper of the Lough Neagh Partnership fill one of the bird feeders(Edward Byrne/PA)
(l-r) Julie-Ann McStravick, care home residents Bob Richardson and David Duprey and Peter Harper of the Lough Neagh Partnership fill one of the bird feeders(Edward Byrne/PA)

A new project has brought a host of feathered friends to the windows of care home residents in Co Armagh.

The Lough Neagh Partnership has teamed up with two care home groups to trial the project where feed boxes are placed across the grounds to entice more birds into the area.

The residents of one of the six homes taking part, Lisnisky care home in Portadown, have been enjoying watching a variety of new friends such as blackbirds, thrushes, blue tits, great tits, robins and wrens at close quarters.

For those confined to their rooms, there is also the option to watch the birds on a tablet via a camera at one of the feed boxes.

Squirrels have also been spotted making raids on the supply of seeds and fruit left out for the birds.

Lough Neagh Partnership is working with six care homes in the Ann’s Care Homes group in Co Armagh and Hutchinson Care Home group in Co Antrim in the project.

Bird feeders and nestcam at Lisnisky care home (Edward Byrne/PA) 

Peter Harper, shoreline environment officer with the Lough Neagh Partnership, said the idea came during the coronavirus pandemic, funded under the EF Challenge Fund which aims to benefit hard-to-reach groups.

“We thought one sector which could benefit was the residential care home sector, and how could we bring the environment into the sector to add a bit of interest for the residents and the workers, but also help us to raise awareness of wildlife and conservation issues around the lough,” he told the PA news agency.

“From that came the idea of providing some feeders and also a nestcam box and a nestcam on the feeder to provide live footage on a day-to-day basis to be screened into the homes.

“It was a pilot and we wanted to get a range of different care homes with different care requirements, some of the residents were more mobile and able to get involved in the feeding and others simply enjoyed birds coming to the home and learning about them.

“A lot of the residents staying in these homes are maybe from a very rural background and they know about the countryside and about wildlife, so these are little friends who come to the window every day – as long as the food is there they don’t let them down.”

Julie-Ann McStravick, a personal activity leader at Lisnisky care home, said they were excited about trialling the project as something that changed across the seasons and could give enjoyment all year round.

“It has worked really well and has linked in with our arts and craft, we use the bird identification and colour for artwork,” she said.

“The staff also love watching the birds and help us fill the feeders, and taking videos of the birds. It has really linked with all together.

“A lot of residents who can’t come into the garden have said to me how much they have enjoyed watching the birds feed and all the activity around it.”

Resident David Duprey said he has really enjoyed watching the birds and getting involved with filling the feeders.

“It’s nice getting out to watch them. Where I sit I can see them coming out of the bushes and shrubbery, and it encourages me with art, with all the colours of them,” he said.

“I have a feeder outside my window so I can watch them, the odd time you get a wee squirrel in the morning, you see them scooting about, they’re crafty wee rascals, they can get into the feeders too.”