Where to Watch

Species List

Branch Events

Harper's Island Wetland Centre

Reporting Sightings and the Cork Bird Report

Rare and Scarce Day by Day

Injured Birds


Contact Us


Click here for Cork Bird News tweets.

Harper's Island Wetland Centre

Harper's Island Wetland Centre is currently owned by Cork County Council and is managed in partnership with BirdWatch Ireland, Glounthaune Community (Glounthaune CommunityAssociation/Tidy Towns/Men's Shed), Cork County Council and NPWS.

Contact: info@birdwatchcork.com

Opening Times: Please check out the top post on our Harper's Island Wetland Centre Facebook page for opening times and before travelling in case there are any last minute changes.

News and Developments: watch this space or visit the Harper's Island Wetland Centre Facebook page .

Download our Vision Document here: BirdWatch Ireland/Glounthaune Community Association Vision Document for Harper's Island


Harper's Island Wetland Centre Bird Identification Guide: We have put together a downloadable pdf. It gives a short introduction to the wetland birds of Harper's Island and has images and descriptions of the birds you are likely to see on a visit to the Wetland Centre. It is for personal use only and it or no part of it is to be copied or used elsewhere without permission. Download here: Harper's Island Wetland Centre Bird Identification Guide

Harper's Island Farmhouse Bat Survey 2018/19: An excellent report by Dr. Isobel Abbott of Abbott Ecology on the bats of Harper's Island using the old Farmhouse building. Download here: Harper's Island Farmhouse Bat Survey 2018/19

Follow this link to listen to a podcast on the centre: Mooney Goes Wild Radio Podcast on Harper's Island Wetland Centre.


The Importance of Harper's Island for Wetland Birds

Cork Harbour provides a rich environment for marine invertebrates; a vital food source for the international important numbers of wintering waterbirds with in excess of 20,000 individuals, making it one of the top ten winter refuges for waterbirds in Ireland.
Harper’s Island is a small (30 ha) low-lying island in the Glounthaune Estuary/Slatty Water complex, in the northern section of Cork Harbour. The low-lying northern section of the island is influenced by the surrounding tidal estuary through an old sluice point and hence the immediate vegetation is of brackish grasslands developing into successional saltmarsh.
Although Harper’s Island is only a small component, in terms of land-mass, within the Glounthaune Estuary/Slatty Water complex, the island is an extremely important safe feeding and roosting refuge for many species of wintering waterbirds. Nearly half of the Cork Harbour Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit population roost on the island on spring high tides. At times, during the spring months, peak Black-tailed Godwit counts can exceed 2,000 birds representing over 4% of the global population. The Glounthaune Estuary/Slatty Water complex also supports populations of national importance of Shelduck, Teal, Little Grebe, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank and Black-headed Gull with Harper’s Island supporting significant components of these populations.

As much as 4% of the world's population of Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits visit Harper's Island each year. (image © Mark Carmody)

Click here to watch the Harper's Island Black-tailed Godwit Video


Our Work So Far

The idea of creating a nature reserve at Harper's Island was first raised by the Cork branch of BirdWatch Ireland (BWI) back in 1994 when they made a submission to Cork County Council for their county development plan. In 2008/2009 a chance meeting between a member of Cork branch BWI and a local resident of Glounthaune led to the beginning of a concerted cooperative effort by BWI, Glounthaune Community Association, Glounthaune Tidy Towns and Glounthaune Men's Shed and Cork County Council which has led to getting the centre up and running.

As well as constructing the viewing hide, in 2017 we also created some extra wetland habitat by creating what is called in the business a 'scrape'. This is in effect a shallow pond which provides lots of habitat for feeding and roosting wetland birds. In August 2018 we created a second scrape. This is part of our vision document (download it below), a long term development plan which we hope will eventually lead to the building of a Wetland Centre buidling which will be dedicated to wetland education and research and provide facilites for visitors to the centre. At the end of 2018 the centre secured funding to begin a combination of phase II and III of our Vision Document.

The summer of 2019 will see us very busy at Harper's Island Wetland Centre. We will be developing a screened nature trail around the interior of Harper’s Island to provide an educational resource for visitors to the island. The nature trail will comprise a 430 m track and a 690 m looped footpath. The work also includes development of a second birdwatching hide, an outdoor classroom area and small habitat features, which will all provide additional educational features for visitors. Other work included in the project to facilitate access and management of visitors upgrading of the screening along the approach track, fencing of the nature trail route and sensitive areas and demolition of derelict farmyard structures. Preparatory work will also be carried out towards the development of a third hide. Exciting times for Harper's Island Wetland Centre.

Harper's Island Wetland Centre Development Photo Gallery

Derry Delany (Glounthaune) and Tom Gittings (BirdWatch Ireland) overseeing the Scrape (large shallow pond) construction.

Garry Tomlins and Derry Delany (Glounthaune) with Paul Moore (BirdWatch Ireland) installing the sluice for the scrape made by Glounthaune Men's Shed

View looking south showing the site of the scrape at Harper's Island at the beginnign of August 2017. The viewing hide can be seen in the bottom left of the picture.

View looking south after the scrape was completed at the end of August 2017. The viewing hide can be seen in the bottom left of the picture.

By the end of November the scrape was being used by many birds such as Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwits, Teal, Wigeon and Redshank. By the end of March 2018 over 20 species had been recorded using the scrape. The birds have given our scrape their seal of approval. (Photo: Mark Carmody)

New screening to allow access to the island without disturbing the wildlife. The area beyond the gate is currently closed off until the next phase of development is complete.

Putting the back wall on the hide, 4th November 2017. Volunteers from BirdWatch Ireland and Glounthaune community at work.

Putting the back wall on the hide, 4th November 2017. Volunteers from BirdWatch Ireland and Glounthaune community making good progress.

Back wall on the hide finished! 4th November 2017. Volunteers from BirdWatch Ireland and Glounthaune community making it happen.

Paul Moore (BirdWatch Ireland) and Garry Tomlins (Glounthaune Community) surveying the newly installed hide seating and shelving, 18th November 2017. Completed by volunteers from BirdWatch Ireland and Glounthaune Men's Shed.

On the 26th November 2017 we were honoured with a visit by Tómas Grétar Gunnarsson (centre), Director / Research Professor at the University of Iceland South Iceland Research Centre. Tómas was very impressed with the centre and delighted to see the Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit as the centre's emblem. Tomas is a world expert on the Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit and has been studying them for over 20 years. Some of the godwits he has tagged in Iceland have been seen here on the reserve.

David Stanton,, local TD and Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, cutting the ribbon on the opening of the hide on the 16th December 2017.

A busy afternoon at the hide.

Visitors from Southampton enjoying the views from the hide.

Member of the Cork 80th Little Island/Glounthaune Beaver Group become the first group of its kind to visit the centre. 11th February 2018.

Excavatin of the second scrape/pond at Harper's August 18th 2018.

An almost birds-eye view of the new scrape/pond with last years in the foreground and the roof of the hide just visible on the bottom left of the picture, August 18th 2018.

New scrape/pond with the final size outlined in blue, 18th August 2018.

The old and the new scrape, well flooded, December 16th 2018.

Members of SHEP (Social and Health Education Project) who visited the centre in October 2018.

Pupils from Glounthaune National School checking out the wetland birds on the way to the hide, October 25th 2018.

Tom Gittings and Mark Shorten removing invasive Spartina from the wetland, January 2019.

Conor O'Brien (Glounthaune Community Association) helping to mark the route for the new nature trail in March 2019

So far over 500 native trees and shrubs have been planted along the new nature trail being developed in 2019.

Plan of works to be carried out on Harper's Island in the summer of 2019.