Nature Notes 8 June 2020

Orchids at Slievenacloy

Observations from staff, volunteers 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.

Damsels and Dragons

Damselflies and dragonflies area now starting to appear at our nature reserves. 

We spotted 12 large red damselflies and a hairy dragonfly at Ballynahone Bog as well as two hairstreak butterflies. The stunning small blue azure damselfly below was spotted at Bog Meadows

Did you know there are 11 damselfly species and 13 dragonfly species resident in Ireland? ~ Andy Crory, Nature Reserves Manager

Azure damselfly (c) Eduardo Fernandez

Azure damselfly (c) Eduardo Fernandez

Slievenacloy Nature Reserve

Orchids are now starting to appear in better numbers now at Slievenacloy, mostly early purple and heath spotted. Northern marsh orchids should be around in the damper areas as well. 

Nine species of orchid are recorded at Slievenacloy. In a good year, you might see thousands of common spotted and butterfly orchids, alongside more uncommon species such as lesser butterfly and frog orchid - well worth a visit in summer ~ Ronald Surgenor, Nature Reserves Officer.

A member of the public sent us this pic of a strange thistle-like flower they had spotted at Slievenacloy. This is indeed a thistle that has undergone fasciation, a strange mutation caused by a virus, bacteria or fungus – aka the Jim Henson thistle as it has been aptly named on Twitter ~ Kelly Muldoon, Marketing & Communications Officer. 

Orchids at Slievenacloy

Orchids at Slievenacloy

Fasciated thistle (c) Nick Nolan

Fasciated thistle (c) Nick Nolan 

Balloo Woodland

We recently carried out remedial works to one of the old oaks in Balloo Wetland. The tree has been heavily pruned in the past, as it has shed limbs before, and is quite dangerous.

The tree has now been diagnosed with a pretty serious disease, a fungus that causes soft rot, Kretzschmaria deusta. The fungus can cause catastrophic failure of the tree and, so with this risk, and the risk it may cause to the public, we have had to make the decision to dramatically reduce the tree.

We removed the crown and left a 4 metre 'monolith' (its main stem but without branches). This way, the tree will be safe for the public and will also still provide a habitat for wildlife. ~Ryan Bradley, Nature Reserves Officer

Oak, Balloo Wetland Nature Reserve

Oak (c) Gemma Sandford