First calf born at Belfast's Bog Meadows in half-a-century
Staff at one of Belfast's best loved nature reserves are celebrating after a cow delivered an unexpected Christmas gift - the first calf born there since the 1960s.
Nobody knew the calf was on the way until Ulster Wildlife nature reserves officer Deborah McLaughlin was carrying out a site check at the Bog Meadows earlier this week - and spotted a dark bundle huddled up against the fence.
"Nobody was expecting it - the farmer didn't even know," she said.
"I was walking around doing my usual site check when I saw this wee small black thing up against the fence. I counted the cows and there were five."
The west Belfast nature reserve is grazed by three cows and a bullock, which were brought there by local farmer Gary Davidson and are circulated from field to field to keep the sward in good condition. Deborah added: "The calf was just lying in the field. The mummy was a good distance away - she wasn't too bothered and was licking herself. The other two were over licking the calf, so he is getting no shortage of attention.
"The farmer came down and got him tagged and both mother and calf are doing well.
"This is the first and only calf we've had since we started grazing the meadows."
The new arrival has been named Baby Bo and has created a buzz among regular visitors. Even though he lives in the section that doesn't have public access, lots of people have been coming to see him, taking his photo and posting it on Ulster Wildlife's Facebook page.
The calf is a cross between a blue grey and a solaire and is a hardy breed, well suited to withstanding the elements.
The Bog Meadows form the floodplain for the Blackstaff River and once stretched 1,000 acres, but over the years have been eaten away by developments such as Milltown Cemetery, the M1 motorway and local schools and pitches.
The last cattle to graze the site in the 1960s were owned by Pat Hughes, whose farm sat on what is now the St Gall's GAA pitch.
Worried by the encroaching development, a group of locals set up the Friends of Bog Meadows and campaigned for the site to be saved. Ulster Wildlife was awarded funding to set up a nature reserve in 1998, and it was designated a Local Nature Reserve by Belfast City Council in 2000.
The reserve is home to a host of wildlife including a pair of buzzards, a kestrel, black tailed godwits, little grebes, orchids, marsh marigolds and ragged robin.