Birding Oktoberfest


This specialist birding tour is all about migrants — finding birds that turn up where we wouldn’t normally expect to see them. We’ll be searching for unusual birds on Atlantic headlands and islands during four days at the peak of autumn migration.

Autumn Birding Holiday Dates for 2020

  • NB Unfortunately all 2020 Holidays are CANCELLED due to the COVID-19 Outbreak

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Grey-cheeked thrush, Galley Head, West Cork

A Grey-cheeked Thrush — a rare north-American vagrant to Ireland’s south coast in autumn.

Searching for migrants and rarities on Ireland’s south coast

The headlands and islands of Ireland’s south coast have long had a reputation as hotspots for migrant birds and rarities. Timed to coincide with a key period in autumn migration, this bird-focussed holiday is all about looking for the extraordinary. NB. Migration is a fluid phenomenon, so naturally, we can’t offer guarantees, but we’ll spend the four days searching for whatever birds we can find… and in Autumn on Ireland’s south coast, you never know what might turn up.  Duration: 4 days / 3 nights  | Price: €699 per person sharing Max No. of guests: 12 (6 per guide)  |  Min No. of guests for holiday to proceed: 6

What could we see?

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Beara, West Cork

A Rose-breasted Grosbeak photographed on the Beara Peninsula in West Cork.

This special West Cork birding holiday is aimed primarily at wildlife enthusiasts and birders with a particular interest in migration and the chance to see more unusual species where they shouldn’t normally be! In recent years, several very rare species have been seen on West Cork headlands on these dates, including such goodies as Siberian Stonechat, Galley Head; Grey-cheeked Thrush, Old Head of Kinsale; Arctic Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warbler, Cape Clear Island; and Booted Warbler, Scarlet Tanager and Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Garinish Point to list just a few. In addition, there have been several sightings of more regular autumn migrants such as Yellow-browed Warbler, Firecrest, Red-breasted flycatcher, Rosefinch and Little Bunting. Of course, like all wildlife events migration is unpredictable, so who knows what we’ll find next time around.

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Guideline Tour Itinerary

NB. This itinerary is provisional. Our overnight locations are fixed… treat everything else as a movable birding feast. Plans can, and probably will change. Birds don’t follow a rigid schedule, so neither do we. Keeping things flexible means we maximise your chances of seeing the best birds, working around the sometimes fickle Irish weather and taking advantage of sightings reported through the local wildlife and birding grapevine. Use the following itinerary only as a rough guideline to your West Cork birding adventure:

Day 1: Cork – Kinsale – Rosscarbery/Skibbereen

Little Buntings are becoming increasingly regular migrants on the Irish south coast in autumn

Little Buntings are becoming increasingly regular migrants on the West Cork coast in autumn.

After meeting in Cork City we’ll make our way West along the Wild Atlantic Way via the famous Old Head — the first of West Cork’s dramatic Atlantic Headlands. Here we’ll check the best spots, and will hopefully discover a few autumn migrants for ourselves. Continuing our way along the coast, we’ll try some other good birding locations as time allows, before ending the day in Rosscarbery/Skibbereen. Optional nocturnal wildlife walk to look for bats, otters and other night-time specialists. Weather permitting we’ll set up a moth trap overnight to check in the morning. Dinner and overnight in the Rosscarbery/Skibbereen area — review/discussion of the day’s sightings with your hosts

Day 2: Galley Head and Toe Head

Red-flanked Bluetail, West Cork, Ireland

Of the 6 Red-flanked Bluetails recorded in Ireland, 5 have turned up on the West Cork coast

After breakfast, we’ll check the moth trap, before making the short trip to Galley Head, where we will continue our birding extravaganza.  Galley Head is a well-known birding location, and both Colin and Calvin know the area very well, so will be able to show you the best places to look for autumn migrants. We’ll stop for lunch at a local cafe / eat a picnic lunch in the field before continuing west on the Wild Atlantic Way for an afternoon on Toe Head, another good birding location in autumn. Dinner and overnight in the Rosscarbery/Skibbereen area — review of the day’s sightings with your hosts

Day 3: Birding on Cape Clear Island

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager photographed on a West Cork headland

After breakfast, we’ll drive to Baltimore and take an exciting 45 minute ferry ride through Roaringwater Bay, past Sherkin Island and Carberry’s Hundred Isles and out into the Atlantic to the birding Mecca that is Cape Clear Island. The ferry is a great wildlife watching platform and we’ll be out on deck for the duration searching for sightings. Cape Clear is home to the Republic of Ireland’s only official bird observatory and is famous in birding circles for attracting rare migrants in spring and autumn. It also offers some of Europe’s best opportunities to see seabirds, whales and dolphins from shore. At this time of year, there’s a good chance of finding a few autumn migrants on the island, and with a bit of luck, something more unusual will turn up. After spending the day exploring the island we’ll board the ferry again and will return to our hotel. Dinner and overnight in the Rosscarbery/Skibbereen area — review / discussion of the day’s sightings with your hosts

Day 4: Birding our way back to Cork

Yellow-browed warbler

Good numbers of yellow-browed warblers turn up on the West Cork coast most autumns

After a last leisurely breakfast, we’ll begin our journey back to Cork, taking advantage of the best birding opportunities on the way*. We’ll say our goodbyes in Cork ready for your onward journey. * We’ll select the most appropriate stops in relation to weather, time of year and arrival time in Cork.

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Birdwatching in Ireland

Birding on the West Cork coast.

Included in your holiday

  • 4 days of guided birding
  • The services of two professional birding guides for the duration of your holiday (max ratio of 6 guests per guide)
  • Transport from your pick up on Day 1 to your drop off on Day 4 in a comfortable mini-bus with a professional driver
  • Any ferry, boat and entrance fees that apply
  • All accommodation
  • Full Irish Breakfast every morning and Dinner on two nights (either at the hotel or a nearby local restaurant)

Not included in your holiday

  • Drinks and snacks
  • Lunch — flexibility is the key to seeing more wildlife, so depending on our movements and the weather on any given day, we’ll stop for lunch at local cafes, or grab a takeaway sandwich/picnic en-route to eat at scenic locations in the field
  • Dinner on day 2 — when you’re free to make your own arrangements/sample an alternative local dining option
  • Personal items/incidental expenses
  • Travel insurance

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