Wildlife is always unpredictable. That’s a big part of the wildlife-watching appeal: you never quite know what any given outing will bring, even when you visit a familiar patch. I always tell guests on our Discover Wildlife Walks to expect the unexpected.
Whether it’s encountering a rare migrant, watching a cormorant catch and swallow an unfeasibly large mullet, or experiencing the thrill of a minke whale lunge-feeding close inshore, wildlife always has the capacity to surprise and delight. Last Thursday’s walk was no exception.
Several highlights stand out. We hooked up with the local kingfisher, which is always a treat, and had some truly remarkable close-up views of the normally elusive treecreeper. But it was, without doubt, the choughs that stole the show.
Choughs are regulars on our walks around Rosscarbery.
The south and west coasts of Ireland are a European stronghold for the red-billed chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), supporting more than 70% of the north-west European population. The coastal headlands of Cork and Kerry have the highest chough densities, and surely rank as some of the best locations in the world to see this charismatic member of the crow family.
The clifftop path between The Warren and Owenahincha is a fabulous elevated vantage point, giving extensive views across Rosscarbery bay towards Galley Head and out to the wild Atlantic beyond. It’s an ideal spot for a bit of shore-based whale watching, and we always stop at the apex to scan the sea for cetaceans, seabirds and other marine wildlife. The path also puts you at eye-level with the choughs as they swoop and soar on the updrafts, filling the air with their curiously melodic caws.
That day a small family group was putting on a bit of show, patrolling back and forth over the cliffs demonstrating their remarkable agility to mesmerizing effect. Views of choughs don’t come much better… or so we thought. Then we rounded the corner towards the small coastal village of Owenahincha.
Choughs are not typically what you’d think of as garden birds, but there, foraging on the driveway of a coastal bungalow, was a pair of choughs. They were hopping, skipping and jumping around, seemingly oblivious to us as we stood gobsmacked just a few metres away. I’ve walked that route literally hundreds of times, and see choughs regularly, but never this close. This was, without doubt, a stand-out wildlife encounter.
These photos should give you some idea of just how close we were:
Our Discover Wildlife Walks operate year-round, weather permitting and are scheduled based on demand. There’s always something interesting to see, so if you’d like to join us for your own memorable wildlife encounters on the West Cork Coast get in touch using the booking form.