BirdWatch Ireland

West Cork Branch

Protecting birds and biodiversity in West Cork



The Branch



Birding Sites

Branch Diary








Overview and habitat

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.

The whole area is designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) due to the wintering birds found here, particularly Shelduck, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit and Dunlin.

Target species

Generally wintering waders and wildfowl but particularly Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Golden Plover, Wigeon, Shelduck, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Greenshank and Knot.

Best time of year

The best time to visit this site is from September to March. Spring and Autumn migrants also occur, particularly waders using the two marsh areas, White's and Clogheen.

Getting there

OSI Map 89 W400400 (Clonakilty Harbour) and W 385385 (Muckross Strand).

Both areas are easily viewed from the local roads that run alongside the estuaries. Please note that these roads are narrow in places and can be very busy with passing cars. Great care should be taken when parking cars and walking along the roads to view areas.

On entering Clonakilty from Bandon on the N71, turn left at the roundabout, heading for 'Ring'. This road brings you along the northern shore of Clonakilty. At high water, roosts of Black-tailed Godwit, Knot and Redshank can be seen close to the Desert campsite. Redshank, Snipe and Knot also roost on the opposite bank, below the Model Village. The Fealge River enters the estuary at this point and is good place to look for Wigeon, Teal, Lapwing, Mute Swan and occasional Kingfisher.

Driving along the northern shore look out for both godwit species, Shelduck and Wigeon in the estuary. A good view point is the pier at Ring. At high water, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew and Oystercatcher can be seen feeding in the fields alongside the estuary.

To see the southern side of the estuary, head back to Clonakilty, turn left at the roundabout and then take the next left, heading to 'Inchydoney'. The road follows along the southern shore of Clonakility Harbour, giving good views of birds at all states of the tide. The road eventually swings sharp right, but heading straight on at this point brings you to Cul de Sac pool. This area holds small numbers of Teal, Moorhen and Water Rail in the winter, whilst the surrounding trees have breeding Grey Heron and Little Egret.

Retrace your steps and turn left towards Inchydoney. At the next junction, head straight on to give good views of Muckross Strand. In winter this area can hold flocks of Golden Plover, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and both godwit species. Gull flocks should be scanned for rarer gulls such as Mediterranean and Ring-billed Gulls. Heading back to the junction, turn left on to the causeway with White's Marsh on the northern side of the road. At the next junction, turn left again to get views of Clogheen Marsh. Both of these marsh areas can hold flocks of Curlew and godwits at high tide, but are also good spots for migrant waders such as wood sandpiper, curlew sandpiper and ruff, as well as rarer American waders. During spring, this can be a good area to check for Osprey. Other raptors that can be seen in the winter period include Hen Harrier and Barn Owl.



Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin, Knot, Snipe, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Cormorant, Shag, Great Northern Diver, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Pintail, Shelduck, Mute Swan, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Water Rail, Moorhen, Kingfisher, Hen Harrier and Barn Owl.

Autumn is good for passage waders, with Osprey being an occasional spring migrant.


Grey Heron, Little Egret, Shelduck, Sandwich Tern