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Cape Clear Island off the West Cork coast is the second most south-westerly rock off Ireland after the nearby Fastnet Rock. Boats to the island, which is only about three miles long and one mile wide, run from Baltimore. The island is a popular bird watching centre as thousands of shearwaters, fulmars, gannets and kittiwakes can be seen flying past its southerly point heading out to fish in the mornings in July and August and returning at night. Guillemots also nest on the island.
The secluded woodland around Glengarriff is home to kingfishers among other woodland and water birds, and if you take the boat trip to Garinish Island across the clear, clean, unpolluted waters of Glengarriff Harbour, you may see cormorants, guillemots, shags, herons, terns, oyster catchers, black-backed gulls and resident swans. In the summer, the more regular visitors, the swallows and the swifts who perform such incredible aerial acrobatics over land and sea, can be seen.
Dursey Island Bird Sanctuary is an excellent location for watching
migrating birds. Both Great and Arctic Skuas and common Arctic and
Sandwich Terns are regularly recorded passing by in both spring and
Autumn. Very rare autumn and spring migrants from as far apart as the
Americas and Siberia have been recorded here: for example, the North
American Warbler and the North American Ovenbird (second live record for
Europe), the Ross-breasted Grosbeak, the Red-eyed Vireo and the
Olive-backed Pipit and Yellow-browned Warblers from Siberia.
Bird Watching Ireland
Harbour Queen Ferry
Blue Pool Ferry
Common and grey seals can often be seen basking in Bantry Bay and on the rocks around Garinish Island in Glengarriff harbour.
Common seals prefer to feed on fish, both bottom-dwelling and free-swimming, and some invertebrates in narrow channels near the mouths of bays. At low tide they haul out onto skerries (rocky islets and reefs) or sand banks to rest and digest their food. Common seals are gregarious, preferring to live in groups, probably made up of related animals. Around Ireland, common seals give birth during June and July. The single pup, which is able to swim within just a few minutes after its birth, suckles for between 3-6 weeks.
The grey seal is also a coastal species, though it may forage further out at sea than the common seal. It is sparsely distributed around Ireland and widely dispersed outside the breeding season. Grey seals feed on a wide variety of fish and some invertebrates. Adults congregate to form herds during the late summer to autumn breeding season. Unlike common seals, the single grey seal pup is born in white lanugo (natal coat). Lactation lasts for 2-3 weeks before the mother abandons the pup, around which time it begins to moult its lanugo. The pup spends another two weeks or so on land while it moults before entering the sea when it must learn to forage efficiently before its body fat reserves are depleted.
Common dolphins and harbour porpoises are resident all year round off West Cork. Minke whales may be seen from May through to December. Family groups of fin whales arrive in the early summer months and are resident through to January. Humpback whales, the great cetacean acrobats, may be seen during whale watching tours between August and January. Chance encounters may occur with killer whales (Orcas), bottlenose and Risso's Dolphins and long finned pilot whales at different times throughout the year.
Whale Watch West Cork Join zoologist and experienced skipper Nic Slocum who has been diving and sailing for many years and knows the West Cork coastline and islands intimately.
Sea Kayaking website
Atlantic Sea Kayaking website
Sherkin Island Marine Station is privately run and funded, carrying out long-term monitoring programmes on the flora and fauna of Roaringwater Bay and surrounding areas.
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