Adventures of a Busy Bee – The Marsh Fritillary Butterfly

Adventures of a Busy Bee – The Marsh Fritillary Butterfly

Adventures of a Busy Bee – The Marsh Fritillary Butterfly

Guest Blog by: Nicole Feenan

Hey guys its Nicole finally. Since my last post my placement group and I attended a training day at Portmore Lough on the Marsh Fritillary butterfly. This course was given by Rose Cremin, an Invertebrate Field officer with the Butterfly Conservation Trust. The purpose of this course was to educate us on the marsh frit butterfly, its life cycle and how to carry out larval web surveys correctly. On this course we had the opportunity to participate in a larval web survey at Montiagh’s Moss. This course was very useful and has led me to look more closely at the Marsh Fritillary Butterfly. The Marsh Fritillary butterfly is a threatened species across the UK and Europe and is the object to much of conservation effort. Once widespread across the Britain and Ireland the Marsh Fritillary Butterfly has severely declined over the 20th century. This species is highly volatile and requires an extensive habitat or habitat networks to ensure its long-term survival. This species is confined to the western side of both Britain and Ireland. As seen from the image below this butterfly has brightly patterned wings that span between 42 to 48 mm. The species of this butterfly found in Scotland and Ireland are much more heavily marked. The marsh fritillary spins conspicuous webs for their larvae which can be recorded easily in late summer. There are three main habitat types that the marsh fritillary can successful reproduce: damp grasslands that are dominated mainly by tussock forming grasses, chalk grasslands (on west or south-facing slopes in England) and shorter coastal grasslands (in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland). Their main foodplant is the Devils Bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis), the marsh fritillary butterfly will spin their conspicuous webs on the lower leaves of this plant. However, in a calcareous grassland, it will occasionally use either the FieldScabious (Knautia arvensis) or the Small Scabious (Scabiosa columbaria). Below is a diagram of the lifecycle of a marsh fritillary butterfly.

Figure 2- Diagram showing the lifecycle of a Marsh Fritillary Butterfly

A marsh fritillary butterfly will lay large batches of up to 350 eggs, these larvae are then spun into a protective web that will become conspicuous by the end of August. The larvae then overwinter in a small web close to the ground, usually in a dense grass tussock. In early spring the larvae will emerge. These larvae can be seen in clusters of up to 150 small black larvae when they bask in the weak sun. The larvae will then become solitary and dispense widely across the breeding habitat. Pupae form deep within grass tussocks or amongst dead leaves. The adult will then emerge in late May/early June.

In the weeks after the course we carried out a marsh fritillary larval web survey at Brackagh Moss with one of the experts from the course Stephen Craig. We were unsuccessful in finding any webs on this visit and have concluded that Brackagh Moss was not an ideal site for Marsh Fritillary despite previous sightings of it in one of the surrounding fields.


Blogs and Bugs – Sarah and the Giant Hogweed

Blogs and Bugs – Sarah and the Giant Hogweed

Sarah and the Giant Hogweed

Guest Blog by Sarah Galloway

Hi guys it still isn’t Nicole, its Sarah (as the title might suggest). Today I’m going to write about Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), no not that village in Harry Potter but an invasive plant. To be fair it would be handy if we had a magic spell to get rid of it.

Like I said it is an invasive species, it can grow to over 3 metres in height, which is the equivalent to two of me. It is a close relative to Cows Parsley, but they have thick bristly stems with purple blotches. It has white flowers in umbels, this means the flowers split into individual stems which forms the cluster of flowers.  Also, the leaves are jagged, lobed leaves in a rosette.

Giant Hogweed

The reason why people are so keen to eradicate this plant is because it can be very harmful to the touch. This is caused by the sap coming into contact with the skin, which results in severe burns in the presence of sunlight (a bit like Amy).  Chemicals in the sap can cause photodermatitis or photosensitivity, which is not when you don’t look good in photos, but it is when the skin becomes very sensitive to sunlight and may suffer blistering, pigmentation and long-lasting scars. Needless to say, this is one plant you don’t want to pick when out for a stroll.

When controlling Giant Hogweed always wear gloves, cover your arms and legs, and ideally wear a face mask when working on or near it. Cut plant debris, contaminated clothing and tools are potentially hazardous too. Wash any skin that comes in contact with the plant immediately. Ensure that contractors working on your land are aware of the risks and competent to deal with this weed. I strongly suggest consulting your local environmental authority about how best to deal with Giant Hogweed before removing it.

To end the moral of this blog is don’t jump into Giants Hogweed even when your friends tell you it’s not worth the tan lines.

Bogs & Blogs – Summer Birds Of Oxford Island

Bogs & Blogs – Summer Birds Of Oxford Island

Bogs & Blogs

Guest Blog by Amy Gallagher

Hi guys, sorry to disappoint but it still isn’t Nicole; it’s Amy. Today I thought I’d talk about 3 cool birds that spend their summers at Oxford Island. No, not myself, Nicole and Sarah but the Swallow, Swift and House Martin.

House Martins

As summer comes to an end, these birds are starting to migrate to hotter climates. A bit like myself they are quite partial to a holiday in the sun but probably don’t need to pack quite so much after sun for the trip.

Oxford Island is an impressive spot for bird watching, it is home to a great number of birds and waterfowl including some rare species like the Northern Lapwing and the Ring-necked Duck. But for the birds I’m taking about today, you do not need to visit the bird watching hides, simply take a walk around the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre in the summer months and you will see them nesting in the roof and flying overhead catching flying insects to feed to their young.

The Swallow is found in great numbers around Oxford Island from March onwards


before leaving for South Africa between September and October. Swallows are small birds with dark, Nesting Swallowsglossy-blue backs, red throats, pale underparts and long tail streamers. They are extremely agile in flight and spend most of their time on the wing.

Like any modern couple, both the male and female Swallow assume equal responsibility when it comes to building their home and feeding their young. They build a nest from mud and plant fibres against a beam or shelf in buildings or a ledge on cliffs. Existing nests are often refurbished. The newly-hatched young are fed by both parents, who catch insects on-the-wing and collect them in their throats before returning to the nest. Once fledged, the youngsters receive in-flight food from their parents.

Often confused with the Swallow, the Swift arrive at Oxford Island in the last week of


April or early May and stay only long enough to breed. Autumn migration to Africa begins in late July or early August. The onset of the migration is believed to be triggered by the lack of nutritious insects high in the air.  The Swift is a larger bird than the Swallow or House Martin and is plain sooty brown in colour, but in flight against the sky it appears black. It has long, scythe-like wings and a short, forked tail much smaller than that of the Swallows.

Just when I thought Swifts couldn’t get any cuter, I found out they mate for life, meeting up every spring at the same nesting site. So, if you see a pair of Swifts, you can rest easy knowing that true love does exist because they travelled thousands of miles just to see each other. They nest high up in the roof space under the eaves of old houses and churches where the birds are able to drop into the air from the nest entrance. The nest is built by both adults out of any material that can be gathered on the wing, including feathers, paper and straw. It is cemented together with saliva, and renovated and reused year after year.

Last but certainly not least is the House Martin. It can be seen in the British Isles from

House Martin

April to September however the species virtually disappears from our radar when they migrate as it is not known where in Africa House Martins winter, or how precisely they get there. House martins have glossy blue upperparts, similar to a swallow, but the white rump is distinctive. Their tail is also forked, but much shorter than a Swallows.

House martins usually build nests on outer walls of buildings under the eaves. They are colonial nesters, with an average group size of four to five nests, although large colonies with groups of tens or even hundreds of nests are sometimes reported. The nest is made of pellets of mud mixed with grass, lined with feathers and vegetable fibre.

House martins are frequently double brooded and three broods are not uncommon.

Nest of House Martins

This means that they produce more than one set of young each year. Fledged young from first broods often help their parents feed a second brood. They are short-lived, and most birds only breed for one year. Colonies are traditional and nests are usually occupied from one year to the next but rarely by the same birds. Males often return to the colony they fledged from or close by, while females tend to settle several kilometres away.

So, if you keep your eyes to the skies you might just get to see one of these 3 cool birds beginning their long migration, on the hunt for warmer climates. Once again, I mean the Swallows, Swifts and House Martins; us students can’t afford it, we spent all our money at freshers!

Joe Mahon launches new Lough Neagh series on UTV

Joe Mahon launches new Lough Neagh series on UTV

A new series taking UTV presenter Joe Mahon on a unique tour of Lough Neagh has been launched to an invited audience with Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council ahead of its first episode, which will be screened on UTV at 8pm on Monday 17 September.

The eight part series takes Joe onto and around the largest freshwater lake in the UK and Ireland where viewers will see him fishing for eel in the dead of night, canoeing and learning hunting skills on the shores of the lough, digging with archaeologists, visiting the oldest thatched roofed pub in Ireland and learning the traditional craft of boat building.

Joe said of the new series: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed exploring Lough Neagh for this new UTV programme. It was a hugely enjoyable learning experience and the beauty about learning something new is the idea that you can then share it with the viewers. I hope that everyone will not only enjoy the series, but also learn a little bit more about the Lough.”

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Paul Michael, commented: “Lough Neagh is the heart of Northern Ireland and on behalf of all the Councils involved in Lough Neagh Partnership, we thank Joe Mahon, Westway Films and UTV for showcasing the history and heritage of our Lough. We are extremely proud of the connection with the Lough and on Tuesday of this week, we officially cut the sod for the new Lough Neagh Gateway Centre, which is due to open at the end of Summer 2019. In the meantime, we all look forward to welcoming more visitors, that Joe’s new series will attract, to our stunning Lough Neagh.”

Gerry Darby of Lough Neagh Partnership said: “This is the first locally produced television series dedicated to exposing the culture and heritage of Lough Neagh and its surrounds. It has been a pleasure for the team at Lough Neagh Partnership to be able to work hand in hand with Joe on this series to showcase the authenticity of this area. We believe he has really captured the essence of everyday life in the heart of mid Ulster to enthral UTV viewers with this unique insight into the place that we are so proud of.

Terry Brennan, UTV’s Head of News and Programmes said, “In the 20 plus years that Joe has been bringing programmes to our homes, he has enthralled and delighted the viewers with his unique style, outstanding locations, amazing characters, and delightful stories, and with Lough Neagh, that trend will continue. We are absolutely thrilled at UTV that Joe has uncovered yet more amazing stories about Northern Ireland’s rich cultural heritage.”

Lough Neagh, sponsored by Connollys of Moy, starts Monday 17 September at 8pm on UTV.



Habitat Protection

Habitat Protection

Four students have given their time to protect the wildlife habitats around Lough Neagh.  The four students are currently attending environment based degree courses at Queen’s University and University of Ulster and hope to gain valuable practical skills in environmental survey techniques and the protection of valuable wildlife habitats.

The project is managed by Lough Neagh Partnership and funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund and is part of a 5 year initiative to connect local people around Lough Neagh to the natural heritage and built heritage that makes Lough Neagh a special place to visit but especially important to the people that live here.  The four students are based with the Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council Conservation team at Oxford Island.

The four students are now 10 weeks into their placement.   Sarah Galloway is in her second year of a Geography Degree at University of Ulster.  “Lough Neagh Partnership are providing me with a 48  week placement which is a key part of my degree,” said Sarah.  “We have had a busy three weeks learning how to identify grasses and wild flowers.  I am also working towards achieving the Ulster University Edge Award.


Amy Gallagher grew up on a family farm in west Tyrone where there was an interest in wildlife and sustainable farming practices.  “I have undertaken a module investigating wetland ecosystems and this placement with Lough Neagh Partnership will allow me to gather information and data that can be used for my final year project” said Amy

Student Profile 2018


Caption:  L- R Amy Gallagher, Emmet Campbell, Sarah Galloway and Nicole Feenan surveying species rich grassland near Lough Neagh


Emmet Campbell has just started a degree in Biological Sciences at Queens University.  “I do not need to organize my placement year until next summer but I am interested in specializing in an environment module. I am delighted to be able to spend a few months here at Oxford Island, said Emmet. “Even though I live down the road here in Lurgan all my life I did not realise that our local council looks after such extensive tracts of land to meet environmental objectives”


Nicole Feenan also lives in Craigavon and chose to spend her placement year on the shores of Lough Neagh.  “I have just finished two years at the University of Ulster doing a BSc in Environmental Science.  I have a strong interest in using Geographical Information Systems to aid in the reduction of carbon emissions, said Nicole.   “I did not realise the priority given to environmental management here in my local council.  I now appreciate the importance of GIS mapping to capture and display land use information and how GIS can be used for communication with the public to plan for lower carbon emissions in future”.


The work the students are doing is building up a picture of the valuable homes for nature around Lough Neagh.  “We hope that over the remaining 3 years of the Lough Neagh Landscape Scheme we can engage local people to take an interest in the wildlife habitats around Lough Neagh” said Chris McCarney Volunteer Officer with Lough Neagh Partnership.  “We are worried that local people will not realise the value these habitats on their doorstep until they are gone”

To learn more about each of the students experiences so far, enjoy the blogs below:

Sarah Galloway

Amy Gallagher

Nicole Feenan

Emmet Campbell




Lough Neagh Community Heritage Training

Lough Neagh Community Heritage Training

Are you interested in your place and it’s past?

Would you like to know how to research, record and archive your local history? Lough Neagh Landscape partnership is offering you heritage training and advice.

Venue 1: Lock Keepers Cottage in Toome – Mon 1st Oct, 8th Oct, 15th Oct & 29th Oct

Venue 2: Community Hall Aghagallon – Tuesday 6th Nov, 13th Nov, 20th Nov & 4th Dec

Time 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Training is FREE but places are limited, so book early! Please contact Chris McCarney volunteer officer on 077 8824 9517.

Book on Facebook at:

Overhead and Underfoot – The Second World War Legacies Around Lough Neagh

Overhead and Underfoot – The Second World War Legacies Around Lough Neagh


The Second World War was to have a massive impact on the greater Lough Neagh area and this is still very evident in the built and cultural heritage of the area today. In order to explore the cultural legacy of the Second World War on the Lough Neagh area, Lough Neagh Partnership is hosting a free to attend two day conference on 16 and 17 October.

The two day event begins in The Old Courthouse in Antrim on 16 October exploring the role of the Second World War through various talks to inform delegates of the stories associated with those from the Lough area and the service personnel based there. Associated stories of rationing, military aviation, haunted places, evacuees and refugees, soldiers and airmen. Delegates will then be encouraged to participate in lively discussion after each session.

The Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Paul Michael commented: “I am delighted that this interesting conference is taking place in our Borough. Antrim and Newtownabbey has a diverse history and I would encourage everyone to attend to learn about the cultural legacy of the Second World War in the Lough Neagh area.”

Liam Campbell, Lough Neagh Partnership, said: “Covering a diverse range of topics the packed agenda on this two day conference will appeal to anyone interested in history and the future of life and living on the Lough.

“We have engaged community historians, archaeologists, authors and leading researchers, who have a very real interest on the impact of the Second World War around Lough Neagh to share their knowledge during what promises to be a great two days.

“This conference seeks to foster relationships among many community groups, institutions, government bodies and practitioners, as well as academics who have an interest in the impact of the Second World War around Lough Neagh.”

On 17 October delegates will be taken on a guided bus tour of the major Second World War sites including Toome, Ardboe/Clontoe, Langford Lodge and will visit the Ulster Aviation Society at Maze Long Kesh.

To attend ‘Overhead and Underfoot’, book your place by contacting Lough Neagh Partnership on tel 028 7941 7941 or by email at as advance booking is essential.

Bookings can also be made at: Overhead and Underfoot Booking

For a full programme, visit: Overhead and Underfoot Programme

Lough Neagh Partnership through its Heritage Lottery funded Landscape Programme is promoting this conference with support from Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council.,,

Guest Blog by Emmet Campbell

Guest Blog by Emmet Campbell

Guest Blog by Emmet Campbell

Hey Guys, its Emmet. The office-favourite student on this placement who’s here for a good time, but not a long time.

Just like my student-fellow Amy, I am a Queen’s student and I’m studying Biological Sciences (the foundation degree). There’s 4 of us in the office; Nicole Amy, Sarah and yours truly (that was in no particular order, but the best was saved for last). The 3 gals are here for their placement year however I’m just here for the summer. No one wants to spend their summer working but I was excited to get a bit of experience for the first time in an actual scientific environment. Unlike many of my classmates, who have been working in labs 9-5 everyday for 2 months, I get to spend my summer actually enjoying it. Outside. With the Lough Neagh Partnership at Oxford Island Discovery Centre.

For what has been probably one of the hottest summers the Emerald Isle has ever seen, I’ve been identifying plants, counting bees and holding damselflies hostage until we can determine if the wine glass on their back has a base or not. And what do I have to show for it? Well, apart from a killer farmer’s tan, I have a whole new understanding of the word ‘conservation’. Carrying out the work I’ve been doing has opened my eyes to the big beautiful world of environmental management. All my friends hate me now because I can’t help but identify the positive and negative indicators of any random patch of grass we happen across.

“Those nettles are a sign nutrient enrichment, that Farmer would need to be careful with his slurry”

“Emmet, we literally don’t care”

And that’s the just the thing, people don’t care. I didn’t. Until I had to. But its through this placement that I’ve started to see just how important the work that the Lough Neagh Partnership undertakes is. To give you an example, Devil’s Bit Scabious, a plant that I would’ve shrugged off as some weird looking thistle, is the feeding source for the endangered Marsh Fritillary butterfly’s larvae. Now, there are people writing 40+ page long management plans on how to maintain a stable population of this species over years so that this butterfly doesn’t become extinct and I used to walk past it calling it a strange purple plant.

And that’s just one of the many I could write about. If I wrote about all of them though, no one would read this (good job for getting this far).

Thanks to this placement, I now have a whole new array of skills under my belt useful for a life of conservation and even though I don’t have much time left here*, I intend to put them to use, both in and outside of work.

*I’m going back to uni, not death row

That about sums it up for my first (and final) blog. Unfortunately, there wont be another as like all good things, my presence in the office must come to an end. Best of luck to my subordinates fellow students that I’m leaving behind!




Bogs & Blogs

Bogs & Blogs

Guest Blog by Amy Gallagher

Hi, my name is Amy. I’m 20 years old, studying Environmental Management at Queens University Belfast and I’m currently doing a placement with the Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership. I’m going to start a blog to keep track of everything I have done and learned during my time here.

I decided to take on this placement as I am extremely passionate about the environment and its conservation. Growing up with a farming background, I was introduced at an early age the importance of preserving our land and the natural beauty that comes along with it. I guess that this is where I first became interested and invested in the environment. Through this placement I am able to gain hands-on experience in the management of designated areas that are at risk of succession or specified as areas of special scientific interest.

Through the Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership, I have the opportunity to be involved in some really interesting projects. One of the many being the setting up of the first bee transect at Oxford Island. We also received training in a wide range of skills that are important for conservation; training by Robert Thompson on Dragonflies and Damselflies identification, Botanical skills training with Bob Davidson and performing a tree risk assessment at Gosford Park using GPS mapping technology.

Bogs & Blogs

I loved getting to meet so many experts from so many different fields, gaining such an extensive knowledge of plants and animals that I never even knew existed.

Experiencing the wildlife at the different locations around Lough Neagh has made me so much more comfortable around animals, even ones not found at Lough Neagh. I visited South Africa earlier in the summer to build houses as well as working at a crocodile sanctuary and rehabilitation and release program for cheetahs. Thanks to the experience I have gained here, I was opened up to an entire new world of life in a foreign country; I now had the mindset to look past what you see at first and take a closer look at the environment around me.

This placement has really opened my eyes and has helped developed the skills I need for a career in ecology. I can’t wait for the next blog when I’ll tell you all about the new and exciting things that I have done on placement!

Blogs and Bugs

Blogs and Bugs

Guest Blog by Sarah Galloway

Title: Blogs and bugs by Sarah

Hi, my name is Sarah Galloway, I am a student studying geography at Ulster University Coleraine, I am currently on placement at The Lough Neagh Partnership at Oxford Island where I will be completing a year placement before going back to university to finish my degree. I chose this placement as I have never visited Lough Neagh before which was an opportunity for me to learn about a new area. It was also by the water which was an interest for me as I enjoy coastal rowing and kayaking.

In the first two months of placement we have attended a lot of training including Dragonfly and Damselflies with CEDAR, bee training which was then used to set up Lough Neagh first bee transect, and vegetation training. With this training we then carried out Irish Damselfly surveys with the RSPB at the Munchies (Montiaghs).

Hairy Hawker Dragonfly This image shows a Hairy Hawker Dragonfly we found at the Munchies (Montiaghs).

We have carried out vegetation surveys and quadrants at several sites including Brackagh Bog, Multiple meadows around Lough Neagh, and at Brookend nature reserve. We have also completed the bee walk twice and found garden bees, common carder bees and white-tailed bumblebees. It is important to monitor bee activity as they are an endangered species through doing a transect it will give us an insight into the bee population we have at Lough Neagh and the vegetation and areas which they like so they can be preserved. If you are interested in learning more about bees and how to identify them you can visit for more information.