Excellent for bird watching and the outstanding display of thousands of orchids from late May to July
Habitats: Damp hay meadows, marshy grassland, curragh (willow scrub), developing birch woodland and bog. The curragh is interspersed with open areas of bog myrtle on a deep substrate of peat.
Notable species: Six species of orchid (May to July), royal fern, bog myrtle and yellow bartsia: curlew and hen harrier.
Description: Close Sartfield lies on the northwest edge of the Ballaugh Curragh, the Island’s largest wetland.
Close Sartfield is excellent for bird watching, the bird hide is open all year around and is accessible via level paths and boardwalks.
A wonderful display of orchids can be seen in the hay meadows from late May to July when tens of thousands of orchids are in bloom.
A variety of small birds depend on the many invertebrates that thrive amongst the rich flora and in the soft wet ground. These in turn are sought out by birds of prey as well as animals including stoats.
Breeding species within the reserve include lesser redpoll, grasshopper warbler, reed bunting, sedge warbler, whitethroat, curlew and probably water rail. Hen harriers are seen frequently throughout the year and the hide is well sited to observe their evening return to a mid-winter roost. Visitors to the hide may be lucky enough to see a peregrine or a merlin. In 1999, 2000 and 2006, corncrakes were sighted on the reserve.
The flora of the hay meadows is outstanding from late May to July when tens of thousands of orchids, including heath spotted, early marsh, common spotted, northern marsh and common twayblade, are in bloom. Cuckoo flower, yellow rattle, harebell and knapweed are among the other grassland species present. Lousewort, purple loosestrife, meadowsweet and Devil’s-bit scabious can be found in the damper parts of the meadows. In the areas of peat, bog myrtle and purple moor grass are dominant, with bogbean, marsh cinquefoil and lesser spearwort.
The magnificent bushy royal fern, largest of British ferns, turns a beautiful orange colour in the autumn. Grey willow is dominant in the scrub. Downy birch is also becoming well established. Other trees present on the reserve include holly, sycamore, ash and wych elm. A copse of alders was planted in the Magher Liauyr in 1991.
Orange-tip and wall brown butterflies are common in season. Moths are particularly plentiful and a shaded pug, only the second to be recorded for the Island, was found in 1989. Damselflies and dragonflies are common throughout the area.
The fauna of the reserve includes brown hare, rabbit, hedgehog, woodmice, pygmy shrew, stoat, polecat and red-necked wallaby. The common frog, the common lizard and bats are also present.
Management: Throughout the 20th century most of Close Sartfield was grazed by cattle and or cut for hay, with some of the fields being ploughed and growing crops. This system continued until the early 1980’s when the land was abandoned and received no management until the Trust began working 1989. In a short space of time scrub had invaded many of the fields and the site was quite overgrown. Five of the fields have been returned to species-rich hay meadow being mown for hay and then grazed over the winter months.
The hay is cut in August when many of the plants have flowered and set seed.
Once the grass has grown back a small flock of sheep are brought onto the reserve. Whenever possible the Trust uses Loaghtan sheep, which are a rare breed and native to the Island. They are small and hardy and browse as well as graze so they are particularly suited to the habitats present on site. The sheep have access to the curragh where they are especially useful at keeping bramble and other scrub at bay.
Other management includes coppicing of three areas of willow to create variations in the height and density of willow between the three blocks and thus provide different feeding opportunities for birds.
In 2008, work began on recreating an area of bog near the hide. After approximately 390 hours of hard labour, an area of wetland habitat just under an acre in extent had been established. Many wetland species such as marsh St. John’s-wort, bog bean and bog pimpernel which were in decline are now thriving.
For hundreds of years Magher Liauyr was two fields and was used for grazing. Gorse and willow had spread into the field from the boundaries when, in the late 1970’s the boundary between the two fields was removed, the scrub removed and ditches dug to the north and south. The field then grew a very productive crop of potatoes. It is thought the field was reseeded after this but then abandoned quite soon thereafter. For the next few years’ gorse began to grow rapidly and by the late 1980’s there are reports of it occupying 75% of the field.
The Trust cleared the gorse and reseeded it as a wildflower meadow using hay from other meadows in 1990. The hay was baled in large round bales almost as soon as it was cut and then brought to Magher Liauyr where it was unrolled and allowed to dry. The hay was turned a number of times and then rebaled and removed. The seed in the hay was thus deposited on the meadow rather than on the donor fields as would usually happen. In a remarkably short space of time a field of gorse was turned into a species-rich meadow with over 100 species of flowering plant, which includes all the species of orchid mentioned above.
Species and habitats