Plants & Animals

Mammals in the Marine Environment
The two mammal species protected under the EU Habitats Directive found in this area are otters and grey seals. Otters can be found in all types of wetland such as rivers, streams, lakes and coastal areas. They use hollow trees or dense vegetation as hideaway during the day or more permanent holts such as holes under tree roots. There are the two species of seals known to inhabit Ireland, the Grey Seal and the Common or Harbour Seal.

Several areas around Roaringwater Bay are used by both species as haul out sites on the rocks all year around. Seals eat mainly fish but also turn to squid, crustaceans or sand eels depending on the availability of the different types of food.

Although most of their life is adapted to the water environment both species have to return to land to give birth. The pups of the Common Seals are somewhat better adapted to the marine life and they have to be ready to swim within only a few hours of their birth. The young of the Grey Seal remain onshore for up to three weeks after being born before entering the sea. Grey seals are known to be breeding on the Calf and the Carthy islands. Their breeding season starts around September and lasts till January. Current research into the foraging habitats of Grey seals is underway in University College Cork. This involves applying mobile phone tags to seals to monitor their behaviour.

Dolphin sightings have increased over the recent years in Ireland. The Common Dolphin is the most frequently sighted species and this animal can be found all year around the West Cork coast. The numbers of Dolphin sightings peak around the winter solstice because these mammals spend most of their time between November and February close to the shore.

The Common Dolphin displays a highly variable colour pattern where the dorsal side is dark grey and the ventral sidelight grey to creamy white. These animals have an average size of less than 2.3 m long but can reach a maximum 2.6m with average adult weight of 80-136kg. Male Dolphins are slightly larger and heavier than the females. In the north Atlantic their main food consists of Gadidae (cod family) but they are most likely to be opportunistic feeders because they are known to feed on other prey in other parts of the world.

During feeding the Dolphins dive between 9 and 50 metres and can reach maximum dive depths are around 200m. While dolphins and seals frolick in the waters surrounding The Carbery Hundres Isles, sharks and whales are often spotted at this southern-most tip of Ireland.

Birds of the Islands
Seabird colonies breeding on several of the islands include Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull. Roaringwater Bay is also nationally important for their population of Black Guillemot Puffins and large number of breeding Terns. Furthermore, the area has an important concentration of Choughs and Peregrine Falcon; both birds are protected European wide.

Terrestrial Vegetation
The islands of Roaringwater Bay are particularly rich in plant species - 592 different flowering plants have been found in an area of only 10km. Grasslands, heath lands and rocky ground dominate the islands providing various environmental conditions to support the variety of plants.

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