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Mayo has a very diverse landscape from blanket bog to grasslands to cliffs and bays. The lengthy coastline is almost 1,200 kilometres in length and runs from Killala Bay in the north to Leenane on the Galway-Mayo border. The islands dotted around the county add another 300 kilometres of bird friendly habitats.
Some islands, such as the Inishkeas in the Mullet peninsula are designated Special Protection Areas. Some of the rich lakes include Lough Mask in the south and Lough Conn near Ballina where wetland birds are drawn to the the turloughs or disappearing lakes.
From mid-August to October, Mayo is an ideal location for passing migratory birds and the north-westerly wind pushes them close to the shorelines. Good locations for watching terns, shearwaters, skuas, petrels, gulls, gannets, auks, and phalarope include Kilcummin Head in Lacken, Downpatrick Head in Ballycastle, Erris Head and Annagh Head.
Blanket bog such as the Nephin mountain range and Owenduff bog, with their heath and heather landscapes attract many birds including Red Grouse and Golden Plover. Ballycroy's National Park proves an exciting location to seek colourful birds as diverse as the seasons. The winter is the perfect climate for observing wild geese such as the Brent and the Barnacle. Swans and ducks are also common and include the whooper swan, the common scoter, the Slavonian grebe, the long-tailed duck, or the common loon/great northern diver. The distinctive ringed plover is also common to Ballycroy and Erris. Red grouse and hen harriers enjoy nestling in the heather. In Belmullet, up to 1,000 golden plover were counted alongside breeding birds such as the snipe, lapwing, whinchat, and dunlin.
Summertime brings a different avian flavour. You might catch a glimpse of the near-extinct corncrake, the lapwing, the redshank, Snipe, Dunlin, Twite, Chough or Red-Necked Phalarope. Blanket boglands draw many birds to their rich moist land, including woodcock, skylarks, ravens, dippers, common sandpipers, and hooded crows. For birds of prey, look out for kestrels, sparrowhawks, merlin, and peregrine falcons which are often sighted in Mayo.
At Killala Bay and along the Moy estuary the bird variety is excellent as dippers, grey herons, mute swans, mergansers and wagtails make their homes. Water-loving teal, gulls, kingfishers, godwits, curlew, oystercatchers and cormorants co-exist along the quiet water’s edge. The mud and sand exposed at low tide attracts many gulls and terns. Viewings are good from the following areas: Rosserk friary, Ballysakeery, Bullock Park, Moyne Abbey, Kilroe bridge & Killala pier.
In Clew Bay, the beaches and rocky terrain present ideal conditions to the much sung about curlew. Waders like the redshank, greenshank , oystercatcher, turnstone, dunlin and godwits also frequent these shores. Beautiful coloured ducks such as the Sanderling and the Shelduck are often seen bobbing on the coastal waters.
At both Downpatrick Head and Clare Island, the sheer cliff faces provide perfect breeding sites for fulmars, guillemots and kittiwakes which nest on sheer cliffs. Peregrine, raven and chough are also local to this type of terrain.