Ireland – a birding experience to savour

Ireland is now recognised as one of the best birding destinations in Europe and the reasons are very easy to understand. In summer it has some of the largest breeding seabird colonies in the world, while in winter, our wetlands and estuaries hold thousands of shorebirds and wildfowl.

Lying on the western edge of Europe, Ireland is also ideally located to experience the dramatic autumn seabird passage as birds move from the breeding grounds in northern Europe out into the Atlantic. In spring and autumn there is also the possibility of seeing a host of rare and unusual migrant species.

Ireland is also unique in that, by comparison to most European countries, it has been isolated as an island for approximately 8,000 years. As a result Ireland has three distinct subspecies of breeding birds, Coal Tit, Jay and Dipper.

In addition, the islands of the western and northern seaboard are the last strong hold of the globally threatened Corncrake while Dublin and Wexford hold large breeding populations of the rare and exquisite Roseate Tern. Some of these birds are the 'must-see' species for any birder.

Ireland's hedgerows are also a unique feature of our countryside. The thousands of kilometres of hedgerows that meander across the landscape are home to resident birds like Wrens, Robins, Dunnocks and Blackbirds. In summer, these ancient land boundaries are alive with songs of visiting warblers like Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs. In more western counties, the repetitive call of the Cuckoo is the harbinger of summer while the first Swallow of the year is noted in all the national newspapers. In our woodlands the summer dawn chorus is a cacophony of sound with the musical songs of thrushes, warblers, robins and wrens. Blackcaps, a summer visitor to our shores, have become more common in recent years and their beautiful melodies add a touch of class to the symphony!

Our hedgerows and woodlands can appear very quiet in late autumn and winter but this isn't so. Mistle and Song Thrushes clear bushes and trees clean of their berries by early winter while Siskins and Blue, Great and Coal Tits feed in dizzying rotation on the treetops. In gardens, Robins, Dunnocks, Chaffinches and Blackbirds feed on open lawns. A birdtable or nutfeeders will attract an eager selection of hungry visitors like Greenfinches and Goldfinches.

Ireland holds one last superb attraction to the visiting birder - solitude. Birding is still in its youth in Ireland and it’s not unusual to spend a mid-week day at one of Europe’s hotspots, in perfect weather conditions, at the right time of the year, and not meet another soul. The opportunity of finding your own birds is unique. Ireland is un-crowded and, combined with beautiful unspoilt scenery, will make for an exciting and unforgettable birdwatching experience.

To have an unforgettable Irish birdng experience, hire bird expert Eric Dempsey as your personal guide.