The Dingle Peninsula is one of the best birdwatching areas in Ireland, particularly famous for its seabird colonies. The Blaskets and the Maharees together have tens of thousands of nesting birds each summer, including Storm Petrels, shearwaters, terns, gulls and auks, including the colourful Puffin. The cliffs fringing the peninsula also hold good numbers of Chough and Peregrine Falcon. Lough Gill is one of the best lakes to see waterbirds, including Whooper and Mute swans and a variety of duck, and the mudflats at Tralee Bay and Castlemaine Harbour host a huge number and variety of wading birds and wildfowl. Large numbers of Brent Geese winter in these areas, along with Pintail, Scaup, Wigeon and waders such as Curlew, Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit. The shallow bay east of Castlegregory is also one of the best places to see rare grebes and divers.A brief guide to some top birding spots Birding the Dingle Peninsula can be downloaded as a PDF document
A network of hedgerows and treelines are home to a wide variety of plant and animal species on the Dingle Peninsula.These hedgerows which are populated with native wild flowers, flowering and fruiting trees and shrubs, play a vital part in the food chain, supporting insects, birds and other wildlife with food and shelter. Gorse, Hawthorn, Willow, Holly, Fuschia, Ash, Blackthorn, Oak and Wild Privet are some of the most common woody species to be found in the hedgerows of Dingle Peninsula, West Kerry. Bees, bats, owls, butterflies, ladybirds, beetles, hedgehogs, badgers and many bird species depend on the hedgerow for shelter, food or hunting ground. Serving as ecological habitat corridors across agricultural land, the hedgerows allow wild plants and animal life to migrate, disperse and survive. (it is estimated that 5000 kms of hedgerow criss cross the Dingle Peninsula). The conservation of these hedgerow corridors is important to protect native flora and fauna.
The Dingle Peninsula is home to terrestrial mammals such as the otter (Lutra lutra) and badger (Meles meles). Fox, Irish mountain hare and Irish stoat are also known to use the upland grassland habitats in the area. Bees, bats, owls, butterflies, ladybirds, beetles can be found in the hedgerows of the Dingle Peninsula. A large herd of native Irish red deer is thriving on the Blasket Island of Inisvickalaun. The natterjack toad, the most endangered of only three native amphibian species to occur in Ireland can be found around Castlemaine Harbour and along the coastal strip west of Castlegregory on the Dingle peninsula. An ongoing habitat creation scheme established by the NPWS (National Parks and Wildlife Service) in 2008 is helping this rare amphibian to make a come back. Vulnerable species of invertebrates are the marsh fritillary butterfly (Euphydryas aurinia), the Kerry slug (Geomalacus maculosus) and the freshwater pearl mussel (considered to be ‘critically endangered’ in Ireland).
The moist mild weather in West Kerry creates a micro-climate on the Dingle Peninsula suitable to plants from much warmer climates. Many of these come under the category of Mediteranean-Lusitanian and flower from May to early July. The estimated 5000 kms of hedgerow that criss cross the Dingle Peninsula ditches are full of plant life. Gorse, Hawthorn, Willow, Holly, Fuschia, Ash, Blackthorn, Oak and Wild Privet are some of the most common woody species to be found. Bluebells, cowslips and primroses in the spring and early summer, foxgloves and honeysuckle, along with hazel, spindle, privet and wild roses, are some of the flora you will find. The most well known and favourite of these plants are the fuchsia and the orange flowers of montbrieta, (Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora) which create a blaze of colour along the small roads and hedges of the Dingle Peninsula in late summer.
There is an abundance of marine life in the waters off the West Kerry coast including seals, whales, dolphins, basking sharks and bluefin tuna, Atlantic salmon, puffins and an array of sea birds. Dingle Peninsula is one of the best locations in Ireland for whale watching with a variety of whales including humpback, minke, fin and killer whales passing the waters south of the Blasket Islands and Slea Head between March and November. Seals come from as far away as Scotland and the British Isles to breed around the Blaskets in late summer and early Autumn and stay for the winter until early summer when most of them leave. Over recent years a resident population has stayed around the Blasket Islands and can be seen basking on the Trá Bán beach of An Blascaod Mór.
Several experienced and knowledgeable local operators run boat tours that will bring you out to view the wonderful marine life in the waters surrounding Dingle Peninsula. There are specialist whale and dolphin watching tours as well as eco tours to view dolphins, seals, whales and birdlife. Land-based whale watching can be done with a telescope from Slea Head and Clogher Head.
The IWDG organises an all-Ireland whale watching day in August – see iwdg.ie/events for updates.
A Nature Reserve is an area of importance to wildlife, which is protected under Ministerial order. Most are owned by the State. However, some are owned by organisations or private landowners. The following are on the Dingle Peninsula
Mount Brandon Nature Reserve Latitude: 52.267 Longitude: -10.24 State-owned.
Upland blanket bogs, a variety of grasses, sedges and heathers, mountain blanket bog/heath complex and famed alpine flora. Choughs and ravens.
Tearaght Island Nature Reserve Latitude: 52.074 Longitude: -10.66 Partly State-owned and partly privately owned.
Of international importance because of the large colonies of seabirds it supports. A marine reserve has been established on the surrounding area of sea and seashore to ensure the protection of the birds and control activities that might cause disturbance.
Derrymore Island Latitude: 52.256 Longitude: -9.828 Privately owned.
A compound spit composed of a series of pebble beaches, supports many rare plant communities mainly of a salt marsh type. Wigeon and Brent Geese graze the salt marsh on the eastern side of the spit. The white top of the spit is an important high tide roosting area.
Tralee Bay Nature Reserve Latitude: 52.254 Longitude: -9.805 State-owned
Of international importance for waterfowl especially the wintering populations of Brent geese that it supports. Other birds of the bay include Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover and Curlew.