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Southern Ireland in Autumn

Migration based birding along the south coast, from County Cork and County Wexford

2025 Dates
  • 30 Aug - 06 Sep 2025
Duration8 Days
2025 Price
Price TBC
Max Group Size6 per guide

This is an exciting migration-based holiday, taking in hotspots and some lesser-watched places along Ireland's south coast. We spend our days enjoying the large numbers of waders which migrate through the region, with seabirds and passerines featuring in favourable conditions too. Busy birding days await, as we divide our time between County Cork in the south-west and County Wexford in the south-east.

Beginning in Cork, where daily birding will largely be dependent on the weather, tides and recent sightings. Likely birding locations include Mizen Head, Rosscarbery, Clonakilty, Galley Head and Lissagriffin Lake, though we try to keep our itinerary as flexible as possible. A day trip over to Cape Clear Island will be a highlight - one of the most famous sites in Ireland, dedicated to bird recording since the opening of the observatory in 1959. Also the most southerly point of Ireland, it is a magnet for birds and we spend several hours exploring on foot, enjoying Chough around the cliffs and migrants in the sparse cover. On another day, we take a seabird and whale watching boat trip, hoping to see rarer seabirds such as Great and Cory’s Shearwater alongside whales and dolphins.

County Wexford is famous for both huge numbers and the impressive variety of waders and wildfowl recorded in the region every year. Our visit has been timed to coincide with peak passage, giving chances of Little Ringed and Grey Plover, Ruff, Little Stint, Curlew, Green and Wood Sandpiper among the masses of Black-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover and other commoner waders. With hopes of finding a Nearctic vagrant among their number, during two full days we cover famous sites including Tacumshin Marsh and Our Lady’s Island Lake. Other birds we may see include Marsh and Hen Harrier, Mediterranean Gull, with chances of Roseate Tern plus seabirds and passerines in favourable conditions. While mainly trying to find our own birds we seek out any rarities within reach, all the while enjoying a great week’s birding on the south coast of the ‘Emerald Isle’.

Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office! Read more about our Pre-flight Service here!

Day 1: Sat 31 August 2024   Arrival and travel to Rosscarbery
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we fly to Cork, expecting to arrive at around lunchtime. Getting straight into birding, we have a few hours before checking into our accommodation, perhaps looking for waders at Clonakilty or migrant passerines at Galley Head. Overnight in the Rosscarbery area for four nights.

Day 2: Sun 1 September - Cape Clear Island
We take the foot ferry from Baltimore to Cape Clear Island, enjoying great island scenery as we travel. The most southerly point of Ireland, Cape Clear is a fantastic place, and also one of the most famous birding locations in the Country! As we walk around, Chough and Raven may be seen around the cliff tops, with family groups of Stonechat, Wheatear and Whitethroat in the sparse cover. The lack of trees aids searching for migrants, and many rarities from Siberia and North America have been found here - Cape Clear is very much the 'Fair Isle of Ireland'! In the last decade Northern Waterthrush, Yellow Warbler and Solitary Sandpiper have been recorded during the early-autumn period, and there is good sea-watching potential here too. On our visit in 2019, among a fall of Pied Flycatchers and other drift migrants, we were lucky enough to discover a beautiful juvenile Woodchat Shrike! Our schedule allows enough time to check most of the areas of cover in and around the village – who knows what we may unearth?!

Day 3: Mon 2 September - Seabird and Whale watching boat trip
Seabirds are an exciting aspect of birding in Southern Ireland, and we take a boat trip out into the Atlantic hoping to connect. These waters can be great for cetaceans too, and travelling up to 5 miles offshore we target both birds, whales and dolphins. Every trip out to sea is different, though commoner species will include Gannet, Manx Shearwater, Storm Petrel, Fulmar, Shag, Kittiwake and auks including Puffin. A few Black Guillemot may also be seen around the harbours, while Sooty and Balearic Shearwater, Great and Arctic Skua may be seen at sea too. And with increasing sea temperatures, a number of ‘southern’ species are becoming far more regular in the Southwestern Approaches. Possibilities include Great and Sooty Shearwater or perhaps something rarer like a Wilson's Storm Petrel… Cetaceans are another major target of our boat trip with Common Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise and Minke Whale the three most likely species. Getting out to deeper water our chances of ‘larger’ whales increases, with Fin and Humpback Whale plus Risso’s and Bottlenose Dolphin are all more frequently recorded.

For the rest of the day, we explore locations close to our accommodation. The estuary at Rosscarbery is one such option, often busy with waders such as Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Knot, Sanderling, Redshank, Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Whimbrel and Turnstone. The site has a strong track record for Nearctic rarities, and roosting Mediterranean Gull and Sandwich Tern are both likely too. A series of other tidal sites and freshwater pools are also available nearby, with Kingfisher, Little Egret, Snipe and Water Rail perhaps featuring.

Day 4: Tue 3 September – Lissagriffin and Mizen Head
Mizen Head has a fantastic range of birding habitats to cover and is well worth a visit during the migration period. On the way, Lissagriffin Lake is often the first stopping point for both ourselves and any storm driven Nearctic waders and wildfowl! Species such as Greenshank, Green and Wood Sandpiper appear regularly, with Pectoral Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs just two of the rare waders recorded in past autumns. Cover is limited out on the head itself, so smaller birds can be easier to find around the scrub and gardens. That said, there are still lots of different patches to explore and following easterly winds and rain, southbound warblers, chats, flycatchers and more may be found with a bit of effort. Peregrine and Merlin may be seen, and Chough can seem very common here, gathering in large post-breeding flocks where there is plenty of food.

Day 5: Wed 4 September - Transfer to Wexford
A transfer day to County Wexford but not without some birding, our route likely dictated by any recent bird news. Passing a number of key sites on the journey, such as Timoleague, Old Head of Kinsale, Cobh Harbour, Ballycotton and Youghal, each hold their own birding opportunities. Our targets mainly being migrants we keep our plans as flexible as possible, and given we will be driving through County Waterford a visit to hotspots such as Brownstown Head or Tramore Back Strand won’t be ruled out! Overnight in Wexford for three nights.

Day 6: Thur 5 September - Tacumshin Marsh
Tacumshin Marsh is one of the most legendary birding sites in Ireland, and indeed the entire British Isles! The vast wetland habitats make it hugely attractive to passing waders, and almost every species of shorebird ever recorded in the UK has been seen here! With so many different areas to explore, we hope to see a full assemblage including Ruff, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and perhaps a rarity or two. Regular ‘yanks’ include Pectoral and Buff-breasted Sandpiper and American Golden Plover, while Long-billed Dowitcher, Baird’s and White-rumped Sandpiper are becoming almost annual at this hotspot! Tacumshin is a large reserve which needs to be covered by foot, and wellington boots are essential to explore properly and often reach the best birds. As well as waders, in the reedbeds Bearded Tit, Reed Bunting and Water Rail may be seen, while likely raptors include Hen and Marsh Harrier, Merlin and Peregrine as we explore through the day. 

Day 7: Fri 6 September - Birding County Wexford
County Wexford boasts a number of great birding sites to choose from, and we use the weather, tides and recent sightings to guide us. Most locations are in close proximity to our hotel, including Our Lady’s Island Lake, Rosslare Strand, North Slob, The Cull, Kilmore Quay and Carnsore Point. Our targets may include seabirds, wildfowl, waders, gulls, terns and a range of passerines. Aiming to find new species for our trip list, checking through the roosting tern flocks may yield Roseate, Little or Black Tern. New waders might include Little Ringed and Grey Plover, while species such as Spoonbill, Great Egret and Glossy Ibis are increasingly recorded. In favourable easterly winds, good habitats await migrant passerines, and in onshore southerlies we can take on the sea-watching challenge again. As we explore, it is worth keeping an eye out for two curious Irish endemics – Irish Coal Tit in any patches of woodland and Irish (Mountain) Hare in the meadows.

Day 8: Sat 7 September - Return to Cork and Departure
Today we transfer back to Cork airport, perhaps with a few hours birding before our short flight back to London.

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

What's included in your holiday price:

  • scheduled return flights between London and Cork, airport taxes.
  • ground transportation as outlined including all transportation in Ireland in a modern air-conditioned vehicle. All tolls.
  • accommodation and all meals, including breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • the services of your leaders.
  • ferry tickets to Cape Clear island and the Seabird and Whale watching boat trip
  • The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included subject to terms and conditions. Read more..

What's not included in your holiday price:

  • personal insurance, drinks and other personal expenses, and any other costs not specified as 'included'.

More holiday information:

Accommodation: Four nights comfortable en-suite hotel accommodation in County Cork, and three nights comfortable en-suite hotel accommodation in County Wexford.
Food and drink: A full cooked breakfast will be offered every morning and we will have packed lunches from our hotels for the field. When an opportunity arises we will make a stop for coffee, though this cannot be guaranteed every day.
Transport: Will be a 9 seater minibus driven by your Heatherlea guide, with two minibuses if over 7 guests.
Weather and Clothing: The temperature in Southern Ireland is usually between 15-20°C, though warmer or cooler weather are possible at this time of year. Rain and strong winds are possible here at any time and we shall probably have a mixture of weather, as is typical in the British Isles. Exposed headlands and boat trips are often chilly in the wind, please ensure you have full waterproofs, a hat and gloves. Good footwear is also important and (standard height) wellington boots are required as we are likely to need to walk through two or three shallow channels of water at Tacumshin to reach some of the best birding areas. 
Walking: Moderate, 3-5 miles per day. There will be some days when we will be on our feet for the duration, such as when visiting Cape Clear Island and perhaps at Tacumshin. There will also be some uphill track and road walking so an average level of fitness is required.
Biting Insects are unlikely to a problem, though midges and mosquitoes do occur in typically small numbers.
Telescope: Your guide(s) will have telescopes for your use, but due to the number of waders, terns and seabirds we thoroughly recommend bringing a scope if you have one to maximise your viewing time.
Group size: Maximum 12 with 2 guides; or maximum 7 with 1 guide.
Flights are by scheduled airline, from London. We may be able to offer flight arrangements from another location and/or or quote without flights so you can make your own arrangements. If you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange this for you.

Your Leader

Toby Green: Toby is a very experienced birder, always very popular with our groups and his fellow guides, with a great sense of humour and endless enthusiasm.

Toby joined Heatherlea as a guide in 2013, though he has been birding in Scotland and overseas for over 30 years. He has been Warden on two Scottish reserves, was local WeBS coordinator, has been involved in Hen Harrier and Black Grouse survey work and heavily involved in ringing and satellite tracking of the Loch of the Lowes Ospreys.

Other birding and wildlife holidays in Ireland

Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday in Europe?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).
Tour Details

About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248