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County Antrim

Eider Somateria mollissima ©Ian Dickey Website

Birding County Antrim

County Antrim is one of six counties that form Northern Ireland. Adjoined to the north-east shore of Lough Neagh, the county covers an area of 1,176 square miles and has a population of about 618,000, with a density of 526 people per square mile. It is also one of the thirty-two traditional counties of Ireland, as well as part of the historic province of Ulster. The Glens of Antrim offer isolated rugged landscapes and the world famous Giant's Causeway is a unique landscape and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bushmills produces whiskey, and Portrush is a popular seaside resort and night-life area. The majority of Belfast, the capital city of Northern Ireland, is in County Antrim, with the remainder being in County Down.

A large portion of Antrim is hilly, especially in the east, where the highest elevations are attained. The range runs north and south, and the highest point is Trostan at 1,800 feet. The inland slope is gradual, but on the northern shore the range terminates in abrupt and almost perpendicular declivities, and here, consequently, some of the finest coast scenery in the world is found, widely differing, with its unbroken lines of cliffs, from the indented coast-line of the west. The most remarkable cliffs are those formed of perpendicular basaltic columns, extending for many miles, and most strikingly displayed in Fair Head and the celebrated Giant's Causeway. The only island of size is the L-shaped Rathlin Island, off Ballycastle and the last Choughs in Northern Ireland have a tenuous hold here. The valleys of the Bann and Lagan, with the intervening shores of Lough Neagh, form the fertile lowlands. These two rivers, both rising in County Down, are the only ones of importance. The latter flows to Belfast Lough, the former drains Lough Neagh, which is fed by a number of smaller streams. At the outflow of the river lies Lough Beg, the 'Small Lake', about 15 feet lower than Lough Neagh.

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.

Top Sites

Capanagh

Satellite View

Upland birds including Red Grouse and Whinchat.

Craigagh Wood

Satellite View

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

Satellite View

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

Satellite View

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

Satellite View

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

Satellite View

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

Satellite View

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

George Gordon

County Recorder

George Gordon

2 Brooklyn Avenue, Bangor, Co. Down BT20 5RB

028 9145 5763

nimbus10111947@gmail.com

Useful Reading

Fieldguides & Other Birding Books
For a full list of fieldguides and other books see the general UK or Republic of Ireland page

Where to Watch Birds in Ireland

by Paul Milne & Clive Hutchinson | Christopher Helm | 2009 | Paperback | 336 pages |

ISBN: 9781408105214

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Organisations

Antrim & Args Ringing Group

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

RSPB Antrim Local Group

Webpage

The group's aim is to support actively the work of the RSPB in the local community and to involve RSPB members and the wider public in the Society's conservation, public affairs, education, fundraising and other activities. We have regular monthly indoor meetings throughout the year and have regular day-trips for bird watching.

RSPB Larne Local Group

Jimmy Christie - 028 28 583223 - candjchristie@btinternet.com

RSPB Lisburn Local Group

Webpage

The group's aim is to support actively the work of the RSPB in the local community and to involve RSPB members and the wider public in the Society's conservation, public affairs, education, fundraising and other activities. We have regular monthly indoor meetings locally throughout the year and have occasional day-trips to local nature reserves.

Talnotry Avian Care Trust

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.

Reserves

Abbreviations Key: See the appropriate Continent Page (or Country Page of those used on country sub-divisions)

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…

NIEA Kebble Nature Reserve

Information

Satellite View

At the western end of Rathlin Island, sheer cliffs rise more than 100 metres above raised beaches of rounded cobbles, while towering stacks of rock stand guard just off the shore.

RSPB Belfast Lough

Webpage

Satellite View

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 Portmore Lough

Webpage

Satellite View

This lowland, wet-grassland reserve boasts an open view across the Lough that takes in the wider landscape. It's a family-friendly, quiet retreat with seasonal wildlife spectacles - butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies in summer; greylag geese, whooper swans and thousands of ducks in winter.

RSPB Rathlin Island

Webpage

Satellite View

RSPB Rathlin Island, Ballycastle BT54 6SB - Whilst hugely important for breeding seabirds, including puffin, guillemot, kittiwake, razorbill and fulmar, Rathlin Island is also home to Northern Ireland's only pair of breeding chough and more recently corncrake. Visitors can enjoy the West Light Seabird Centre and a cliff-top, off-road walking trail at nearby Roonivoolin.

Forums & Mailing Lists

nibirds

News & Sightings

This site is run by a voluntary group of birders documenting and recording information about the birds and wildlife of Northern Ireland. We provide information on rarities and interesting sightings. Report sightings to: Email nibirds@live.co.uk, Text: 07973 403 146 or 07870 863 782 or Twitter: @nibirds See localbird pics at: www.nibirdpics.blogspot.co.uk

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…

Observatories

Copeland Bird Observatory

Observatory Website

Satellite View

The Observatory lies off the County Down coast of Northern Ireland at the southern side of the mouth of Belfast Lough. It is one of the British Bird Observatories and is directed and serviced by the British Trust for Ornithology. Its main aim is the collection of data on migratory and breeding birds, which may be used for their general conservation. It is operated on a part-time basis by local amateur ornithologists.

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…

Blogs

Neal Warnock

Twitter Website

Nature Conservation | Wildlife Photography | Also see: Patch Birding Ireland

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 Antrim & Newtonabbey

Webpage

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...

The Birds of Binevenagh

PDF Brochure

A guide to the wild birds of Binevenagh Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty