More people are watching birds today than ever before; its popularity as a pastime has been growing rapidly over the past few years and for the visiting bird lover, Offaly offers some of the most varied bird-watching opportunities in the country.
The natural floodplain known as the Shannon Callows is world renowned for its birds and wildlife and has one of the largest concentrations of breeding waders in these islands with Lapwing, Redshank, Curlew, Sandpiper and Godwit living there. Offaly’s other notable bird-spotting areas include; the Lough Boora parklands/wetlands, Little Brosna (Ashton’s) Callows, the Slieve Bloom Mountains and Turraun Nature Reserve.
Grey Partridge in Borra: The Grey Partridge is one of Ireland’s most iconic native game and rarest birds and they can be seen at the Grey Partridge sanctuary adjacent to Lough Boora Discovery park. This is the premier place in the country to see grey partridges.
Slieve Bloom Mountains Reserve: The Slieve Bloom Mountains are a designated Special Protection Area (SPA) for the rare bird life found there; two emblematic bird species; the hen harrier which is one of Ireland’s rarest birds of prey and the secretive game bird, the red grouse.
Little Brosna Callows Bird Hide: The River Little Brosna Callows is one of the top ten spots to see wintering waterfowl in Ireland. Rare birds such as the Greenland White-fronted Goose and Black-tailed Godwit attract avid bird watchers from around the country. Home to over 20,000 birds in the wintering season the site is of international importance. During these months one can expect to see Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Shoveler, Lapwing, Whooper swans and Golden Plover.
This special protection area has a two-storey bird watching hide that allows visitors to view these natural wonders without disturbing them. Also on site is a looped walking trail through adjacent woodland and traditional farming plots that encourage a rich and abundant biodiversity. Often spotted passing through the site are fallow deer, white-tailed sea eagles, hen harriers and short-eared owls. The site is wheelchair accessible. Look out for the bird hide entrance sign on the L3001, off the R438 near Banagher.