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County Cork

Snipe Gallinago gallinago ©Sue Tranter

County Cork is the most southerly and the largest of the modern counties of Ireland. Cork is nicknamed "The Rebel County", as a result of the support of the townsmen of Cork in 1491 for Perkin Warbeck, a pretender to the throne of England during the Wars of the Roses. In more recent times, the name has referred to the prominent role Cork played in the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921) and its position as an anti-treaty stronghold during the Irish Civil War (1922-23). Attractions include the Blarney Stone and Cobh (formerly Queenstown), the port where many Irish emigrants boarded for their voyage to the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or South Africa and also the last stop of the Titanic, before departing on its doomed journey. The city of Cork is the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland and largest city in the province of Munster.

The remote western area of the county, known as West Cork, is a popular destination for tourists, who visit the small villages and islands including Sherkin Island, Oileán Chléire or Cape Clear Island and Dursey Island. Mizen Head, the "southwesternmost point in Ireland" is also in West Cork, as is Sheep's Head.

In recent years land in the far west of the county has become in high demand internationally, and large numbers of EU citizens have settled in the area, along with celebrities such as Jeremy Irons. West Cork is noted for its rugged natural beauty, fine beaches and distinct social atmosphere.

The highest point in County Cork is Knockboy, at 703m. It is on the border with County Kerry and may be accessed from the area known as Priests Leap, near the village of Coomhola.

Top Sites


Satellite View

Lying in east Cork, Ballycotton has entered into the legends of European birding. A mixture of habitat from open bay (with a lighthouse); lagoons, intertidal flats, pools, reed beds and excellent hedgerows and gardens in the town make this an ideal birding venue in spring and autumn. It is the waders that have really placed Ballycotton on the birding map. It defies logic what this small area has produced over the years. Mega birds include Red-necked and Long-toed Stints, Stilt, Least and Broad-billed Sandpipers and Greater Yellowlegs. Regular waders include Baird`s, White-rumped, Pectoral, Semi-palmated, Wood and Green Sandpipers, with Temminck`s Stints and Kentish Plover also recorded. In addition the area has even produced Stone Curlew, with Red-footed Falcon and Black Kite also seen. On the passerine front, Citrine Wagtail, Greenish Warbler and Lesser Grey Shrike are but a few of the big finds that Ballycotton has unfolded. The whole area is easy to do and the village has a fantastic atmosphere (and some great pubs and B&Bs). And if the weather is bad, and its too wet and windy for the beach, take a look off the back of the cliffs…the sea watching is also excellent with large shearwaters, skuas and Sabine Gulls seen most years.

Cape Clear Island

Satellite View

Situated off the southwestern coast of Cork, Cape Clear Island is another of Ireland's hotspots that has acquired legendary status. Reached by a ferry crossing from Baltimore, Cape has operated a manned observatory since 1959. The current obs is situated in the north harbour where the ferry lands. Accommodation is hostel style while holiday homes and B&Bs provide an alternative. Cape's fame is for the number of rare and unusual vagrants that find their way to the island and for the massive seabird movements that occur off the tip of Blanan, Ireland's most southern point. In spring, Cape is best visited from mid-April to late May where European migrants move through the island. Regular spring vagrants include Golden Oriole and Hoopoe, while last year, the island recorded Scop's Owl, Short-toed lark and, if accepted, Ireland's first Calandra Lark. In autumn the best times for visiting begin in early August when the seabird passage begins. During this month it's not unusual to see thousands of Great, Cory's and Sooty Shearwaters, skuas, Storm Petrels with Fea's Petrel seen every year since the mid-90s. In recent years birders have found Wilson's Petrels and Black-browed Albatross. While the seabirds are a great attraction, the autumn on Cape can produce anything from anywhere.

In October 1999, birders looking at one of two Little Buntings found Ireland's first Chimney Swift. The list of goodies seen defies listing here but highlights include Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, American Redstart, Red-eyed Vireo's, Yellow-rumped and Blackpoll Warblers etc. Perhaps one of the most incredible sights was of a Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler and a Swainsons Thrush seen in the same bush at the same time. A small piece of this nature simply does not do justice to the superb birding and general great fun of the Cape Clear experience.

County Recorder

Mark Shorten




WebBirder Checklist

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Useful Reading

Fieldguides & Other Birding Books
For a full list of fieldguides and other books see the Republic of Ireland page


BirdWatch Ireland - West Cork Branch


The Branch holds twenty to twenty-five outdoor and indoor events each year and these are open to the Public. The only exception to this is when a boat trip is involved, in which case the outing is limited to BirdWatch Ireland members only because of insurance. With exception of special trips, entry to our events is free….

Guides & Tour Operators

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Shearwater Wildlife Tours

Tour Operator

Shearwater Wildlife Tours offer a variety of guided tours and tailor made holidays along the Wild Atlantic Way with a main focus on West Cork and its Headlands, Estuaries and Islands...

Trip Reports

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Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2003 [08 August] Christopher Matthews - Clonakilty, Kinsale, and Cork


Although I was not going primarily to Birdwatch in Ireland for a week any chance I have to explore new countries, I take what chance I can to observe the local Wildlife. I was touring as a groupie for my Fathers Ceilidh Band for the week in and around Clonakilty venturing to Cork and Kinsale later in the week. I took some time out along with my Father on our day off to see what was about on the local Estuary, cataloguing any birds we saw extra as we continued through our daily schedule…


Cape Clear Bird Observatory


Satellite View

Cape Clear Bird Observatory is famous as a centre for watching North Atlantic seabirds and a location for seeing rare passerine bird migrants in autumn. The Observatory is wardened and offers hostel type accommodation to ten visitors. It will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 1998 and a new book on the island is planned. Access is straightforward. There is a daily ferry service from Baltimore, only an hours drive from Cork Airport.
Warden: Steve King - Bird Observatory, Cape Clear, Skibbereen, Co. Cork. 00 353 2839181 stevewing@eircom.net


Cork City Wildlife


A humble wildlife blog, this is my attempt to share my love for amateur wildlife photography as well as my enthusiasm for all forms of wildlife in the Irish city of Cork…

Galley Head Birding


A patch birding BLOG from Galley in Co Cork

Graham Clarke's Blog


Blog by birder and photographer Graham Clarke

Other Links

Birdwatching Clonakilty


Clonakilty comprises two estuaries separated by Inchydoney Island. The northern area is Clonakilty Harbour with estuarine mud and sandflats. Cul de sac pool, an area of open water and reedbed, with a fringe of alder woodland, is part of this area. The southern area is Muckross Strand, again an estuary with mainly sand flats. There are two areas of marsh with patches of exposed mud and marsh; White's Marsh and Clogheen Marsh lying to the north and west of Muckross Strand….

Photographers & Artists

Webcams - Karl Grabe


Webcam and still bird pictures from Cork…