Officially opened in 2009, the East Coast Nature Reserve is our largest reserve covering 92ha. It forms part of the extensive Murrough Wetlands, an important coastal wetland complex which is designated as a Special Protection Area and Special Area of Conservation. Originally, the grasslands were intensively farmed, with tree-lined watercourses and a conifer plantation growing within the fen. Now, following management through an EU LIFE project between 2003 and 2007, the reserve offers a variety of habitats, from rare fen to wet grasslands to birch woodland, which can all be explored on foot through marked walking trails and observation hides.
The reserve is rich in wild flowers, insects and birds. The different habitats are specifically managed for a variety of species like the wet grassland areas which are seasonally flooded to attract wintering wildfowl, or the woodland glades opened up for a plethora of butterflies. The winter time is when Shoveler and Wigeon are numerous, and Whooper Swans and Little Egrets appear. Whilst the summer visitors include a variety of warblers, such as Willow and Sedge Warbler, Swallows and Swifts and during the autumn finches, such as Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Linnet and Goldfinch are seen regularly. Short-eared Owl and Kingfisher also appear at this time, and in recent years new breeding birds include Reed Warbler and Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Similar to the resident Mute Swan but look carefully at the bills to see the characteristic yellow wedge; they also have a distinctive ‘whooping’ call. They arrive here in October and stay until early April when they make their way back to their Icelandic breeding grounds.
With their huge spatulate bills and the males’ dark green heads, white breasts and chestnut flanks make them a very distinctive winter visitor to the shallow flooded grasslands.
A small white heron from the Mediterranean they are starting to make their home in Wicklow, and can now be seen here right throughout the year. Dispersing juvenile birds leads to an increase in sightings in late summer and autumn.
Although not a breeding bird on the reserve, this distinctive summer visitor passes along the coast in their hundreds as the migrate back to Africa, a spectacular site that heralds the start of autumn.
Limited parking is available at the main entrance to the reserve along Sea Road (turn left after the Castle Inn, Newcastle) or the coastal car parks at either Six-mile or Five-mile Point. There are marked walking trails between each entrance that offer good views over the whole area; please keep to these trails for your own safety and to avoid disturbance to the wildlife. Please do not open gates or climb over fences. Grazing animals are present throughout the summer months. Please respect the wildlife and other visitors and refrain from bringing dogs onto the reserve, other than Guide dogs.
Opening times: The East Coast Nature Reserve is open all year-round although to reduce disturbance to the wildlife during the winter months the coastal trail is closed so please view these from the adjoining sea bank.
Entrance charges: Free, but donations to help us continue our work here are welcome.
Facilities: Three observation hides overlooking the grassland areas are connected by marked walking trails of either stoned surface, raised boardwalks or uneven grass surface. The main observation hide has wheelchair access.
Information boards are provided at the main entrance gates and at strategic locations around the reserve.
Location: 2 km east of Newcastle, south of Greystones on the east coast of Co. Wicklow
Grid Ref: O 315 035