Visit to Kiltimagh, Lough Urlaur & Kilkelly

On Saturday 4th December 2021 we had a field trip to sample a few rivers and lakes in the Kiltimagh/Kilkelly area.

We kicked off on the River Pollagh next to the Kiltimagh GAA grounds taking a sample of macroinvertebrates – insects, snails, crustaceans and more, by lifting stones and rocks in the strong flow of the Pollagh. This method was used instead of the more standard kick-sampling in order not to disturb any potential trout or salmon gravel redds that are likely to have freshly laid eggs at this time of the year.

That fish was this big!

The macroinvertebrates indicated that water quality is quite good at this spot upstream of the Kiltimagh waste water treatment plant.

The plant has a reed-bed system for polishing the effluent before it is discharged into the river. As with all larger towns in Ireland the monitoring results for Kiltimagh’s treatment plant are published on the EPA website at:

Ken gave the low-down on the fish in the river and we discussed a report that the Moy Trust had commissioned on the River Pollagh and its post-drainage condition. This kayak survey recorded a rather large number of cattle access points to the river. (With Gary Smyth’s permission we will post the report here later.)

Introducing water birds

Jackie Hunt introduced the group to the specialist river birds – Kingfisher, Dipper and Grey Wagtail that depend on rivers for their habitat and food. Kingfishers, for example, have a very specific nesting habitat requirement – bare earthen river banks where they can dig out a nesting spot. Dippers walk/swim along the river bed feeding on macroinvertebrates. She played sound recordings of the calls of these river specialists.

The River Pollagh

She explained how the Moy River and its tributaries act as a corridor for incoming migratory birds overwintering in Ireland. She also has an excellent list of bird and mammal resources – we have added this to the resource pages of this site.

On the Urlaur Abbey shore of Lough Urlaur.

Before lunch we moved to the shores of Lough Urlaur and took some samples there and Jackie set up her telescope to observe the birds on the lake – Mute Swans, Golden Eye, Mallard among others.


Plenty of the water hog louse, Asellus, there in the centre well with a Heptagenia and Polycentropus also in the view.

We also demonstrated the use of a meter with probes for measuring dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH and conductivity.

Measuring oxygen, temperature and conductivity in Lough Urlaur.

The water was cold at 6.6 °C but that didn’t stop a hardy group of locals taking the plunge while we looked on!

After lunch we took a look at the Trimoge River where it flows through Kilkelly. There is some local concern about two storm overflows that discharge to the river upstream of the town’s waste water treatment plant. We sampled upstream and downstream of the main discharge and judged both samples to be likely to be in moderate condition.

The discharge from the Kilkelly sewage works looked clear.

We have emailed a feedback form to all participants – to be emailed to Tom Carolan with your views and comments – we want to continually improve the programme based on participants feedback.