The Wildlife That Live Here
Many different bird species are attracted to the
Nature Reserve because it provides shelter and plentiful food supply such
as seeds, berries, small insects and grubs.
Look out for Song Thrush, Robin, Chaffinch, Wren, Fulmar, Blackbird, Greenfinch,
Goldfinch, Reed Bunting, Redpoll, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Goldcrest, Mistle
Thrush, Woodpigeon, Bullfinch, Coal Tit, Raven, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit
and Dunnock. These are all species that are found in the quarry and the
adjacent coastline. Most are resident and can be seen all year round:
Willow warbler, whitethroat, house martin and swift are summer visitors
to the quarry and can only be seen between April and September.
Fulmar The quarry supports a population of as many as
20 pairs of fulmar. Often mistaken for gulls, fulmars hold their wings
more stiffly and straighter when gliding and soaring. They can also be
identified by their distinctive cacking call as they wave their heads and
bow at their mates or rivals when sitting on the cliff ledges. Fulmars
are seen from January to August and live on a seafood diet of crustaceans,
squid, fish and offal.
Raven The raven is the largest of all crows, with a heavy
cudgel-shaped bill. Their diet ranges from carrion to beetles. The raven’s
nest is a massive structure which is rebuilt each year with new material.
Ravens nest early in the season, and can usually be seen around the quarry
between February and April.
Peregrine Falcon A pair of breeding peregrines occupy
a ledge on
the quarry face about half way up the cliff.
They nest from April to July and have bred successfully
on several occasions.
The Peregrine Falcon the largest and
most spectacular of our resident falcons is one of the most interesting
and notorious species that is in the Nature Reserve. Peregrines are widely
admired as spectacular aerial assailants; they usually attack their prey
in mid-air after spotting a victim from a high vantage point. They ‘stoop’
in a steep power dive on nearly closed wings reaching speeds of 180km/hr
or more, killing the prey with a blow to the head with the foot.
feed almost exclusively on other birds, but occasionally hunt small mammals
such as bats, rats and rabbits. Perhaps the variety of birds along Belfast
Lough makes Whitehead Nature Reserve the best home!
Peregrines are a protected species.
It is illegal to disturb the nest.
The environment of dense hedging, trees and
wildflowers at Beach Road Nature Reserve attracts a variety of butterflies.
Butterflies need sugar-rich nectar to feed on, and they also need particular
plants on which to lay their eggs. There is a good selection of flowers
and plants here to provide food for butterflies and caterpillars.
Orange Tip (flies April-June) & Green-veined
White (seen in spring and mid-summer) both lay eggs on lady’s
smock, hedge garlic and hedge mustard.
Large White (flies
May-September) prefers wild and cultivated cabbages.
Small Tortoiseshell (seen
March-October) love flowers in a sunny position, and lay their eggs on
stinging nettles growing in sheltered, sunny patches which can be found
in the middle of the quarry.
A Supportive Habitat
Beach Road Nature Reserve is home to a wide range of birds, insects and
plants. To discover just a few of its habitants – stop, look and listen.
The colonisation of the quarry by trees, shrubs and wildflowers has created
a home for a diversity of birds and insects. A wildflower meadow boasting
a rich mix of flora and fauna has been created to further enhance the site.
Wildflower meadows are an important habitat for many species of insect,
bird and mammals. Insects need specific plants on which to feed and lay
The History Of Beach Road
Beach Road Nature Reserve is set in an old disused quarry. The headland
at the old quarry is know as White Head and it was so called because at
one time it had an outer formation of limestone. Very little limestone
remains today due to extensive quarrying, but once limestone was plentiful.
The bulk of the limestone excavated from this area was transported to
the Whitehead harbour in bogies hauled by a small steam engine which ran
on little railway lines which had been laid from the quarry to the harbour.
The limestone was then shipped to various locations.
The Whitehead Harbour
better known as the White Harbour is located about one and a half miles
south of the quarry in the townland of Knocknagullagh.
After most of the
limestone had been removed, a considerable trade in broken stone was carried
out. Two railway sidings operated from the main line, one adjacent to the
railway tunnel, which runs through the headland, and alongside the Beach
Road. Large quantities of these stones were used for ballast from dummy
ships in the First World War. The foundations of the first villas built
in Whitehead were made with stones from the quarry, as were many roads
in the surrounding countryside. The quarry closed in the 1920s and later
between 1955 and 1982, it was used as the town dump.
For further information on Beach Road Nature Reserve contact Carrickfergus
Borough Council’s Parks & Countryside Section on 028 9335 8000 or visit the website www.carrickfergus.org
The Geology Of Beach Road
The two main types of rock exposed in the quarry and on the foreshore
are basalt and chalk. The white chalk (the Ulster White Limestone Formation)
was deposited between 80 million and 65 million years ago during the late
The chalk is formed from the compacted, microscopic remains of billions
of dead animals called coccoliths. They thrived in the shallow, warm seas
that covered this area during the late Cretaceous. The fossilised remains
of other animals such as belemnites, echinoids, brachiopods and sponges
can also be seen. The bands and nodules of greyish-brown material that
can be seen in the chalk are made of chert (or flint) and mostly formed
as the chalk compacted after deposition.
Overlying the chalk and forming
the upper part of the quarry walls is the darker coloured basalt. Unlike
the chalk, the younger basalt was erupted as lava through volcanic vents
and fissures around 60 million years ago.
The southwest face of the quarry
exposes up to 30m of basalt lava flows with columnar jointing, similar
to that seen at the Giant's Causeway, but on a miniature scale is visible
at the base of the face. Thin bands of reddish-brown material lie between
some of the lava flows. They represent a thin soil that developed on top
of some of the lava flows between eruptions.
Fossils & Minerals
The Belfast Naturalists visited the area around the quarry and collected
many fossils and minerals. A local man Robert Bell (1864-1934) an uneducated
shipyard worker made an important collection of local zeolites, which is
part of the National Collection of Zeolites, and may be seen in the National
History Museum, London.