BALLYCOTTON BAY SPECIAL PROTECTION AREA
Ballycotton Bay beaches of Silverstrand, Ballynamona and Ardnahinch are a designated S.P.A. (Special Protection Area).
The over-arching framework for the conservation of wild birds within Ireland and across Europe is provided by Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds (the codified version of Council Directive 79/409/EEC as amended) (Birds Directive). Together with the EU Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC), these legislative measures provide for wild bird protection via a network of protected sites across Europe known as Natura 2000 sites, of which the overriding conservation objective is the maintenance (or restoration) of ‘favourable conservation status’ of habitats and species.
Under Article 4 of Directive 2009/147/EC, Ireland, along with other Member States, is required to classify the most suitable territories in number and size as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for the conservation of certain wild bird species, which are:
species listed in Annex I of the directive
regularly occurring migratory species
Ballycotton Bay is an east-facing coastal complex situated on the south coast of Co. Cork. The designated site stretches northwards from Ballycotton to Ballynamona, a distance of c.2 km.
The site comprises two sheltered inlets which receive the flows of several small rivers. The southern inlet had formerly been lagoonal (Ballynamona Lagoon) but breaching of the shingle barrier by erosion has led to the habitat becoming estuarine in nature since 1991 (Smiddy, 2005).
The principal habitat within the site is intertidal sand and mudflats. The bay has a range of littoral sediments, ranging from the exposed eastward facing shores of the outer Bay characterised by mobile sands and shingle, to the mid to low shore and inner bay that supports muddier sediments, with a richer species diversity (MERC/ERM, 2012). Saltmarsh and marsh habitat is best represented at Shanagarry and at Ballynamona, while rocky shore (reef) is exposed at low tide in various locations.
Near Ballynamona Lagoon, peat exposures derived from former lake sediments occur. These exposures have a well-developed gallery of burrows from a former piddock population but were not found to contain live piddocks (boring bivalves) when surveyed in 2011. Peat and clay exposures with either existing or historical evidence of piddock activity are unusual communities of limited extent, adding to the biodiversity interest where they occur (MERC/ERM, 2012). The relict burrows provide a potential micro-habitat for species such as small crabs and anemones and the bivalve Ruditapes decussatus is also frequent (NPWS, 2014).
While relatively small in area, Ballycotton Bay supports an excellent diversity of wintering waterfowl and has nationally important populations of eleven species, of which two, Golden Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit are listed on Annex I of the E.U. Birds Directive.