Illustration by Dawn Cooper
1. Whooper swan, Inch Wildfowl Reserve
Whooper swan © Tim Graham / Getty
More than 6,000 whooper swans have been recorded here in early winter, along with other seasonal visitors.
2. Irish hare, Ards Peninsula
Many people believe the Irish hare should have full species status (rather than being classified as a subspecies of the mountain hare). On the Ards Peninsula, try the National Trust’s Ballyquintin Farm.
3. Fin whale, Off the coast of Cork
Fin whale © Cultura George Karbus Photography / Getty
The world’s second largest animal is regularly seen off the south coast of Ireland, with sightings peaking from September to December. Other marine species to spot include humpback whales, Risso’s dolphins and basking sharks.
4. White-tailed eagle, Killarney NP
White-tailed eagle © Blackpool College/Getty
This raptor was reintroduced to Killarney in 2007 and is now breeding here. Also try the Mountshannon eagle-watching hut on Lough Derg or take a boat trip out of Glengarriff.
5. Bottlenose dolphin, Shannon Estuary
Bottlenose dolphin © Campbell Nature Picture Library / Getty
The Shannon has one of the largest populations of bottlenose dolphins in the British Isles, and sightings are virtually guaranteed. Present in the estuary from May–September.
6. Narrow-leaved marsh orchid, The Burren
Narrow-leaved marsh orchid © Getty
Unique is an over-used word, but The Burren – some 250km2 of karst limestone landscape – is surely deserving. Narrow-leaved marsh orchids thrive in the thin soils and grikes of this Irish treasure.