Harbour View Beach,
Birds of Harbour View
All year round, bird life at Harbour View provides a fascinating record of the changing seasons. Each visit throws up something new, whether it’s Whimbrels stopping off to feed in late April and May on their long trek from Africa to Iceland, Curlews arriving in autumn to overwinter, or an occasional visit from a Short-eared Owl in November.
The beach and salt marsh at Harbour View are part of the Courtmacsherry Bay Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for bird life and flora under the EU Habitats Directive.
The winter months are busiest, birds arrive from Iceland, northern Europe, and Russia, including Curlew (the Irish population is sadly in steep decline). Brent geese (honking loudly), Bar-tailed Godwits, and ducks such as Wigeon, Teal, and Shelduck.
Other waders to look out for include Redshank, a medium-sized bird with orange-red legs and bill. It has a loud alarm call, which alerts everyone to the presence of an intruder. Often nearby is the elegant Greenshank with its grey winter plumage (pale below) and olive-green legs. They hunt actively for small fish in the pools left by the retreating tide or at the edge of the salt marsh.
The cutest birds at Harbour View are undoubtedly the Ringed Plovers, a small wader, about the size of a Robin. They can be seen at the tide line, alternatively dashing after a tasty morsel or suddenly freezing in place. They can often be found in the company of Dunlins.
From the causeway or the salt marsh you might observe a flock of broad-winged birds take off with floppy wingbeats and then swoop and swirl over the water. It’s the beautiful Lapwing with its distinctive backswept wispy crest and iridescent dark green/purple back. Unfortunately, it’s another species that has suffered a steep decline mainly due to changed land use and predation. Studies are underway to help build a better picture of their distribution and strongholds.
Meadow Pipits are common in the area, their streaked plumage blends perfectly with the local vegetation. You might see one perched on a fence post. In spring, the courtship flight takes the bird up high and then it floats or ‘parachutes’ back down. In winter small flocks (added to by European visitors) gather and when disturbed rise up from the vegetation with a jerky flight.
Each spring there’s at least one Stonechat family about, often seen near the path. Parents keep a close eye on their young while they find their wings. Listen out for a call that sounds like stones tapping together.
All year round
Black and white Oystercatchers are unmistakeable at the coast as they hammer or prise open shellfish. You will hear their piping call at any time, but especially at dusk as birds fly over towards Kilbrittain creek for the night. One version of an old tale goes that they used to have the ability to swim until a Gull asked to borrow its webbed feet. The Gull refused to return them, so since then Oystercatchers can only feed on rocks and at the waters edge. (Believe it or not!)
The Grey Heron and its close relative, the Little Egret, can both usually be seen, frozen in place, ready to strike suddenly at any passing fish.
Gulls are present most of the year and include Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, and Great Black-backed Gull.
Dogs are very welcome, but please keep them on the leash in the areas that have large numbers of birds, especially in winter. Disturbance from dogs reduces birds’ feeding times, which can have a detrimental effect, especially when they’ve traveled a long distance (as you can imagine.)