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Programme of Events

Outdoor Activities

    - 30 April 2009


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Armagh Wildlife Society

30th April 2009

The first of the Society's 2009 outdoor events was held on the evening of Thursday 30th April, led by C.A.W.S. member Ken Thompson; the meeting time was 7.30 pm in the lane near Lough Shark (also known as Acton Lake) about a mile north of Poyntzpass, Co. Armagh. A total of 10 people were present, including six CAWS members (Leader Ken Thompson, Ian Rippey, Marion Gilliland-Hodges, Robert Somerville, Mrs. Doris Walker, Miss Helen Greenlee), and four visitors of which two, Mr. Joe Devlin and Ms. Elizabeth Close, live locally.

We were fortunate with the weather (especially compared with several evening events in recent years which were either held in rain or rained off) which was fairly bright and sunny, though as it was early evening and still April, the temperature dropped fairly steadily. Unfortunately (unknown to us at the time the meeting was arranged), the footbridge leading to the shore of the lake had been removed some time ago, and though there were one or two possible crossing points along the muddy bed of the canal where the water was shallow, it was felt too risky to attempt this. Instead, the decision was taken to walk some distance north along the path just west of the canal, and then retrace our steps and walk further south to near the southern end of the lake. It was noticed that at a couple of points, water was flowing from the direction of the lake into the canal through a small drain. Given that the Lough Shark visitor centre (including toilets) was built here a few years ago, it was felt strange that it was not easily possible, if at all, to get to the lake from this point (or we understand, from Poyntzpass either).

The event was intended to be one of general interest (Birds, Plants and Insects) and lived up to its promise. The ornithological highlights were at least five Whooper Swans, which are a mainly winter bird, so it is most unusual to see so many at the end of April, especially given that many spring migrants have already arrived in recent days. However we would not have been aware of this as there were larger numbers of Mute Swans along with these on the far end of the lake, had not Mr. Devlin had a tripod-mounted Leica telescope, which enabled us to get excellent views of the yellow rather than orange bills from this considerable distance, at which binoculars were less effective. Another highlight was a male Gadwall, a very uncommon "dabbling" duck in the county, though unfortunately a female with 2 ducklings close by proved to be not this species but the common Mallard, of which there was a very tame pair seen in a field at a distance of a few yards; a Greylag Goose, originally near the Swans, was later seen to fly fairly closely overhead. There were also many Tufted Duck and several Great Crested Grebes; spring migrants seen or heard included Sand Martin, Swallow, Grasshopper and Sedge Warbler. A dead male Large White butterfly (Pieris brassicae) was found by Mrs. Doris Walker along the lane leading to the railway line. As a number of Orange-tip butterflies (Anthocharis cardamines) had been seen earlier that day by Mr. Thompson during a preliminary visit, we were not totally surprised, though pleased, to find a male resting on one of the numerous flower heads of its larval foodplant Lady's Smock (Cardamine pratensis) with an egg close by, although by this time it was almost sunset; in spite of some searching no others could be found.

These pictures of the butterfly taken by James O'Neill, who also managed to sweep a number of greenish caterpillars of an as yet unidentified moth (probably of the family Geometridae) from nearby hedgerows. The few Holly bushes seen were also beaten in an an unsuccessful attempt to flush out any specimens of the Holly Blue butterfly (Celastrina argiolus) which Mr. Devlin saw here in 2008, and which has rapidly colonised much of Co. Armagh after first being seen in the spring of 2006 (by James O'Neill above). Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) was still flowering and low growing spring flowers seen included Violet (Viola riviniana), Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris), Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) as well as Ladys Smock.

Anthocharis cardamines - PHOTO James O'Neill Anthocharis cardamines - PHOTO James O'Neill

The next outing is an early morning birdsong at the Argory Estate near Moy on Saturday 16th May (not 2nd May as printed originally on the programme card, though the date is correctly shown in the covering letter) led by Mr. Joe Devlin, meeting at 7.00 am in the Car Park at Bonds Bridge beside the River Blackwater on the borders of Counties Armagh and Tyrone near Moy. I hope to see at least some of you there; it appears that a cafe opens around 9 am or so in Moy so it may be followed by breakfast!

The 2009/2010 programme is now available on the website.