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SPA 004061 Lough Kinale & Derragh Lough

Note: Lough Kinale and Derragh Lough are also important archaeological sites.  The Discovery Programme recently completed an archaeological investigation of the lakes as part of their Lake Settlement Programme and the first book, Lough Kinale: Studies of an Irish Lake, was published in 2010. For more information visit www.discoveryprogramme.ie/



SITE NAME: Lough Kinale & Derragh Lough NHA/SPA

SITE CODE: 004061 

Lough Kinale is a relatively small lake that is situated immediately downstream of Lough Sheelin, both lakes being near the top of the catchment of the Inny River, a main tributary of the River Shannon. Derragh Lough, a much smaller system, is connected to Lough Kinale and the Inny River. This is a typical limestone system and is very shallow (maximum depth of Lough Kinale is c. 4 m). As with Lough Sheelin, the trophic status of the lake has varied greatly since the 1970s due to pollution. It was recently (1998-2000) classified as a highly eutrophic system. The lake was formerly an important Trout fishery.

Lough Kinale has two main basins, almost separated by swamp formations. Reed swamp is frequent around the lakes, with Common Reed (Phragmites australis) and Tufted-sedge (Carex elata) occurring commonly. A calcium-rich small sedge marsh occurs along parts of the shoreline. This is characterised by species such as Long-stalked Yellow-sedge (Carex lepidocarpa), Marsh Pimpernel (Anagallis tenella), Knotted Pearlwort (Sagina nodosa), Marsh Pennywort (Hydrocotyle vulgaris) and Water Mint (Mentha aquatica). Areas of bog occur around the margins of the lakes in places but some of these have been planted with conifers.

Despite the very variable water quality in recent decades, Lough Kinale and Derragh Lough remain an important site for wintering waterfowl, especially diving duck. The site supports nationally important populations of two species, i.e. Pochard (951) and Tufted Duck (449) - figures are average peaks for the 5 seasons 1995/96-1999/00. A large population of Mute Swan (120), close to the threshold for national importance, also uses the site. Coot (199), whilst still occurring in substantial numbers, formerly had a population of national importance. A number of other species are found, in relatively low numbers, including Great Crested Grebe (25), Mallard (130) and Goldeneye (22). Marginal grassland areas outside of the site attract feeding wildfowl and waders such as Lapwing and Golden Plover.

The variable water quality over the years, with periods of highly eutrophic conditions, undoubtedly has had adverse impacts on the wintering waterfowl, and especially the diving duck. This would appear to be borne out by very variable numbers of birds recorded over the years. The lake is still vulnerable to pollution and it is considered that there is urgent need to reduce the phosphorus inputs to the system. Afforestation has taken place close to parts of the shoreline and further planting would be undesirable. Angling and wildfowling activities currently cause some disturbance to the birds and any increase in such activities would be of concern.

Whilst relatively small in area and subject to a number of damaging activities, this site retains national importance for two duck species. With an improvement in the environmental conditions pertaining at the site, higher numbers of some species would undoubtedly occur.