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County Antrim

Eider Somateria mollissima ©Ian Dickey Website

The coastline here stretches from just west of Portrush on the north coast to Belfast. On three sides it is backed by precipitous cliff scenery, cut into by the famous nine Glens of Antrim. Only in the west does it slope more gently down to river Bann and Lough Neagh. It also includes the Giants Causeway which lies on the north coast between Bushmills and Ballycastle. The last Choughs in Northern Ireland have a tenous hold there.

The uplands have been much degraded by peat cutting and overgrazing, but are still amongst the main haunts of Hen Harriers and Merlins, although they have moved from the open moorland into conifer plantations. Important seabird colonies are nearly the exclusive domain of this county, and it also includes one of the best places to observe seabird migration. It includes Larne Lough and the north shore of Belfast Lough.

Top Sites

Capanagh

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Upland birds including Red Grouse and Whinchat.

Craigagh Wood

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Deciduous woodland (mainly planted Beech) close to the road from Cushendun to Ballycastle. Wood Warblers are the main attraction, a very local bird in Northern Ireland. From there it is easy to explore the whole of Glendun as it runs over the Antrim plateau, checking for Hen Harriers etc on the way.

Larne Lough

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Tern colonies at Swan Island and Blue Circle Island (the latter an artificial creation by the cement company of the same name) Both lie just south of Glynn off the main road, and can be scoped distantly from the car park at J435987. As well as Common and Arctic, this is the only place to see Roseate. Another way is to go to the very end of Island Magee opposite Larne harbour and watch the terns as they fly out of Larne Lough. Most of the waders are best viewed from Ballycarry Bridge at the south end of the Lough (J465645).

Macedon Point, Belfast Lough

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A taste of what can be seen along the north shoreline of Belfast Lough. It is easy to get to from Belfast by taking the M2 and then M5 to the roundabout at Hazelbank Park (J351812). Turn right into Park and walk the short distance down to the shoreline. This is the main wintering area for over 2,000 Great Crested Grebes, but most of the other sea ducks of the Lough are present as well in winter, with Velvet Scoter, Slavonian Grebe etc distinctly possible.

Portmore Lough RSPB Reserve

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A large reed-fringed lake close to the shore of Lough Neagh, which can be viewed from a hide. Good numbers of wildfowl, with Reed Warbler and Marsh Harrier a possibility. Contact RSPB Northern Ireland for details.

Ramore Head

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Close to the centre of Portrush, so local accommodation is plentiful. The best seawatching point on the north coast, and northwest gales in autumn are nearly essential. Skuas, Leach's Petrels and sometimes large shearwaters are all part of the fare.

West Light (Bull Point); Rathlin Island

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Caledonian MacBryne run the ferry from Ballycastle. You can check with them at (028) 2076 9299 about times as winter and summer sailings are different, and places can be limited. RSPB have a viewing station at the West Light with telescopes for public use (prepare to be recruited). Contact RSPB in Belfast for details and local contacts.

The main attraction of Rathlin is the seabird colony at the West Light. Arrange transport out if possible as the distance is three to four miles, and it is more pleasant to walk back to the harbour at Church Bay. Buzzards are to be seen in the air nearly all the time, and Peregrines nest on the cliffs. Rathlin is the only place in Northern Ireland where Corncrakes have bred recently. Golden Eagles drift over from Scotland every year, but are very elusive (speak to any Irish birder). Other notable sightings have been Booted Eagle, Gyrfalcon, King Eider and Rustic Bunting

Contributor

County Recorder

See Norther Ireland

Useful Reading

Where to Watch Birds in Ireland

by Paul Milne & Clive Hutchinson - Paperback - 336 pages (2nd Edition 2010) Christopher Helm £18.99

ISBN: 9781408105214

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Trip Reports

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Ballymagarry House

Accommodation

The central feature of the house, a sixteenth-century barn, has now been converted to an enormous drawing room with a large brick fireplace. The rest of the house has been built around this central structure, with unusual and interesting decor. There is a great playroom for small children, and an outside play area. All the bedrooms have views over Co. Donegal…

Maddybenny Farm

Accommodation

Maddybenny Farm (meaning sanctified or holy post) dates from the 1600s, when it was built as a plantation house on lands belonging to the Earl of Antrim. The first Presbyterian Minister, Rev. Gabriel Cornwall, lived here. The house is approached up a long track and stands in a wonderful, rural position. It is part of a big complex of buildings: the farm, stables and riding school, and 6 self-catering cottages…

Organisations

Antrim & Args Ringing Group

M McNeely, 17 Lower Quilly Road, Dromore, BT25 1NL

T A C T (Talnotry Avian Care Trust)

Website

T.A.C.T (Talnotry Avian Care Trust) operates a voluntarily run Wildlife Centre in the village of Crumlin, County Antrim. The Charity cares for and rehabilitates sick, injured and abandoned wild birds and mammals. The Trust's primary aim is to return birds and mammals back to the wild where practicable. T.A.C.T cares for a variety of birds and mammals native to Ireland, as well as a few non - native birds and abandoned animals. T.A.C.T currently has around 350 animals in its long term care. These include gannets, swans, kestrels, sparrowhawks, owls, foxes, hedgehogs, geese and ducks, as well as rabbits, guinea pigs, cockatiels, budgies, pigeons, terrapins and ferrets. The Centre is open to members of the public on a daily basis. A small donation is requested to help defray costs as the trust receives no government funding.

Observatories

Copeland Bird Observatory

Observatory Website

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Secretary: Peter Munro, Talisker Lodge, 54b Templepatrick Road, Ballyclare, Co Antrim BT39 9TX 028 9332 3421 talisker.lodge@btopenworld.com

Museums

World of Owls

http://www.worldofowls.com

Owls from all over the world… The primary objectives of the “World of Owls” is to insure the survival of the world's owls. This will run hand in hand with conservation, education, research and restoration of the wild habitat the owls need…

Reserves

Antrim Glens and Causeway Coast

Website

…It is extremely popular with birdwatchers, geologists, botanists, divers, sea-anglers and anyone with a love of wild and rugged scenery…

Kebble Nature Reserve

Information

Satellite View

…On leaving the lighthouse continue northeast along the cliff edge path until you reach the high point of the cliffs. The route here takes a right angle turn along the ridge of barren land lying between the two wooded section so Kinramer Wood…

Rathlin Island

Information

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The RSPB manages a stretch of basalt cliffs along the island's north coast where Northern Ireland's largest seabird colony breeds…

RSPB Reserve - Belfast Lough

Webpage

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The mudflats are important feeding areas for a variety of wading birds and wildfowl. At high tide, flocks of wading birds, such as redshanks, oystercatchers and black-tailed godwits, can be seen from the hide and viewing points…

RSPB Reserve - Portmore Lough

Webpage

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In spring, skylarks and wading birds breed on the meadows. Strong boots are recommended in winter…

RSPB Reserve - Rathlin Island Seabird Centre

Webpage

Satellite View

The colony is at its greatest density at the RSPB viewpoint on the West Lighthouse, clinging to the cliff face. This gives a truly unique vantage point from which to appreciate the sheer volume and intense activity of breeding puffins, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and fulmars…

Other Links

Birdwatching County Antrim

Website

List of sites. E.g. “The majesty of the Causeway Coast vies for the birdwatcher's attention with fulmar, black guillemot, eider, turnstone, chough, buzzard, raven and wheatear. Offshore are the seabird colonies of Rathlin Island. In the middle is the Antrim plateau - red grouse moor, bog and forest. To the east are the mudflats of Belfast Lough, with the Bann, Lough Beg and Lough Neagh to the west.”

Birdwatching in Newtownabbey

Website

SPECTACULAR numbers of birds feed along the coast between Belfast and Whiteabbey, many on the mudflats and others immediately offshore. The whole area of Belfast Lough has been designated as having special scientific interest.