Field Trip Reports 2011Field_Trip_Reports.html

Saturday 4th June - Portmore Lough


John Scovell, the RSPB warden, met us in the newly constructed building and explained the Reserve and the rationale behind the work being carried out there.  The new viewing platform gives a wide vista to north and south allowing views of the whole area. 

Walking along the new board walk towards the waterside hide immediately gave a view of a wide range of birds, damselflies and plants. The Spring Redtail Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) was in flight, Speckled Wood butterflies (Pararge aegeria) settled on leaves to bask in the sun, Tree Sparrows (Passer montanus) were sitting on their second brood in the nest boxes and the hedgerows were rich with a wide range of plants.

At the bird hide Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus), Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna), Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), Mute Swan (Cygnus olor), Coot (Fulica atra) and Gadwall (Anas strepera), were seen. Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) were nesting on the artificial rafts along with opportunist Black Headed gulls (Larus ridibundus). This is an important moult site for birds particularly Coot and Gadwall.

We walked round to see the Konik ponies and meet the latest addition, a young male foal born earlier that year.  The mare was very protective and the mother and son moved as one making him invisible at times. They are thought to be nearer to the ancient breed of horse and show the remains of zebra banding on the legs and an upright mane. The reserve is grazed by the Konik ponies, a wild hardy breed which can graze the undergrowth stopping any one species from becoming dominant and taking over.

This area is part of the breeding Lapwing project, an area of close-grazed wet grassland and customised ditches which support an increasing population of Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), and Snipe (Gallinago gallinago sp). Here we had our first sight of Irish hares (Lepus timidus hibernicus) moving through the grass. Adult Lapwings soared over their nests calling to the young to stay low, we were lucky enough to see a nest with three eggs, thanks to young Arthur Somerville.  Rosalie and I were walking and swinging him over the ground and he landed just beside the nest – a narrow miss but a great find! On then to the dragonfly pits, another trial to encourage dragonfly species from nearby areas to breed on the reserve. 

There were over a dozen Four-spotted Chasers (Libellula quadrimaculata) in flight and one perched at the water’s edge was emerging from the final nymphal stage. An encouraging sign that the pits are suitable for breeding dragonflies and it is hoped they may encourage the Irish Damselfly (Coenagrion lunulatum) to breed here as it is close to the Montiaghs (pronounced 'Munchies'), an area where they can be found.

Turning back we heard Skylarks (Alauda arvensis ) singing and saw Gargany (Anas querquedula), Sand Martin (Riparia riparia), House Martin (Delichon urbica) and Swallow (Hirunda rustica) in flight.  Also splendid views of a Buzzard (Buteo buteo) and a Heron (Ardea cinerea) as they flew over.

By this time, hungry for our late lunch we headed back to the picnic area, the day was now sunny and warm and Small White (Pieris rapae), Green-veined White (Pieris napi), Small Heath (Coenonymphya pamphilus), Small Copper butterflies (Lycaena phlaeas) and Azure Damselflies (Coenagrion puella) were seen along the way.

After lunch it was time to pond dip. Some time was spent sampling and identifying the aquatic life in the ponds. The water yielded an exciting range of species including common frog, 3-spined stickleback, dragonfly, damselfly, stonefly and beetle larvae as well as water beetles, water boatmen and whirligig beetles. A fascinating collection enjoyed by all, as always pond dipping is a great activity for all from 9 months to 90 years of age

A most enjoyable day and we are extremely grateful to John for all his time and expertise.

Pamela Thomlinson


The RSPB’s project to provide suitable habitats for breeding lapwings and snipe has produced close-grazed wet grassland, meadows and fens rich in flowers.

In spite of the dry weather the area was ablaze with large clumps of yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus) and pink Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi). “Flos-cuculi “ means flower of the cuckoo as it flowers when we should be hearing the cuckoo. One of the English names of Cardamine pratensis is Cuckoo Flower for the same reason – how much has been lost since these plants were named!

Two wet-place buttercups were examined –both with English names referring to their distinctive leaves. Spear-wort (Ranunculus flammula) has spear-like leaves and the leaves of Celery-leaved Buttercup (Ranunculus sceleratus) look like celery.  “Sceleratus” means wicked – either because the plant grows in “vile” (i.e. marshy) places or because it can cause ulcerations. Our leader, John Scovell, the RSPB warden, showed us how Marsh Foxtail (Alopecurus geniculatus) with its shorter  bent spikes differed from Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis).

The poisonous Cowbane (Cicuta virosa) was growing at the edge of the ditches beside the health-giving Common Valerian (Valeriana officinalis). The bright blue flowers of Water Forgetmenot (Myosotis scorpiodes) contrasted with the smaller paler flowers of Tufted Forgetmenot (Myosotis laxa).

In drier areas the berries of Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus) and Spindle-tree (Euonymus europaeus) provide winter feeding for birds. Bittersweet or Woody Nightshade ( Solanum dulcamara) with distinctive purple flowers and yellow anthers, a member of the potato family, was growing in both dry and wet places; it also has red berries which are poisonous to humans but maybe not to birds.


Margaret Marshall


Four Spotted Chaser

Inside the hide

Lapwing eggs

Spring Redtail

Portmore Lough

Pond dipping

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