South Dublin Branch - Site Description

Bearded Tit - Tacumshin Lake, Wexford (photo: Mark Carmody)

Birdwatching Sites - South Dublin

Dun Laoghaire & Bulloch Harbours


The construction of two granite piers in the 19th century created the harbour at Dun Laoghaire. In addition to the sheltered body of water they provide for birds the East and West Piers (Flags C & A) are excellent locations to scan Dublin Bay as they extend far out from the shore. To the east of the harbour is the rocky shoreline of Scotsman's Bay (Flag D) leading to Sandycove (Flag E), the Forty Foot (Flag F) and Bulloch Harbour (Flag G).

Getting There and Access

The nearest DART stations are at Salthill (Flag H), Dun Laoghaire (Flag B) and Glasthule (Flag E). The area is well served by Dublin Bus routes including the numbers 7 & 46a from the city centre and the number 75 from Tallaght. Much of the harbour area is open to the public and the East Pier is especially popular with walkers, the West Pier less so. There are public footbridges over the railway lines on Dunleary Road to the base of the West Pier (Flag K) and beside Salthill & Monkstown DART station to the coastal path (Flag H).
East of the harbour, the coast road follows the curve of Scotsman's Bay to Sandycove and you should find ample parking along this road. It is necessary to return to the main road (the R119) to continue to Bulloch (zoom in on map for directions).


As with other south Dublin sites the prime time for birding this location is during the autumn and winter and unless otherwise stated the following applies to that time of year.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour & Piers

Black Guillemot is usually in the harbour as well as Razorbill and Guillemot; Divers are regularly observed, mostly Red-throated but Great Northern is possible and even the occasional Black-throated; Great Crested Grebe is a good bet and during the winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11 a Red-necked Grebe frequented the harbour.
Around the base of the West Pier there are a number of buildings and yards, including a sewage treatment plant, which are well worth checking as Black Redstart, Chiffchaff and Carrion Crow have all spent winters there and the adjacent rocky shoreline attracts waders as well as Rock Pipit. Snow Buntings have been recorded along both the Dun Laoghaire harbour and Dublin Bay sides of the East Pier in winter. In strong S or SE winds Purple Sandpiper often move to the end of the West Pier.
Check the back of the East Pier for Purple Sandpiper, which are regular in winter.

Scotsman's Bay to the Forty Foot

The short distance from Scotsman's Bay to the Forty Foot is birder's heaven and at any point along the way you have a good chance of Mediterranean Gull, usually hanging around with the Black-headed Gull flock. It is the best place in Ireland to see this attractive gull and totals in excess of 50 individuals have been recorded on occasion. Turnstones favour this stretch of coast and should be easy to see. In the bay and around the old Dun Laoghaire baths (Flag J) look for Cormorants and Shags. The entire stretch has small numbers of Purple Sandpiper and they can often be found on the rocks around the Forty Foot. Check out to sea for auks, both Razorbill and Guillemot.
Between the base of the East Pier and old Dun Laoghaire Baths (Flag J) is a rocky shoreline which is normally covered with seaweed. Along here look for Grey Heron, Brent Goose, Turnstone, Redshank, Oystercatcher as well as Meadow and Rock Pipit, Pied and Grey Wagtail. Black Redstart has been a regular winter visitor in recent years especially at the back of the East Pier and in and around Dun Laoghaire Baths (Flag J). The old baths are now derelict and no entry is allowed, however good views can be had from the outside wall on the Sandycove side. On the rocks towards Sandycove Curlew is regular as well as good numbers of gulls.

Bulloch Harbour

During the autumn and winter this harbour can hold hundreds of Gulls, both in the air and loafing on the rocks just north of the harbour entrance. It is well worth taking some time to check the flock for northern gulls.

Some Notable Bird Records at Dun Laoghaire and Bulloch

  • White-billed Diver
    1. 5th - 6th February 1995 (5th Irish Record).
  • Night Heron
    1. August 1876 (Bulloch).
  • Crane
    1. 19th May 1998 (Salthill), also seen at Newcastle and Kilcoole.
  • Kentish Plover
    1. 18th to 19th August 1948 (4th Irish record).
  • White-rumped Sandpiper
    1. 26th August 1959 (two birds).
  • Pectoral Sandpiper
    1. 29th September 1960.
  • Bonaparte's Gull
    1. 5th February 2012.
  • Ross's Gull
    1. 15th February to 29th March 1997 (Bulloch)
    2. 7th January 1998.
  • Shore Lark
    1. 2nd to 13th April 1950.
  • Scandinavian Rock Pipit
    1. 13th - 28th November 2015.