Harper’s Island Wetlands
Harper’s Island Wetlands is owned and managed by Cork County Council in partnership with BirdWatch Ireland, Glounthaune Community (Glounthaune Community Association/Tidy Towns/Men’s Shed), and NPWS.
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.
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 Harper’s Island Wetlands 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 development of a wetland education centre dedicated to wetland education and research and provide facilities for visitors to the reserve. 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 was very busy at Harper’s Island Wetlands. We developed a screened nature trail around the interior of Harper’s Island to provide an educational resource for visitors to the island. The nature trail comprises a 430 m track and a 690 m looped footpath. The work also included the development of a second bird watching hide, an outdoor classroom area and small marsh/reed bed habitat features, which will all provide additional educational areas for visitors. Other work included upgrading of the screening along the approach track, fencing of the nature trail route and sensitive habitat areas and demolition of derelict farmyard structures. Preparatory work was also carried out towards the development of a third hide. Exciting times for Harper’s Island Wetlands!.