Ireland has some of the most significant areas of blanket bog in the world, and has international obligations to protect this habitat and its species. These areas are a key part of Ireland’s natural history and heritage and are rich in wildlife.
The dry patches of boglands in Glenveagh are favoured by ling heather, bell heather, crowberry and blaeberry. The latter shrub, which has edible blue berries, is also known as bilberry or frochan.
The damper patches of bog support wet grassland containing fescue, deer grass, rushes and purple moor grass or molinia. Purple moor grass is avoided by deer who seek out the sweeter grasses and sedges. This favours the growth of molinia, which is particularly abundant in Glenveagh.
Other plants have become specially adapted to life in the nutrient poor bog. These include the sundew and butterwort, which trap insects on their sticky leaves. The remains of the insect are digested by the plant extracting much-needed nutrients.
The lower slopes of the bog takes on a different character as it reaches the lower ground of the sheltered valley floor. Bog cotton, whose snow-white cotton tufts are often identified with Irish bogs, makes a bold statement on the wetter patches. Bog asphodel is probably the most visible flower as having flowered its stems turn a dark saffron colour which catches the eye; it was once exploited for a yellow dye.
The largest animal in the park is to be found grazing on the grasses and sedges of the bog… the red deer. Though enclosed by the deer fence the Glenveagh herd of Red Deer remain completely wild and as with most wild animals can be difficult to approach. The best time for watching Red Deer is during the mating season or ‘rut’ which takes place each year between mid-September and mid-November.
The sheer abundance of meadow pipits in Glenveagh is noteworthy. Most depart for the winter, although no one knows whether they move to low lying ground in Ireland or migrate to Spain and Portugal. This in turn provides a food source for many of our keen-eyed birds of prey including the peregrine and kestrel. These birds also feed on the other small animals to be found in the bog including, mice, shrews and lizards.
Other bog species are the common frog, dragonflies and damselflies, a variety of butterflies and moths, skylarks, red grouse, golden plover, curlew and snipe.