County Fermanagh

Whinchat Saxicola rubetra ©Ian Dickey Website

County Fermanagh is one of the six counties of Northern Ireland. The county covers an area of c.1700 K² (650 square miles) and has a population of under 65,000 people. Fermanagh is also one of the thirty-two traditional counties of Ireland, as well as part of the historic province of Ulster. It borders County Tyrone to the northeast, County Monaghan to the southeast, County Cavan to the southwest, County Leitrim to the west and County Donegal to the northwest. The county town, Enniskillen, is largest in both size and population and is situated in the middle of the county.

County Fermanagh is mainly rural and is situated largely in the basin of the River Erne. It is dominated by two connected lakes: Upper and Lower Lough Erne; the largest bodies of water, but there is a myriad of smaller lakes as 30% of the county is covered with lakes and waterways. Tourism based on water pursuits such as boating and fishing is a major local industry as are agriculture and forestry.

The county has three prominent upland areas; the expansive West Fermanagh Scarplands to the southwest of Lough Erne, which rise to c.350m; the Sliabh Beagh hills, situated to the east on the Monaghan border, and the Cuilcagh mountain range, located along Fermanagh’s southern border, which contains Cuilcagh, the county’s highest point, at 665m.

Compared to the rest of Ireland it is relatively wooded with around 14% tree cover.

Birding County Fermanagh

These Lakelands offer a natural haven for wildlife and there is ample opportunity to experience the natural diversity of the region. Apart from the many lakes there are mountains, limestone pavements and cliffs, wooded river valleys, sandstone scarps and unspoilt hay meadows.

The abundance of wildlife can be attributed to both its geology and the relatively undisturbed (it has the least density of population in Northern Ireland) landscape that Fermanagh is famous for. Orchid-covered roadside verges, hedges white with hawthorn blossom, and damp fields pink with ragged robin. 80% of the land is used for agriculture and most of that sheep and cattle husbandry as it is unsuitable for intensive farming, adding to its attraction for wildlife.

Fermanagh’s varied landscape combines to provide an important and unique biodiversity resource which supports approximately 50% of the Northern Ireland Priority Habitats and approximately 23% of Northern Ireland Priority Species. These are deemed to be the most threatened habitats and species in Northern Ireland and are consequently, of the highest conservation concern.

The significance of Fermanagh’s biodiversity is reflected in the amount and extent of protected areas, which are of local, national, European and global importance. At present, the protected or designated areas within Fermanagh consists of 61 Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI), 12 Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), three Special Protection Areas (SPA), five Ramsar sites and one European Geopark. The overall result is a natural environment that has international renown for its wildlife interest.

The wetland sites are particularly important for wildfowl including species such as tufted duck, great crested grebe and mute swan. In winter, populations of whooper swan and goldeneye arrive to avoid the harsher climes of latitudes further north. Breeding waders and a unique Sandwich tern colony also thrive on particular islands within Lower Lough Erne, with 40 of the Erne’s 200 islands managed by the RSPB for their benefit.

Top Sites
  • Boa Island

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  • Castle Archdale

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    Bays, islands and woodlands
  • Castle Caldwell

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    Used to have breeding Common Scoter. Extensive woodland
  • Castlecaldwell /Lower Lough Erne

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    Breeding waders, gulls and terns(Sandwich and common); wintering wildfowl including regular scaup, wigeon. Castlecaldwell occasionally has crossbill plus occasional singing wood warbler. Spring wader passage light but includes black-tailed godwit, whimbrel, occasional ruff, greenshank. Recent scarce visitors have included black tern (has bred '70s); Mediterranean gull, marsh harrier, little gull, ruff, great northern diver. Rares have included American wigeon, red-necked grebe and UK/Ireland's first Wilson's petrel in 1891.
  • Crom National Trust Estate

    Possibly the most reliable and easiest access to garden warblers in spring, wintering wildfowl whooper swans and has included smew and the Baikal teal in Jan '67 (wild?); annual osprey records
  • Drumgay Lough

    Waterfowl occasionally including scarce species e.g.long-tailed duck, smew, scaup; always a possibility of something rarer
  • Enniskillen tip

    Good for winter gulls including glaucous, Iceland and other possibilities
  • Lower Lough Macnean

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    An area near Gortatole with wintering Greenland White-fronted geese, whooper swans, wigeon, curlew, hen harrier, overhead peregrine, raven occasional merlin
  • Pettigoe Plateau

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    Upland birds
  • Upper Lough Erne

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    Upper Lough Erne is difficult to watch as there is poor access but wintering wildfowl including internationally important numbers of whooper swans, occasional gargany in spring, wood sandpiper in spring and green-winged teal have been recorded. Olderrecord of hobby.
  • George Gordon

  • Brad Robson - Additional Material

County Recorder
Useful Reading

  • Where to Watch Birds in Ireland

    by Paul Milne & Clive Hutchinson | Christopher Helm | 2009 | Paperback | 336 pages | Out of Print | ISBN: 9781408105214 Buy this book from
Useful Information
  • South Tyrone & Fermanagh BTO Rep

    Michael Stinson
  • RSPB Fermanagh Local Group

    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. Contact: Sandra Trimble: 02889521885 -

Abbreviations Key

  • *Forest Service Nature Reserves

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    There are many nature reserves on Forest Service land in County Fermanagh.
  • LNR Cladagh Glen Nature Reserve

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    The undergrowth glows a vibrant green, with moss and woodland ferns carpeting the ground beneath the native trees. A profusion of bluebells, wild garlic and woodland plants add colour during the spring and summer, while elusive animals like red squirrels and pine martens scavenge in the undergrowth.
  • LNR Correl Glen

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    The start of Correl Glen Nature Reserve trail is opposite Lough Navar Forest entrance which includes a car park. The trail runs up on to heath overlooking the reserve. Interpretation panels at the entrance and at the viewpoint, outline the natural history of the area.
  • LNR Inishcreagh

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    A beautiful island in Upper Lough Erne with a mosaic of habitats. As the nature reserve is privately owned, it is not open to the public.
  • LNR Isle Namanfin

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    The scarce garden warbler, a summer visitor to Northern Ireland, has bred here in the past. Other interesting birds found here include song thrush, bullfinch and reed bunting.
  • NNR Killykeegan

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    This nature reserve's limestone grassland is managed through conservation grazing and is characterized by low growing plants such as thyme and bird's foot trefoil. Bird's foot trefoil is the food plant of the caterpillars of the rare dingy skipper butterfly, which can be found here in early summer together with the common blue and another rarity, the marsh fritillary butterfly. Rarities found here include field gentian and the small white mountain orchid. Hazel scrub has found a niche within the nature reserve as well. Here you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a red squirrel, pine martens or Irish stoat. Cuckoos can be heard calling as they seek out meadow pipits' nests in which to lay their eggs.
  • RSPB Aghatirourke

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    Aghatirourke is part of the Cuilcagh Mountain World Geopark in County Fermanagh. It's an area of extensive upland blanket bog, bordered by limestone grassland to the north and montane heath to the south. In spring, wheatears and sand martins abound, while hen harriers and peregrines hunt overhead in summer.
  • RSPB Lower Lough Erne

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    Lower Lough Erne Islands Reserve in County Fermanagh is the most westerly of all RSPB reserves in the UK. It consists of more than 40 islands on a large freshwater lake, home to lapwings, curlews, snipe and a unique inland colony of breeding Sandwich terns, and is managed as lowland wet grassland meadows or broadleaf woodland sites. A species rich hay meadow at Lowery Farm and large area of forestry at Castle Caldwell.
Places to Stay
  • Coolbeg Farm

    The farmhouse enjoys a private lakeside location on its own 40 acres of farm land and private loch shore. Coolbeg Farm is a site of special scientific interest with a protected population of otters and swans. From the cottage and garden there are uninterrupted views of upper Lough Erne and its many islands and sunset views of Cuilcagh and Benaughlin mountains...
  • View Point Guest House

    Just off the Enniskillen - Tempo Road (B80) in the heart of County Fermanagh, View Point guest house is a Northern Ireland Tourist Board Approved Country House Accommodation, situated to allow easy access to a range of tourist amenities and within minutes of the historic town of Enniskillen.
Other Links
  • Birdwatching in County Fermanagh

    Our gardens are full of amazing birds to discover and enjoy. From our resident robin redbreasts and colourful blue tits to our summer visitors like swallows and house martins, birds have all kinds of behaviours, feeding habits and nesting preferences making them a joy to watch. Why not take some time in your garden to find out what local feathered friends visit your backyard?
  • Chirpy Bird Food

    We are all a little bit different, which means each one of us can work to our strengths within the business. One thing that does unite us is our desire to see Chirpy Bird Food grow as a sustainable business, maintaining the quality and products we have become known for. Our vision for the future includes conservation work in Co. Fermanagh, and in schools throughout the North and South of Ireland.

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