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Ireland for Birders

Migrant hunting in County Cork and County Wexford

2024 Dates
  • 31 Aug - 07 Sep 2024
Duration8 Days
2024 Price
Price TBC
2025 Dates
  • 30 Aug - 06 Sep 2025
Duration8 Days
2025 Price
Price TBC
Max Group Size6 per guide

An exciting holiday to the southern coast of Ireland, Heatherlea visits the Emerald Isle! We will be looking through large numbers of waders, seabirds and passerines and will also seek out any rare birds that have been found within reach, though we hope of course to find many rarities of our own in these beautiful underwatched locations.

This is a two-centre tour, split between County Cork in the south-west and County Wexford in the south-east. We start in Cork, covering famous birding sites of the region. Our exact itinerary will be largely dependent on the weather, tides and recent sightings but may well include Mizen Head, Rosscarbery, Bantry, Clonakilty, The Gearagh and Lissagriffin lake. A huge number of Nearctic wader and wildfowl species are recorded in this region each year, and at this time migrant wader numbers should be at their peak. We hope to find a range of species, perhaps including an American vagrant in their midst.

An exciting aspect of this tour is a pelagic charter into the Atlantic, 'chumming' from the boat to draw in a range of rare oceanic species. Top targets here are Wilson’s Storm Petrel and Great Shearwater, though any number of petrels, shearwaters, skuas and auks are possible, with chances of common and rare cetaceans and maybe even a Leatherback Turtle or Ocean Sunfish too! For strict land-lubbers, rest assured that the pelagic voyage is optional.

Another draw in Cork is the day trip over to Cape Clear, accessed by foot ferry. This is the most southerly point of Ireland, famous for rare birds. We spend several hours here on foot, checking out the sparse cover. Those who have joined our ‘... for birders’ tours in Scotland will love this! After three full days in the south-west, we transfer to the south-east, calling in at several sites during our journey. Sites may include Timoleague, Old Head of Kinsale and nearby Estuary, Cobh Harbour, Ballycotton, Youghal etc. Any rare bird news and the weather will dictate this day. Once over into Wexford we have two full days of birding, covering the famous sites of Tacumshin Marsh, Our Lady’s Island Lake, Rosslare Harbour and back strand, North Slob, Cahore Marsh, The Cull, Carnsore Point, Hook Head and even west into Co. Waterford to Brownstown Head and Tramore Estuary if birds are there.

Although the two centres are fixed, the day itineraries are flexible and at the discretion of the guides, as with all of our ‘... for Birders’ holidays.

The holiday starts and ends at Cork Airport, with a number of regional departures available.

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 Aug 2024   Arrival and Travel to Rosscarbery
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we fly to Cork, expecting to arrive just before lunchtime, allowing us to enjoy a few hours birding in County Cork before checking into our accommodation, perhaps looking for waterbirds at Rosscarbery Estuary or targeting any known rarity within reach. Overnight for four nights in the Rosscarbery area.

Day 2: Sun 1 Sep   A Pelagic Voyage
Today we head out on a chartered boat for a pelagic voyage. Our local skipper is a keen birder and knows all the best sites and techniques for luring birds to the boat. Every pelagic is different, though our targets will include birds that are hard to see from land, including Wilson's Storm Petrel, Great Shearwater and Cory's Shearwater. Even rarer birds are possible, though the supporting cast of skuas, terns, gannets, gulls, auks and all manner of common seabirds, seals and cetaceans should keep us busy.

Please note this is a dedicated pelagic, heading several miles offshore followed by long periods of idling and ‘chumming’ where fish and oil is used to attract all manner of seabirds. This can of course be bumpy and choppy in the open waters, and the voyage can be cancelled for several consecutive days. As a consolation, the weather that disrupts our pelagic (usually strong southerly or westerly winds) is good for seawatching, so we will still have chances of rare seabirds, though we would prefer close quarter encounters from the boat. Our pelagic lasts around four hours, and those not keen on boat trips can remain ashore.

Day 3: Mon 2 Sep  Mizen Head
Mizen Head has a fantastic range of birding habitats to cover, and is well worth a visit. Lissagriffin Lake is often the first stopping point, with American waders and wildfowl the targets though European migrants are more likely. At this time of year, species such as Green, Wood and Pectoral Sandpiper appear regularly with Citrine Wagtail and Red-throated Pipit among the rarities recorded here. Cover is limited out on the head itself, so smaller birds can be easier to find; the list of North American passerines found here is mouthwatering, with scarce eastern vagrants regular in favourable conditions. We aim to work some of the gardens and gullies for common migrants in the hope of unearthing something special or if the wind is from the west, seawatching would be worthwhile for an hour or so too.

Day 4: Tue 3 Sep  Cape Clear Day Trip
Today we take the foot ferry from Baltimore and head to Cape Clear Island. The most southerly point of Ireland, Cape Clear is a fantastic birding spot. Not only is it first landfall for birds from the south and west, it benefits from birds trickling down through Ireland. The limited amount of cover aims those in searching for migrants and 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 at the end of August. On our visit in 2019, our very first to the island we were lucky enough to discover a beautiful juvenile Woodchat Shrike! Our schedule allows us a few hours walking ashore; enough time to check most of the areas of cover in and around the village. Please note: We will again try to be flexible but in poor weather this ferry can be cancelled and if the day is solidly wet the trip will not be worthwhile as all birding here is by foot.

Day 5: Wed 4 Sep   Cork to Wexford
Today we transfer to County Wexford. Our route will be dictated by any rare bird news from the previous few days and will possibly involve a visit to one or more key sites on the journey, such as Timoleague, Old Head of Kinsale, Cobh Harbour, Ballycotton and Youghal, each with their own opportunities. With the majority of our targets being migrants, we will keep our plans as flexible as possible to maximise our birding. Overnight for three nights in Wexford

Day 6: Thu 5 Sep   Birding County Wexford
Today will be spent birding around County Wexford. There are lots of great places to choose from, and we will use the weather, tides and recent sightings to guide us. Key sites in the area include Our Lady’s Island Lake, Rosslare Harbour and the Strand, North Slob, Cahore, The Cull, Carnsore Point, Hook Head and perhaps even west into Co. Waterford to Brownstown Head and Tramore estuary if birds are there. Targets include seabirds, ducks, waders and a range of farm and woodland birds.

Day 7: Fri 6 Sep   Tacumshin Marsh
Tacumshin Marsh is one of the most famous sites for birding in Ireland and indeed the British Isles. A vast wetland habitat makes it attractive to almost every type of wader and waterfowl. It is mainly for waders that we visit, and we hope to be able to see a full assemblage of migrants including a rarity or two. This is a large reserve which needs to be covered by foot and wellington boots are essential to explore the site properly and at times reach the best birds. Typically at this time of year we expect to see good numbers of Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint, with regular Pectoral and Buff-breasted Sandpiper and other 'yanks' such as Long-billed Dowitcher, White-rumped and Baird's Sandpiper possible. Raptors including Hen and Marsh Harrier, Merlin and Peregrine may also be seen as we explore this wonderful area through the day. 

Day 8: Sat 7 Sep   Return to Cork and Departure
Today we transfer back to Cork airport for 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 for pelagic 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:

Group size: Maximum 12 with 2 guides; or maximum 7 with 1 guide. If all participants are keen to go on pelagic trip then maximum 10 with 2 guides as boat capacity is 12.

Accommodation: Four nights comfortable en-suite hotel accommodation in County Cork, and three nights comfortable en-suite hotel accommodation in County Wexford.

Transport: Will be a 9 seater minibus driven by your Heatherlea guide, with two minibuses if over 7 guests.

Pelagic boat trip: This is an optional trip though it would be very useful for us to declare if you are either keen, unsure or definitely not coming as almost all of the pelagics here sell out and it is good to have numbers in early.

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.

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.

Biting Insects: Not likely to a problem, though midges and mosquitoes do occur in typically small numbers.

Weather and Clothing: The temperature here is usually 14-19°C, though warmer or cooler weather are both likely 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. As with anywhere in the west of the UK, the Atlantic can throw us some large storms, but these are what bring the best birds across the pond! Please pack accordingly for all weathers. 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 there will be some days when we will be on our feet for the duration, such as when visiting Cape Clear Island and Tacumshin. There will also be some uphill track and road walking so an average level of fitness is required.

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.

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