Nature Notes 7 April 2021

Observations from staff and members on our Nature Reserves this week.

Nature reserves may look completely wild, but our 19 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.

Balloo Woodland Nature Reserve

We have been trying to improve the diversity of the ground flora at Balloo Woodland and increase the population of our native primrose, Primula vulgaris. We have raised plants from seed and we have kindly received seedlings from a local garden. 

We planted out some these seedlings a few years ago and were delighted to see them flowering for the first time on Friday. Unfortunately, on returning to the woodland on Monday, the plants we were admiring a few days earlier were gone. It seems some very selfish person had dug them up. We are trying to establish these plants for everyone to enjoy – wildlife and people alike. This is like stealing a fine work of art from a museum, where everyone can enjoy it, just so one person can selfishly enjoy it in their own home. 

Remember, it is illegal to uproot any wild plant under the The Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 and primrose, in particular, is a protected species~ Ryan Bradley, Nature Reserves Officer 

Primrose

Umbra Nature Reserve

We took the opportunity of an essential visit to Coleraine recently to visit the Umbra Nature Reserve (after following instructions on the sign and checking it was ok to do so). We hadn’t been since the early 1980s (when Dave Riley was Warden and used to come down to Belfast to attend Council meetings on his motorbike). We were pressing to introduce cattle grazing on the reserve – in those days that was not widely accepted as suitable management for that habitat. 

However, we were delighted to see the condition of the reserve last week – the grazing has clearly been of benefit in keeping the scrub under control which in turn has kept an open, biodiverse grassland. We really look forward to going back over the next few months to see the wildflowers, insects and birds which will be benefiting from this management. The grazing had been well managed, there was no significant evidence of poaching, cattle were in good condition – it was lovely to see the Moileys (rare native breed of cattle) on the site. Good fencing is essential to deliver a strategy like this and full marks to the team for ensuring the site is really well fenced ~Jim and Geraldine McAdam, Members of Ulster Wildlife

Moileys at Umbra Nature Reserve