Wintering wildfowl (especially Brent Geese & Shelduck); wintering and passage waders (including Black-tailed Godwit); wintering grebes, divers & gulls.
Regular/near-annual: Slavonian Grebe, Little Egret, Goosander, Long-tailed Duck, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Arctic Skua, Mediterranean Gull, Black Guillemot, White Wagtail, Black Redstart.
Scarcer species & rarities: Black-necked Grebe, Cory's Shearwater, Great White Egret, 'Black Brant', 'dark-bellied' Brent Goose, Garganey, Eider, Velvet Scoter, Red Kite, Osprey, Hobby, Little Ringed Plover, American Golden Plover, Long-billed Dowitcher, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Ring-billed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sabine's Gull, Little Auk, Alpine Swift, Hoopoe, Waxwing, Golden Oriole, Twite, Snow Bunting.
Highlights: Citrine Wagtail (Sept 2009), Cattle Egret (2, Dec 2007-Jan 2008), Booted Warbler (Aug 2006), Bonaparte's Gull (April 2004), Forster's Tern (1985, 1987/88, 1995/96 & 2006), Squacco Heron (May 1994 & Sept 1896), Whiskered Tern (Apr 1994), Lesser Grey Shrike (Sept 1991), Ivory Gull (1988).
Undoubtedly, Dungarvan is the most ornithologically important area in County Waterford, both in terms of the numbers of waders and wildfowl that use the mudflats for feeding and roosting (over 20,000 birds on occasion) and the ease with which the birds can be observed so close to a major town. The site is particularly important in autumn, winter and early spring, and details below mainly refer to those seasons. For diversity and sheer numbers of wetland birds, and the chance of finding rarer species, Dungarvan also ranks highly among estuarine sites in Ireland as a whole.
Dungarvan Harbour is a large circular basin, almost closed in one corner by a long sand-spit called the Cunnigar, and is fed by several small rivers or streams, the largest being the Colligan, rising deep in the Comeraghs. West of the Cunnigar, the coastline is fringed by an extensive intertidal mudflat with large saltmarsh areas. The sub-surface of the sand-bank on the seaward side of the Cunnigar (the Whitehouse Bank) is composed largely of broken shells, which, in providing a solid substratum, prevents the sand from shifting and thus allows Zostera or eel grass to grow. Nowadays, much of this area is used for commercial oyster farming, but numbers of birds may not be too affected. There is a less extensive tract of Zostera in the shallower and more protected waters inside the Cunnigar but growth here is more prolific than on the east side. These Zostera beds are of significance because of their importance to wildfowl, particularly grazing Wigeon and Brent Geese. Spartina also occurs at Dungarvan but is less widespread than at Tramore Backstrand, further east.
Ornithologically, Dungarvan is of international importance for the numbers of Brent Geese and Black-tailed Godwits wintering on the wetlands. The area is of national or local importance for many other wintering species, and also provides a migration stop-over point for many of the wader species. For example, Oystercatcher numbers are highest in the autumn and ringing recoveries suggest that many of these are from Scottish populations.
As at Tramore, the distribution of waders and wildfowl in Dungarvan Bay is quite complex with waders foraging most efficiently on the exposed intertidal flats at low tide, the least suitable time to observe or count them. In general, the highest concentrations of feeding waders at Dungarvan occur on the main mudflats in the inner Bay area (especially Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwits) and along the Gold Coast at the east side (especially Bar-tailed Godwits). The sandflats east of the Cunnigar, although relatively impoverished in terms of invertebrate prey, are favoured by Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwits and Sanderling and are of importance for Brent Geese feeding on the Zostera beds, particularly early in the winter.
For close views, or detailed counts, the optimum time is at or near high tide – especially higher, ‘spring’ tides that force birds closer to shore. A range of traditional roost-sites are scattered around the Bay, notably at Kilminnin (Barnawee Bridge); the upper part of the Colligan estuary (Ballyneety); the north shore just west of Dungarvan town; and along the Cunnigar. Visits to these sites at, or shortly before, high tide can provide spectacular views of the birds, but disturbance should be avoided. Wetland counts at Dungarvan are usually made over several hours by observers strategically placed to cover all the known roosts. But even casual visits can be productive, and numbers and variety of species can change from week to week, thus the area is always worth checking for new arrivals (perhaps especially after severe winter conditions further north).
(Article courtesy http://www.waterfordbirds.com)