Glenwherry Hill Regeneration Partnership (GHRP)
To maximise the outputs of the CAFRE Hill Farm, a new partnership was set up in 2009 to develop the biodiversity potential of the Glenwherry area. The Irish Grouse Conservation trust (IGCT) has provided predator control and heather management services and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds NI (RSPB) has provided advice and surveys for ground nesting birds particularly breeding waders. Additional board members from NIEA, AFBI, CM, NIRSG and QUB have provided valuable advice in developing the management plan. A total of 18 neighbouring farmers are involved with the project and meet up annually for a review.
The partnership has been remarkably successful in achieving many of its initial objectives for at risk species. Red Grouse numbers at the summer count have moved from 37 in 2009 to over 300 by 2019.
Irish Hare increased from 70 to 400 (density ~33-39/km2). Breeding waders have increased with Snipe moving from 5 pairs in 2012 to 31 in 2021. Curlew returned in 2017, fledging 12 young since then. Lapwing have returned with 3 fledged in 2021 and this year 5 adults on the site. Skylark and Meadow Pipit numbers have more than doubled, 26 to 70 and 55 to 126 respectively. An unexpected addition in 2022 has been the arrival of a small flock of greylag geese which are nesting on one of the restored sites.
As these “at risk” species all nest on the ground, the success has been primarily achieved by predator control of fox, crow, & rat. Habitat management practices such as scrape creation and conservation grazing have assisted. The removal of a large block of conifers and the consequent peatland restoration project has proved to be very successful for a range of species. Hen Harrier and Merlin numbers remain precariously low in the Antrim Hills Special Protected Area (SPA) and the CAFRE Hill Farm site with its abundant prey continues to be an important foraging territory for these species.
It is notable that these wildlife population increases have been achieved with no impact on livestock production.
In addition to the 960ha of CAFRE, an additional 2000ha of neighbouring farmland is controlled for predators by the project game keeper. A further adjoining 3000ha is serviced for predator control by an RSPB project giving a total of over 6000ha of a wider Nature Recovery Area. The overspill of species from this project will assist the biodiversity of the wider area.