SPA 004101 Ballykenny-Fishertown Bog
SITE NAME: Ballykenny-Fishertown Bog
SPA SITE CODE: 004101
Ballykenny-Fisherstown Bog SPA is situated in the north-central midlands and is underlain by Carboniferous limestone. It is centered around Lough Forbes, a naturally eutrophic lake on the River Shannon system which is fed also from the north by the River Rinn. The lake has well-developed swamp vegetation and displays natural transitions to seasonally flooded grassland, marsh and raised bog. Common Reed (Phragmites australis) is a dominant species around the lake, and occurs along with other swamp species such as Common Club-rush (Scirpus lacustris) and Reed Canary-grass (Phalaris arundinacea).
The raised bogs, known as the Ballykenny-Fishertown complex, are separated by the Camlin River, which has further areas of callow grassland. The central core areas of the bogs are quite wet with a good complement of bog mosses (Sphagnum spp.) and well-developed hummocks. Ballykenny Bog is unusual in that some of its margins are intact, a rare feature in the Irish midlands. Between the Camlin River and this bog, a complete transition from raised bog to callow grasslands can be seen, while the interface between the bog and lake is colonised by a narrow band of deciduous woodland. The Castle Forbes estate on the eastern shore of the lake is extensively planted with mature semi-natural woodland, including some stands of old Oak (Quercus spp.).
The lake and callow grasslands provide good habitat for a range of wintering waterfowl species though most occur in relatively low numbers. Counts in two of the winters in the 1995/96 to 1999/00 period are as follows: Cormorant 51, Whooper Swan 40, Wigeon 419, Teal 444, Shoveler 6, Tufted Duck 49 and Goldeneye 11. The bogs were formerly used by part of the Loughs Kilglass and Forbes population of wintering Greenland White-fronted Geese but these appear to have been now abandoned in favour of grassland sites elsewhere. Merlin has been recorded within the site and may nest. Red Grouse are known from the bogs.
The raised bogs are vulnerable to water loss from peat-cutting and drainage, though on-going restoration work involves blocking of drains. There are no known threats to the wintering birds though the increased use of the River Shannon system by leisure craft could cause disturbance.
The site is of ornithological importance for its wintering waterfowl, breeding Merlin and Red Grouse. The presence of Whooper Swans and Merlin is of particular note as these species are listed on Annex I of the E.U. Birds Directive. Red Grouse is a Red listed species in Ireland as it has declined in numbers in recent decades.