RSPB Nature Reserves in Northern Ireland
There are six RSPB nature reserves in Northern Ireland open to the public
Nature reserves are havens for birds and other wildlife, and also great places for people to visit. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds manage ten nature reserves in Northern Ireland, six of which are open to the public.
Belfast Harbour, Belfast
Against a backdrop of cranes and tankers, and situated close to Belfast city centre, this reserve proves that nature and industry can coexist. Its fully equipped observation room provides arguably the best birdwatching in Northern Ireland as wigeons, curlews and black-tailed godwits gather on the mud and managed grassland, feeding just outside the observatory windows. In the summer, a tern island also holds many pairs of common terns.
Castleward Bay, Co Down
The mudshanks on this reserve support redshanks, oystercatchers, brent geese, wigeons, herons and greenshanks.
Lough Foyle, Co Londonderry
Lough Foyle is on an internationally important bird migration route, and up to 4000 brent geese regularly gather on eelgrass beds here each winter. The mudflats are home to many species of wading bird including bar-tailed godwits, for which the reserve is internationally renowned. It is also an important habitat for whooper swans.
Rathlin Island, Co Antrim
Rathlin Island is a breeding ground for more than 250,000 seabirds including fulmars, kittiwakes, puffins, razorbills and guillemots. These birds jostle for space on the cliffs, which can be viewed from the West Lighthouse, overlooking Kebble National Nature Reserve.
Rathlin also hosts a wide variety of rare plants and seabirds.
Portmore Lough, Co Antrim
Portmore nature reserve contains hay meadows and wetlands as well as the lough. In summer, thousands of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies fly over the meadows, attracting swallows and house martins. In winter, visitors can see whooper swans, greylag geese, teals and wigeons. Facilities include an informative visitor shelter, boardwalk and hides.
Aghatirourke, Co Fermanagh
Hen harries, golden plovers and merlins are just some of the birds that use this reserve. It is part of the Cuilcagh mountain complex, a geologically fascinating area of peat and limestone. Cuilcagh is the only designated European Geo-Park in the UK.
The Ulster Way footpath also runs through the reserve but there is only limited public access to the reserve itself.
For more information on these nature reserves, and on the RSPB in Northern Ireland in general, please log on to http://www.rspb.org.uk/nireland/index.asp