A story of St Patrick, Slemish and snipe

Many people will visit the picturesque Slemish Mountain outside Ballymena today and tomorrow to climb the mountain that is said to have been home to St Patrick, writes Brian Campbell, Communications and Events Officer RSPBNI.

Saturday, 16th March 2019, 1:39 pm
Curlew, Glenwherry (submited image)

The story goes that a young Patrick was enslaved here as a youth and brought to the area to tend sheep.

But the land around Slemish is of huge importance to the RSPBNI as we work with farmers in the area to provide ideal habitat for important bird species including curlews, lapwings and snipe.

One of the many farmers we work with is Jimmy McClintock, who has had curlews and snipe on his land in the shadow of Slemish.

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In fact, our ‘Slemish to Shillinavogy Walk’ that takes place on July 27 this year – led by our Glenwherry Conservation Advisor Neal Warnock – will see those taking part traverse some of Jimmy’s lovely species-rich grassland on a nature walk with a difference. There is so much to see in the area.

On a good day there’s all manner of birds that can be spotted in this part of the Antrim Hills: hen harriers, red grouse, merlins, kestrels, buzzards, sparrowhawks, skylarks, wheatears and stonechats – to name just a few.

The walkers last year got to see one of the last pairs of curlews to fledge, which was a treat for all to take in.

Last season saw 43 pairs of curlews recorded in Glenwherry, with a single pair at Greenmount Hill Farm managing to fledge all four young.

Glenwherry is a hugely important area for curlews and is one of two hotspots in Northern Ireland for this iconic and rapidly declining bird. - The other hotspot is Lower Lough Erne, home to our Lower Lough Erne Islands reserve.

As for lapwings, 21 pairs were recorded in the Glenwherry area, while there were more than 200 pairs of snipe.

We also recorded two pairs of teal last year, not to mention a marsh harrier and a stunning golden eagle.

The July walk, run in partnership between RSPB NI and the Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust, is a great opportunity for people to explore this beautiful part of Northern Ireland.

As well as the bird species you’ll encounter, there are also the wildflowers, plants, butterflies and moths to take in.

To find out about all RSPB NI events, visit www.rspb.org.uk/events, call 028 9064 5630 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 5pm) or email [email protected]

Happy St Patrick’s Weekend.