Nature Notes

Alexander’s Band Rainbow over the Belfast Hills - credit James Devenney

Nature reserves may look completely wild, but our 18 reserves across Northern Ireland are actually carefully managed by a dedicated team. We protect, restore and create a mix of habitats where wildlife can thrive.

Every Tuesday the Nature Reserves team will be bringing you Nature Notes. Highlights and observations of what we are seeing and hearing on our sites - we hope you enjoy getting closer to the wildlife and wild places we manage!

Observations From Our Nature Reserves


Our first Nature Note is from Michael Meharg, conservation cattle grazier at our Slievenacloy Nature Reserve. A grassland paradise in the Belfast Hills, home to a stunning variety of rare wildlife.


Industrialisation of the Belfast Hills


Last week James Devenney took this stunning photograph of Divis and Black Mountain from Slievenacloy. The TV masts, wind turbine, quarry, electric poles, chicken house and coniferous forest all highlight the industrialisation of the Belfast Hills. This landscape shows how the peri-urban fringe is under multiple land-use pressures and highlights how valuable tracts of land, like our Nature Reserve at Slievenacloy are to protect important wildlife and landscape.

Rainbow over the Belfast Hills

Alexander’s Band Rainbow over the Belfast Hills - credit James Devenney

Alexander’s Band Rainbow


This photo is a great example showing refraction of light through raindrops creating a rainbow and making the sky above the rainbow appear much darker. You can just about make it out, but there is a second rainbow above the main rainbow.

The very dark band between a double rainbow is called the 'Alexander's Band' named after an early Greek philosopher Alexander of Aphrodisias! The 180° refraction causes the higher rainbow to have the colours reversed - ROYGBIV below with VIBGYOR above. 

Visibility was so clear Scrabo Tower is visible on the skyline to the right.

The time of year for Orchids and Lizards


In other news, we’ve seen the first orchids of the season coming into bloom across our nature reserves. Butterfly orchids at Slievenacloy, fragrant orchid at Milford Cutting and common spotted-orchids at Bog Meadows.

We’ve also spotted a few common lizards out in the sun on Slievenacloy. The only reptile native to Ireland!

Our nature reserves help wildlife to thrive. They also connect people with wildlife in our increasingly nature-depleted world.

You can help us protect them today with a donation

Common lizards at Slievenacloy (c) Ronald Surgenor