Discovering our wonderful wildlife

Garron

A priority for the mid and east Antrim area is to produce a Local Biodiversity Action Plan. This document will include a Biodiversity Audit that will describe some of the important plant and animal life in the region and an Action Plan listing projects to help threatened species and habitats.

Many experts have combed CountyAntrim, searching out rare and interesting wildlife, and we know at least some of the highlights. For example, there are the important seabird colonies at Isle of Muck and the Gobbins, nearby Larne Lough supports nationally important numbers of overwintering birds and there is an important tern colony on two small islands in the lough near Magheramorne. In addition, there are mudflats and saltmarsh towards the southern end of the lough and brackish water lagoons – a rare habitat – by the railway line on the western side of Larne Lough.

Another key region is the rush pasture around Glenwherry. This is an important breeding area for snipe, lapwing and also curlew, which is one of our most iconic species, instantly recognisable from its long, downwards curving bill and distinctive call. Unfortunately all of these wading birds are in decline in Ireland, highlighting the need to protect these uplands.

Garron is also a very special place. On the plateau there is the largest area of intact blanket bog in Northern Ireland and on the rugged slopes towards the coast there is a mosaic of dry heath, woodland and species rich grassland. There are many records of rare and unusual plants from this area. For example, the Garron Plateau has the only Northern Ireland population of bog orchid. Irish whitebeam and tor grass have been found in the woodland and grassland on the slopes towards the coast and, on the sea shore, sea kale and rock samphire can be found.

The rivers in mid Antrim are important for salmon and eel, though unfortunately both of these species are in rapid decline. Other species of particular biodiversity importance include lamprey and dollaghan. Any list of sites of biodiversity importance in mid and east Antrim should also include the Glenarm Estate, where there are veteran trees and parkland habitat, species rich grasslands along the Antrim coast, PortglenoneForest with its magnificent display of bluebell in late spring, Straidkilly ash/hazel wood near Carnlough. Lough Beg, with its extensive wet grassland habitat and birdlife including whooper swans is also a real delight for anyone with even a passing interest in wildlife.

Conservation starts with finding out what we have and the more we explore this region, the more important sites and rare species we discover. If you know of any special places, rare habitats and unusual species of plants or animals in the Larne, Ballymena and Carrickfergus council areas, please contact Ben Simon, the Biodiversity Officer for this region. He will be delighted to hear from you.

 

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