There are almost 500 species of bird in Ireland and, if you want to observe them, you’ll need a fair degree of knowledge, infinite patience and a slice of luck. Preparation is critical.
Even before you leave home you should be doing your homework:
Depending on how seriously you take this pastime, you may wish to invest in some kit. A bird atlas is essential for even the most amateur birdwatcher. It can help you to distinguish one species from another and to identify traits that determine a bird’s age and sex.
Camouflage clothing suitable for the prevailing weather conditions is definitely worth considering; a pencil or pen and a notebook are indispensable for recording your observations (species, location, date, time and weather conditions, etc.). A pair of binoculars or a telescope can be useful.
Remember, the interests of birds come first. Don’t get too close; don’t disturb their habitat; don’t steal their eggs. Be quiet. Avoid sudden movements. Keep the sun behind you. Do not – under any circumstances – reveal the locations of rare species’ nests.
Personal safety is paramount. Be careful when birdwatching near cliffs or in marshy areas, or in areas where hunting occurs. It is good practice to bring a ‘buddy’ with you, to carry a fully charged mobile phone (switched to silent), and to let someone know where you’re going and when you should be back home.
You should respect the wishes of landowners and local residents. DO NOT ENTER private land without permission and always treat the countryside with respect.
Ireland has more than 60 species of mammal, ranging in size from the 5cm-long pygmy shrew that is found in woodland habitats throughout the island, right up to humpback whales which have been sighted frequently off the west coast and very occasionally off the north and east coasts.
Loughs Agency take our responsibility as a custodian of the environment very seriously. We want you to enjoy the mammals that live in or visit our loughs, rivers and coastline habitats but we want to ensure that these species exist for future generations to enjoy too. We need your help to make that happen.
So, when mammal-watching, prepare before you go. Find out as much as you can about the wildlife you hope to see, including where it is likely to be and how best to behave around it. The following advice will help you improve your chances of great sightings:
Dress appropriately for the environment you’re visiting and for the weather you might experience. Safety is paramount. Be careful on or near water, using buoyancy aids where necessary. It is good practice to bring a companion and carry a mobile phone switched to silent, and to let someone know where you’re going and when you should be back home.
Enjoy your encounter but behave responsibly. Respect the environment. Leave it as you found it. Report anything untoward to a responsible organisation such as Loughs Agency.