2020 County Report for Co. Antrim

David McNeill

In early summer, I was finally allowed to leave home and wandered alone in the Belfast Hills. It seemed as if the botanists of old were summoned to keep me company. On Black Mountain, Rubus saxatilis was seen where it had been recorded by Jack Moon in 1943. Nearby, a few plants of Trisetum flavescens updated a sighting by Richard Hanna prior to 1888. A few days later, the same grass turned up beside the Cavehill quarry, as last recorded on an outing of the Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club in 1871. Two patches of Trifolium medium were possibly the first seen on Cavehill since before 1864.

Further from home, but still alone, I made pilgrimage to Fair Head. A single plant of Orobanche alba was growing at the foot of the cliffs, last seen hereabouts by Sylvanus Wear before 1923. More amazingly, two mats of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi were the first seen on Fair Head since 1837. Later that day, following in the footsteps of Charles Nodder, 4 non-flowering rosettes of Pyrola media were spotted east of Ballintoy, the first north coast record since 1972.

As the summer wore on, I saw my first Carex pseudocyperus at Montiaghs Moss, the best county site for Juniperus communis in the Antrim Glens and my first Milium effusum in Woodburn Glen. Winter saw me retreat to the Belfast Hills once more, and here I stumbled on Pyrola minor. Years of fruitless searching on Cavehill were forgotten as I skipped for joy amongst the hazels.