Get involved

Photo © Jon Cranfield

Supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Dragons in the Hills is a new project based in Northern Ireland which aims to conserve some of our priority wildlife species through community action. This is a partnership project with Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC), Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK (ARG UK), The Herpetological Society of Ireland (HSI) and the Mourne Heritage Trust, which is being evaluated by the University of Central Lancashire. Our project officer is Ryan Montgomery (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

As we move into our third  and final year on the funded project, we are expanding our outreach into the third of our NMDDC AONBs, the beautiful Strangford and Lecale, alongside the Mournes and Ring of Gullion.

Public outreach and training days,

Mount Steward amphibian training 4 Feb 2022 Toby EdwardsWe will continue to run our public outreach and citizen science training days throughout the spring and summer of 2022 and are already planning outreach days in Silent Valley, Hilltown and a very special event on 11th June in the stunning grounds of Grey Abbey, a historic Cistercian monastery founded in 1193. As well as our  usual amphibian and reptile inspired games, 'lizard trails' and scavenger hunts we are also be delighted to be joined by local crafts people who will be telling us more about the abbey's physic garden and the uses of the medicinal herbs and natural dye techniques. Look out for booking details!!

Volunteer survey and training 

In 2021 we set up 10 new survey transects in the Mournes in partnership with the Mourne Heritage Trust and Northern Ireland ARG volunteers. Small teams have been busy recording and data gathering and we are delighted to report over 175 new common lizard records in 2021.                             

In 2022 we are expanding our survey effort into some of the wilder parts of Strangford and Lecale and looking out for new spots to investigate! We are keen to support any volunteer effort, so if you would like to get involved do get in touch -  and if you do spot one of Northern Ireland's smallest dragons remember to pop them onto

Schools' Outreach 

We are continuing with our series of school classroom based presentations' with 8 local primary and secondary schools. 

The first two talks in the series are on ‘What is nature?’ and ‘Our place in nature?’ and explore the different animal groups and diversity of life with specific detail on animals occurring in the local area.  The three taxon groups covered are mammals, amphibians and reptiles. The final part is on ‘Conservation: where, what, when’, and discusses the importance of conservation and monitoring, and spotlights a few on-going projects in local area, with an emphasis on Dragons in the Hills. 

St Josephs School classroom session 12 Jan 2022And the good news is that as well as face to face 'reptile days' - now that COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed we are also planning to take the children out to see the animals in the wild, as well as setting up tadpole tanks  in their classrooms so that they can watch then transforming (or metamorphosing) into tiny froglets.

Working with Land Managers and Habitat Creation

A key part of the project is to work with volunteers and local land owners and managers to improve habitats for our little dragons - by creating ponds, brash piles for shelter and hibernation spots, and more suitable habitat for our common lizards. We are delighted to have been able to partner with An Tobar CIC at Finnegan's Nursery Silverbridge, Bluebell Lane Glamping, National Trust Derrymore HouseRed Branch Bushcraft to run a series of events including regular habitat tasks with community groups in NMDD. Thanks also to The John Muir Trust for additional support, to help us engage with groups with additional needs.

In 2022 we were also delighted to be able to partner with the Mourne Heritage Trust. and the National Trust at Mount Stewart. Ryan and Rob Gandola from the Herpetological Society of Ireland are pleased to be able to continue to train local rangers and volunteers to raise awareness of managing habitats for amphibians and reptiles.

Information and ID leaflets

Amphibian survey on the mournes April 2022We have designed, produced and printed a brand new leaflet with more information about our native herpetofauna - the viviparous or common lizard, the common frog and smooth newt. Available in English and Irish language versions, these can be downloaded here. Printed versions are also available on request (email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.):

 English language version 'Dragons in the Hills - the amphibian and reptiles of Northern Ireland'

 Irish Language version 'Dragain sna Cnoic Amphaibiaigh agus reiptílí Thuaisceart Éireann'

With grateful thanks to Brett Lewis, Kevin Clarke, Gary McParland and John Baker for their fabulous photos, Ursula Mhic an tsaoir  for her very kind translation of the Irish language version, and Dani Green for her innovative design. (Award ceremony photo copyright An Tobar).

   NMDDC logo         HSI logo          NIARG Logo       MHT logo

 john muir trust logo       uclan



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