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Site guide: Ardmore Head & Bay

other sites
Ardmore Head
published records
Ardmore Head & Bay
Grid reference:  X17-X27: X1977-X1979/X2077-X2079
Ordnance Survey Discovery map:  # 82
Habitat:  Gardens, scrub, mixed farmland, coastal bay and sea-cliffs.
Main interest: Landbird migrants, especially in autumn; breeding seabirds; migrant seabird passage.. 
Typical birds:  Nesting Fulmars & Kittiwakes at nearby Ram Head; divers and waders in bay; Whimbrel in spring; cliff-nesting House Martins; migrant warblers and Goldcrests; Tree Sparrows occasionally breed (one of few sites in Waterford); passing Manx Shearwaters and other seabirds.
Scarcer species & rarities: Black-throated Diver, Cory's, Great, Sooty & Balearic Shearwaters, Eider, Red-necked Phalarope, skuas, Black Tern, Turtle Dove, Hoopoe, Black Redstart, Icterine Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Yellow-browed Warbler, Firecrest, Pied Flycatcher, Crossbill.  See IBR records.
Best bird:  Bee-eater (May/June 2011 & 2012), Bonaparte's Gull (Oct 2007), Red-eyed Vireo (Sept/Oct 2000).
Access: The most direct route to Ardmore from Dungarvan is by taking the main Cork road and turning left at Power’s pub at Kiely’s Cross Roads 7 km to the south-west.  The coast road, via Ring, is less direct but is preferable if the west Waterford coastline is to be investigated.  From Cork, take the main Waterford road and a few km east of Youghal Bridge turn off right where indicated.  Migrant habitat and the cliff walk at Ardmore Head are best accessed near the Cliff House Hotel at the SW corner of Ardmore Bay, or across field south of the Coastguard station.

Further details:

Ardmore is an excellent base for birding coverage of west Waterford.  Ardmore Bay and the cliffs to the west are good for seabirds, both breeding and offshore, and there is excellent habitat for migrant passerines at Ardmore Head and in the village itself.   To the east, as far as Mine Head and beyond, a range of well-vegetated coastal valleys provide excellent migrant habitat.  To the west, the estuary of the Blackwater,  the Blackwater callows and their adjacent woodlands provide many birding opportunities. 

The only defined cliff-walk on the Waterford coast is at Ardmore, going west to Saint Declan’s well.  It starts at the car-park at the Cliff House Hotel on the west side of Ardmore Bay and meanders across the cliff-top for a little over 1 km.  House Martins breed in good numbers in the sea-cliffs, and there are often Choughs about.  For close views of the seabirds, it is necessary to leave the safety of the walkway and venture down the slopes.  Although not particularly dangerous, care is required.  The main seabird cliffs are at Ram Head and west to just before St. Declan’s Well; Kittiwakes outnumber other species, with smaller numbers of Fulmars, large gulls and, in some years, Shags, Guillemots and Razorbills.  A cliff near Ram Head is known as Leac na gCánóg - “Flagstone of the Puffins”, which suggests that Puffins (or possibly Manx Shearwaters, the literal translation of Cánóg) formerly bred on these cliffs.  (In fact, Manx Shearwaters were heard close inshore at night on several occasions during July-August 1996-97, during Storm Petrel ringing sessions.)

Seawatching from Ram Head in recent year has produced frequent records of scarcer seabirds like skuas, Sooty Shearwater etc, with over 100 Cory's Shearwaters on one occasion. Ram is also one of the top whalewatching locations on the south coast, with frequent sightings of dolphins and Fin Whales in particular.

The gardens and areas of scrub and Sycamores near the Cliff Hotel provide the best habitat for migrant passerines, and have produced a range of scarce or rare species in autumn (including Red-eyed Vireo).  The whole area from the Round Tower out to Ardmore Head is worth checking in the right conditions (NE to SE winds in spring or autumn, and potentially any time in late September or October).  More frequent or intensive coverage would be worthwhile, and if time allows can easily be combined with searches of other migrant sites in west Waterford (see under Mine Head and Helvick Head).

Of interest if approaching Ardmore from the east is the small Curragh pond.  This is nowadays largely a reedbed, with little or no open water, but summer holds breeding Moorhens, Sedge Warblers and other reedbed species.  The Bay outside can be good for terns, particularly Sandwich, in autumn and Whimbrel in spring.   Other waders are regular, and Ringed Plover breed.  In winter and spring, Ardmore Bay is worth watching for Red-throated and Great Northern Divers, and Black-throated Diver has occurred. 

The Round Tower at Ardmore

Whiting Bay, west of Ardmore


Ardmore Head: south of the Cliff Hotel


Ardmore Head: south of Cliff Hotel

Ardmore Head & Bay

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