Fanad Head is a designated SAC (Special Area of Conservation), SPA (Special Protection Area) and pNHA (Proposed Natural Heritage Area) and there is a great variety of flora and fauna to be spotted here.
You may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of cetaceans, such as fin whale, minke whale, orcas, dolphins or porpoise.
There are many seabirds, shorebirds and birds of prey to be seen here, as well as endangered species like the corncrake, with its distinctive call. Keep an eye out for some of the following at the lighthouse and nearby coastline - fulmar, gannet, cormorant, shag, guillemot, razorbill, kittiwake, shearwater, gull, oystercatcher, sanderling, dunlin, ringed plover, curlew, red-throated diver, great northern diver, snow bunting, eider duck, long-tailed duck, greylag geese, kestrel, buzzard, peregrine falcon, merlin.
Grey and common seal may be seen along the north Fanad coastline. Otter, lizard and the Irish hare are also to be found in the area.
The seashore also is a haven for life. Many Fanad people still like to gather seaweeds such dulse, sleabhac/sloak and carrageen to eat, as well as gathering whelks. If you get the chance, go rockpooling and beachcombing – look out for sea urchin, starfish, sea anemone, razor clam, mussels, limpet and maybe even a mermaid’s purse.
Gannet are a large, striking seabird – white with black-tipped wings and a distinctive golden head. Juveniles are mostly brown with white speckling. They are spectacular fishers and are notorious for their high-speed, vertical dive-bombing into the sea from a great height – a sight to behold. Gannets spend most of their lives at sea and can travel large distances to feed – a 200km return trip to feed their young would not phase them! It takes around 4 years for a gannet to reach maturity, and amazingly, they can live for up to 35 years.
Gannets are a species particularly at risk from plastic in our oceans – attracted by a shiny surface they can dive-bomb right into plastic instead of a shoal of fish. They can become entangled in it or ingest it. Studies have found that a large number of gannet nests in the North Atlantic have plastic woven in, mistaken for seaweed. This is one reason why we at Fanad Lighthouse have no single-use plastics in our business. No straws, no plastic bags, no plastic bottles!