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Our work at White Park Bay

Ranger truck on the sandy beach at White Park Bay, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Ranger truck on the sandy beach at White Park Bay | © National Trust Images/Christie Greer

As the UK’s largest conservation charity, restoring and looking after nature is at the heart of everything the National Trust does. Here are just a few of the conservation projects and discoveries that have taken place at White Park Bay over the past few years.

Rare bee causes a buzz

Volunteer butterfly surveyor, Patrick Barton, was scouring the grasslands for the colourful wings of butterflies when something less flashy – but just as captivating – grabbed his attention. Except for the occasional flicker of translucent wings, the bees’ striped abdomen and fuzzy fox-coloured thoraxes were barely visible against the sand and dried up vegetation.

The insects, later confirmed to be Northern Colletes bees, are classified as rare and actively breed from mid June to late August in coastal habitats such as White Park Bay. Solitary female bees make burrows in sandy soil before laying eggs in chambers within the burrows. They will usually nest closely together at the same site, but they are not social insects and act individually.

As much as 50% of the European population of the Northern Colletes bee is concentrated in the UK – specifically the North Coast of Northern Ireland and the Scottish western isles. At a time when bee populations are said to be in decline, sightings such as that of the Northern Colletes at White Park Bay are valuable as in indication of the health of local ecosystems.

Butterfly surveys

The National Trust manage four butterfly transect surveys on the North Coast at Portstewart, Giant’s Causeway, Cushendun and White Park Bay.

Volunteers and staff walk the same route once a week from April 1 to September 30 and count the butterflies they see. These results are sent to Butterfly Conservation and become part of their nationwide butterfly monitoring scheme.

Micromoth discovery

A tiny, 5mm micromoth discovered near the Giant’s Causeway in 2018, was confirmed as the first record of the species on the island of Ireland. The camouflaged, white-speckled smoke micro moth (Narycia duplicella) baffled experts when it was spotted at Innisfree Farm, next door to Giant’s Causeway.

A member of the bagworm family, the caterpillars weave a protective case of silk and attach material from their immediate surroundings to create near perfect camouflage, making them almost imperceptible to the naked eye. Its life cycle from egg to flying moth is usually a year and the caterpillar pupates for a month, usually in May, before emerging as a minute moth.

It was discovered by eagle eyed Dr Cliff Henry, area ranger for the National Trust on the wall of his office at Innisfree Farm.

Dr Cliff summed the discovery up: 'Creatures like moths are important to track and monitor, as they are part of the ecosystem and the more we understand, the more equipped we are to help encourage healthy, sustainable environments.'

A cow lying down and relaxing on the sands with its eyes closed, with the sea behind it at White Park Bay, County Antrim
Cow relaxing on the sands at White Park Bay, County Antrim | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Cows on the beach

As well as providing an excellent photo opportunity, the cattle found at White Park Bay carry out a very special part of the conservation work around the sand dunes of the beach.

Cattle grazing is a tried and tested conservation method that has been used in other areas of the dune system at White Park Bay to great effect, significantly reducing grass sward height and allowing rare plants such as orchids and winter annuals to flourish on the short turf.

The cows belong to a local farmer who rents out some of the land that the National Trust cares for near the beach, and the cows have free reign at certain times of the year to take a dander around.

This is a method also used at Portstewart strand to allow a variety of flora to continue to grow and amaze us in these special places.

A person wearing a red jacket walks along a track through a field of bluebells at White Park Bay


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