Birdwatching in Ireland is an activity that I enjoy. There are many places in Dublin to see resident and migratory birds like Ireland's Eye and Bull Island. But, sometimes it's nice to go a bit farther afield. It's about a two hour drive from Dublin to Wexford which puts the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve just within reach as a day trip from Dublin. Read on to find out more about why you should visit the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve in January as either a day trip or weekend break from Dublin.
Climb the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve's Observation Tower and Hide
The Wexford Wildfowl Reserve features an observation tower that you can climb (complete with an awesome wrap-around painting of the local birds in the stairwell). Windows at the top open for clandestine views of the wetlands and Irish Sea beyond. When we drove from Dublin to Wexford in January, we were so amazed by the huge flocks of geese and other birds circling over the reserve.
Walk the Boardwalk and Warm Up in a Hide at Wexford Wildfowl Reserve
Once you've gotten your fill of the view from the tower, climb back down and find the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve's boardwalk. Step through the reserve without getting mucky thanks to this helpful path. Peer out at the local birds using the tall reeds to shield yourself from view.
If you wander far enough down the boardwalk, you'll encounter another enclosed birdwatching hide (very helpful for a visit to Wexford in winter!). We peered out at a local pond and spotted a few ducks splashing about. At this time of year, the action was definitely all in the air above us as you'll see more below.
Seek Out Stunning Ocean Views and Sunsets at Wexford Wildfowl Reserve
If you time your day trip from Dublin to Wexford just right, you can watch the sunset over the Irish Sea from the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve. In January in Ireland, the sun sets between 4 and 5 pm. Birds tend to be most active at dawn and dusk.
Note that you'll bounce along a narrow beach-side track in your car to get to the reserve so I recommend not waiting until the sun has fully set before departing back to the main road and your return to Dublin. I would feel a little nervous driving on those roads after dark.
See Greenland White-fronted Geese Over Wintering in Wexford
The main birding attraction at the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve in winter are Greenland white-fronted geese. Thousands of these unique birds over-winter in Wexford and are super-entertaining to watch as they splash about in the wetland ponds.
Observe Brent Geese in Flight over the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve
Brent geese are another common visitor to the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve. Huge flocks of Brent geese swirled over our heads making for a dramatic scene as the sun began to set over the wetlands.
Watch Whooper Swans Come in for A Landing in Wexford
Mute swans are pretty common in Ireland and can be seen regularly on the Dodder River and Grand Canal in Dublin. We were excited to see flocks of whooper swans milling about in the grass and soaring in pairs or small groups.
See Barnacle Geese at Wexford Wildfowl Reserve in January
Hiding among the reeds at Wexford Wildfowl Reserve, we also saw a few barnacle geese. I'm inherently impatient and lazy when it comes to birdwatching which is why I love ducks and geese so much. Spotting and photographing these large, slow birds is so much easier than, say, hummingbirds in California or other small, fast species that tend to flit about.
Spot Ducks Galore at Wexford Wildfowl Reserve
There are plenty of ducks at the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve. Consulting my The Birds of Ireland guide suggests that the birds in the photo above as a flock of teals. I could have spent hours just watching the ducks go about their day.
Birdwatching in Ireland in Winter: What to Wear
In January, it's typically cold at the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark. It can feel much colder though because of the wind blowing in off of the Irish Sea. What should you bring on a day trip from Dublin to the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve? Make sure to wear a warm coat, hat, gloves, and scarf. You'll be glad you did when you find yourself standing outside peering through binoculars in wonder at huge flocks of geese circling overhead.
How to Get to the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve
Taking a day trip or weekend break from Dublin to the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve is easiest by car. The fastest route from Dublin is to take the M11 motorway to the R741. The turn-off from R741 to the nature park is a little tricky to find. The final kilometer or two runs on essentially an unpaved track next to the beach. Check out the handy map below for help finding your way along the final distance to the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve.
Is Ireland's Wexford Wildfowl Reserve Worth Visiting?
As you can see, I really enjoyed my time at the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve. Granted, it's a little far from Dublin but still within reach for a day trip if you are motivated. In January, the sheer volume of birds combined with the golden winter light made the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve an ideal place for birdwatching in Ireland. Definitely check it out if you are in the neighborhood. In fact, I hope to go back again sometime, perhaps at another time of year, to see how the residents change over time.