It's home to a very rare species of bird of prey.
The return of cranes to Ireland's marshland is a sign that the country's biodiversity is improving, according to an wildlife expert.
A pair of cranes were spotted nesting in the midlands recently, 300 years since they last appeared in the country.
Wildlife expert Eanna Ní Lamhna says the birds are a welcome addition to the island's fauna:
Meanwhile Junior Minister Pippa Hackett has been out and about to mark the beginning of biodiversity week.
After a visit to the high nature farm of George and Hazel McBryde, near Kinnitty, Co. Offaly, Minister Hackett said:
“The hen harrier is not just a beautiful bird of prey, it is also an indicator species of a healthy ecosystem, so it is vital that this area of the Midlands would be hospitable to them. During my visit I heard that there are six confirmed breeding pairs in this area, and possibly more. Of course, we didn’t see any because they are sitting on their nests and we were very careful not to disturb them but I’m hoping to return later in the summer to see them in flight.”
The area is part of the Hen Harrier Project, which is supported by Minister Hackett’s Department through funding under the EU’s Rural Development Programme. Farmers participating in the results-based project receive payments for delivering sustainable benefits for biodiversity.
Referring to the importance of such programmes, the Minister continued:
“May 22nd is International Day for Biological Diversity and it is really important we do all we can to heighten awareness of projects supporting Ireland’s beautiful protected species. The hen harrier is a rare, ground nesting bird of prey and for them to nest, breed, hunt, and rear their chicks the land needs to be managed is a sustainable way. That’s why farmers, like George and Hazel, are so important, and I look forward to being able to continue to support this wonderful work.”
Fergal Monaghan, Hen Harrier Project Manager commented:
"We are delighted to have Minister Hackett here in the Slieve Blooms Special Protection Area. This region supports one of the largest Hen Harrier populations in the country. The birds that nest and rear their chicks here depend on the habitats that farmers maintain. These farmland habitats do more than just support Hen Harriers, they benefit other wildlife, store Carbon, and improve water quality, all important public goods delivered through Agriculture."