About Lough Beg

The area now known to Cork Birdwatchers as Lough Beg was created when a causeway was built during the 19th century, connecting the mainland to an area of high ground, then known locally as Bird Island.  This isolated the inner lagoon from full tidal ingress, but gaps in the causeway allowed the lagoon to remain saline in nature.

Construction of the adjacent pharmaceutical plant in the mid-1970’s included the strengthening of the causeway, and the lay down of the main access road to the facility.  Seepage of seawater into the lagoon virtually ceased, but a drainage sluice under the causeway allowed run-off of rainwater gathering from the surrounding fields.  This subtle change was critical to the subsequent evolution of the lagoon environment. 

The sandy shoreline of the lagoon soon became an important, and easily watched, high tide wader roost, with particularly impressive numbers of Black-tailed Godwit being recorded.  Around this time the first ringing sessions were held, which led to a number of very interesting recoveries and controls in later years.

In the mid-1960’s, Lough Beg was briefly mentioned in the earliest Cork Bird Reports, and the site was one of four main high tide roosts counted on the Western Shore of Cork Harbour during the countrywide Wetlands Enquiry (1971 – 1975) and the more locally organised Cork Harbour Counts (1978 – 1981).  Interest increased from 1976, when the first hints of the site’s potential for rarities, particularly vagrant North American waders, became apparent.  More regular observations from 1980 encouraged the Cork Branch of the Irish Wildbird Conservancy (now BirdWatch Ireland) to propose an agreement with the landowners, the Industrial Development Authority (IDA), the pharmaceutical company, Penn Chemicals (owned by Smith, Kline & French, now GSK) and the local gun club, Carrigaline & Crosshaven Gun Club (C&CGC) to declare the lagoon area a bird reserve, with the local company sponsoring the construction of a sturdy hide, engineering works on the sluice to allow control of differing seasonal water levels, and an information board on the local birds.

Regulation of the water levels between summer / autumn low levels to encourage passage migration and higher levels in winter / spring to improve the lagoon for overwintering wildfowl had the desired effects, as detailed in the Species Account.  However, all these positive developments were diluted somewhat by the incursion of rushes along the lagoon shoreline as water salinity reduced and vegetative progression choked up the previously extensive roosting areas.  Any future active management of the lagoon will start with the control and removal of these rushes.

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