South Dublin Parks

Kilbogget, Cabinteely & Clonkeen Parks by Niall T. Keogh

I’ve always felt that the birding potential in urban parks hasn’t been tapped into in Ireland in the same way as it has in other countries, probably as a result of most Irish birders having the good fortune of being able to travel to excellent coastal locations without any great deal of effort. The culture of ‘urban birding’ in places such as London or New York is understandably much more appealing/necessary due to the commitments & constraints of a big city lifestyle. Furthermore, I see urban parks as biodiversity ‘hotspots’ which if properly managed, can provide a great wealth of habitat for those species which are at least in some way tolerant of human presence (the subject of my own undergraduate thesis).

The Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Co. Council area is blessed with a wealth of well managed suburban parks which offer some productive local birding. Three of them in particular have turned up many a good bird in the past and are favourite locations for a casual stroll with the binoculars as well as popular stop-offs during the annual Dublin Bird Race. These three parks, Kilbogget, Cabinteely & Clonkeen are all within 10 minutes walk from my home and are connected by a single road making a handy Patch Birding Challenge site. The 'Explore My Records' function on BirdTrack shows that I recorded 54 species between the three parks in 2013 but I reckon some decent effort could easily break this. Gathering sightings from local birders has shown that the three parks have a combined list of about 100 species. Saying that, my target for the year would be about 70 species and I’d particularly like to find a rare thrush while doing so (Dusky, Black-throated, American Robin...any would suffice!). (Edit: got to 64 species during PWC2014 without trying too hard, more effort needed for PWC2015!)


Rivers & Wetlands: The Deansgrange Stream flows through both Clonkeen & Kilbogget Parks. In Clonkeen it is steep sided & narrow, making it perfect for Little Egret, Grey Wagtail & Kingfisher. In Kilbogget the river was re-profiled & enhanced for biodiversity by Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Co. Council in 2009 (creation of pools, weirs, extensive planting etc.) and since then it has boosted the number of wildfowl & other waterbirds visiting the site with breeding Mallard, Moorhen, Coot & Little Grebe as well as attracting regular Grey Heron & Teal and occasional Mute Swan, Cormorant, Redshank & Water Rail. Scarce or rare species (locally) recorded as a result of the new wetland include Tufted Duck, Scaup, Wigeon, Greenshank, Turnstone, Common Sandpiper, Jack Snipe & Sedge Warbler. It's also a great spot to watch Hirundines on warm Summer evenings. A tributary of the Loughlinstown River, the Cabinteely Stream, flows through Cabinteely Park which sometimes gets Dipper in winter. This stream also has also been re-profiled to incorporate a pool in the park.

Reconstructed wetland at Kilbogget Park © Niall T. Keogh
Jack Snipe at Kilbogget Park © Niall T. Keogh
Scaup at Kilbogget Park © Stephen McAvoy
Water Rail at Kilbogget Park © Paul Merrigan

Amenity Grasslands: Each of the three parks incorporate several football pitches, green spaces etc. which attract sizeable flocks of gulls & some waders also. Kilbogget has the most extensive of these and on a wet & windy day several hundred Black-headed Gulls & 10-20 Mediterranean Gulls can be regularly found feeding on invertebrates. In previous years, high counts of Med Gulls in Kilbogget have reached 75 in a day. The other four regular species of gull occur but in smaller numbers and there is one record each of Iceland Gull & Ring-billed Gull from Kilbogget & Clonkeen Parks respectively. Up to 100 Oystercatchers can be found on the pitches in winter at Kilbogget and the likes of Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit & Golden Plover have dropped in here from time to time. There are some ‘set-aside’ areas in Kilbogget & Cabinteely where wildflower meadows & rank grasses are allowed to grow providing some great feeding for finches & in cold winters some local scarcities such as Snipe, Stonechat & Reed Bunting have been recorded there. The grasslands at Cabinteely are particularly good for winter thrushes.

Prime feeding habitat for gulls & Oystercatchers © Niall T. Keogh

Woodland: Both Kilbogget & Clonkeen Parks are bordered by plantations of Birch, Alder, Ash, Sycamore etc. which act as great ‘corridors’ for migrant warblers in Spring as well as providing habitat for Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrests, Bullfinch, Siskin & Lesser Redpoll. Two Siberian Chiffchaffs have been recorded in these border plantations, one each in Kilbogget & Clonkeen. Cabinteely Park boasts a fine stand of mature woodland with plenty of Oak, Beech & Scots Pine harbouring specialist species such as Treecreeper, Spotted Flycatcher, Sparrowhawk, Jay & Stock Dove. A male Great Spotted Woodpecker took up residence here from Dec 2010 to March 2011 and it would certainly be great to see a repeat performance of this! A feeding station has been present in Cabinteely for several winters, making it a reliable spot to see Brambling when they are around. 

BirdWatch Ireland South Dublin Branch outing to Cabinteely Park © Niall T. Keogh
Great Spotted Woodpecker at Cabinteely Park © James Hayes
Siberian Chiffchaff at Clonkeen Park © Mark Carmody
Waxwing...likely to turn up anywhere in a good winter! © Niall T. Keogh

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