The Lough Neagh Wetlands is important for whooper swans. Numbers have remained relatively stable around Lough Neagh and Lough Beg since the 1980s and at least 1000 birds use the area regularly through the winter.
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus
Whooper Swans at the Creagh Meadow near Toome
Although the whooper swan uses the shallow waters around the edges of the two lakes, the principal sites for the species are adjacent to the lakes, and these are predominantly grassland habitats.
Around Lough Beg, Newferry lies to the north. This is an area of semi-improved and improved agricultural grassland, Grazing birds use fields on both sides of the river Bann at Newferry, with the fields on the western side of the river being most frequently used. The Newferry site is frequented from December onwards with around 120 birds regularly frequenting the area. On the west shore of Lough Beg, birds often gather in this marshy grassland at Church Island during early winter, but flocks are increasingly using agriculturally improved grassland near Annagh and Ballyscullion House. Around 200 birds use this area annually. The Creagh Meadows to the west of Toome and the south of Lough Beg forms one of the most extensive areas of flat low-lying grasslands in the entire Lough Neagh & Beg area. The area to the north of Creagh Meadows, which bound Lough Beg, are subject to periodic inundation depending on water levels. The fields to the north of the A6 / Toome Bypass are of a more agriculturally improved nature with limited area under cultivation sometimes providing suitable feeding opportunities on stubble and potato crops. Agricultural improvement has increased the area of available re-seeded pasture for grazing whooper swans. Fields at Gorgill on the eastern side of the River Bann are also frequently used. The Creagh Meadows area is the most important in the entire Lough Neagh / Beg area, with over 300 regularly feeding there. Unlike other Lough Beg sites, the Creagh Meadows holds autumn concentrations from October onwards.
In the north west Lough Neagh area, Ballyronan,Traad & Moyola Waterfoot are used regularly by a significant number of birds, but only by first arrivals at the start of the autumn period. Up to 170 birds have been recorded and almost always use the area to rest and to feed on aquatic vegetation.
Down the west side of Lough Neagh, Salterstown is a small site on the shores of the Lough which is used infrequently by less than 20 birds each winter. Kinrush is a disused airfield site near Ardboe, where flocks of between 50 – 70 birds feed in winter. A small number of birds also use Kells Point to the south of Kinrush.
Along the south Lough Neagh area, the Closet Meadows & Derrymacash areas comprise a mix of arable and grassland habitats in a flat low-lying area surrounding the Closet River. Between 100 and 150 birds may be seen regularly here each winter. Also in the southern Lough Neagh area is Ardmore, an area of grassland immediately adjacent to Lough Neagh where round 60 birds feed each winter. At Derrycrow, between Shallow Flat and the mouth of the Upper Bann river, around 45 birds regularly feed, and on Derrywarragh Island, a flock of 20 birds feed on grassland at the headland of this small island which lies at the mouth of the River Blackwater. The Bann Meadows & Muckery comprises an extensive area of wet grassland surrounding the lower reaches of the Upper Bann river. This site is amongst the most important in the Lough Neagh Wetlands supporting over 160 birds on average.
In the south-eastern area of Lough Neagh lies Cranagh & Annaghdroghal, an area centered on the disused Lagan canal, with numerous drainage ditches. Between 75 and 90 birds feed regularly in this area.
Further along the south-east shore of Lough Neagh is the area around and including Portmore Lough. Portmore Lough is a key roost site for swans and geese, with a number of key locations surrounding it where whooper swans feed. These include Deer Park, Derryola Bridge, Tunny Cut, Diamond Lane and Ballymacilrany. The lowland wet grassland in this area is used in mid winter and spring by around 200 birds.
Along the east shore of Lough Neagh is Gartree Point , an abandoned airfield site. There are arable fields nearby which may contribute to the importance of the site for the species, particularly in autumn and early winter. Around 150 birds regularly use the site, but up to 380 birds have on accession been recorded there.
Along the north of Lough Neagh, Carlane is about 5km from the Creagh Meadows near Toome. Carlane is an area of low-lying grassland where flocks of up to 150 birds feed in winter.
A group participating in a whooper swan watch at Lough Beg for World Wetlands Day 2007
To view Whooper Swan distribution maps, please click below.
Whooper Swan distribution maps (file size 2.59MB)