An innovative raft manufactured from environmentally friendly recycled plastic has proved a major hit for nesting terns at an RSPB nature reserve in Northern Ireland.
Designed and manufactured by Fusion Marine Ltd, the raft at Portmore Lough in Co. Antrim attracted a large colony of nesting common terns during its first summer of operation, underlining the effectiveness of artificial floating platforms in providing aquatic birds with safe nesting sites.
Donnell Black, Site Manager at Portmore Lough Reserve, said: “We wanted to use recycled plastic to manufacture the raft as it is an extremely buoyant material, as well as being durable in harsh environments, lasting up to 50 years. It also goes without saying that because it’s recycled we’re also doing our bit to keep waste to a minimum!
“The raft has proved really popular with the terns, with around 40 birds taking up residence and breeding on the new island since it was installed. The raft is anchored near the shore of Portmore Lough, and can easily be seen from the bird hide on the edge of the water.”
The raft is made from two pontoon sections that have been joined together to create an 8.5m x 4.2m floating platform for the nesting terns. Recycled plastic offers a number of important advantages over traditional materials such as wood and metal, including much having a much longer lifespan and requiring minimal maintenance.
The success of the tern raft has generated strong interest from a number of conservation organisations. Iain Forbes of Fusion Marine said: “We are delighted that the raft has proved so successful for nesting terns. Recycled plastic is durable and lasts much longer than wood. The material is corrosion proof and blends in well with the natural environment.”
Fusion Marine’s recycled plastics division also specialises in the supply of a wide range of outdoor furniture and other associated equipment such as boardwalks. In recent years, the company has supplied boardwalks to the Hermaness Nature Reserve in Shetland, a major access pathway project in Argyll, and for a sand-dune system at Balmedie in Aberdeenshire.
“Recycled plastic is an incredibly versatile material and has a number of useful applications for nature reserves and other outdoor areas,” states Iain Forbes.