Golden faces, silver eyes and blue eyelids.


It started raining. Creeping from one rock to another I was finally done with photographing the puffins willing to pose.

I looked around and saw that my peeps took off and started to disappear one by one in the sea of ferns. So I hurried after them.

Saltee islands

Our next destination was Gannet Headland, a nesting ground for the Northern gannets. You cannot see the place before you climb up to the highest point of the island through the high ferns and then walk down to the rugged cliffs. Then you just stop there, speechless.

gannet colony

gannet colony

The gannet is Europe’s largest sea bird with a wingspan up to 2 metres. The adults are white and the young birds are very dark  brown. It takes 5 years for them to reach maturity and start breeding. They say there are two thousand couples nesting there on the island. The gannets make their nests from seaweeds, feathers and human made materials found in the water.




Gannet with a bunch of seaweed to furnish the nest.


Gannets hunt fish by plunge-diving from a remarkable height into the sea and then using their wings and feet to swim deeper. After returning from the sea they have this gentle ritual of affection with the other partner, preening and touching the bills.


The young chick reaches deep into its parent’s throat for its meal of partially digested fish.


The parent birds take turns warming the eggs and protecting the chicks.


The gannets are very vocal:)


As you can see, there are some couples with very young chicks, naked and helpless, and some with the older ones, covered with soft white down.



Gannets have very interesting features. For example, they have no external nostrils: they are located inside the mouth. Their eyes are positioned slightly up to the front which gives them a better view.

There is my reflection in the gannet’s eye:)


Clumsy on take-offs and landings the gannets are powerful fliers with an impressive wing span.



Now I want to share something sad. Please read this article…

Gold-faced, silver-eyed, gracious birds… Isn’t there anything else to eat in this century?

There are also other species of birds on the island. This is a Herring gull in its flight.

herring gull

This is a Fulmar.


These are the  Blackback gull chicks.

great blackback gull chick

great blackback gull chicks

This angry bird is a Shag. Shags breed colonially between the rocks and in sea caves.



This is the island owners’ house. We were heading to the shelter to hide from the rain and wait for our boat.


The ferrying boat could not come closer, so we had to  be carried over there by an inflatable boat.


Little and Great Saltee islands on the horizon.  It was one of the most memorable trips in my life.



I hope you enjoyed this trip with me. You can click on the pictures to make them bigger. They are all resized for the web with resolution 72, so you won’t have problems opening them. Same for the previous post about the Puffins.

Photography tip of the day: When you are going to take pictures of sea birds, not having a telephoto shouldn’t stop you – the birds let you come close enough.  These pictures were taken with a 70-200, but you can bring any lens you have.  The settings matter, as I wrote in the previous post, and your vision matters. I wanted to get dreamy, a little bit grainy pictures with blurred background. Also watch your white colors. It is important  to see the details on the white feathers,  otherwise they look like burnt-out spots.

inesemjphotographyHave a great week!



  1. Great stuff, love it.
    Took me back a few years to when I visited the Isle of May, a small island in the mouth of the Firth of Forth, which is a Puffin sanctuary.
    Nature in the raw.

  2. I really was spellbound by how close you got to these unique birds. I loved the gannets, the photo of the gannet with a reflection in his eye, of you taking its picture. Wow!
    The baby gulls were so sweet, along with the black back nestlings. Being named a ‘bird’ I have paid attention to the flying creatures and love birds.

  3. A paradise made of cotton, I remember quite well these Irish landscapes when you published before, thanks for the memories, Ireland is one of the places I’d love to travel ^_^

    1. Thank you! You know, this island was populated some hundred years ago – there was even a church. Times are changing, as are the landscapes. 🙂

  4. Reblogged this on inesemjphotography and commented:

    And this is another old post from my last year’s trip to Saltee Island. It is a beautiful place, a haven for those looking to escape the big city for a day, for the birdwatchers and photographers. Hope you enjoy this post and the trip to the Gannet kingdom.

    1. Oh thank you, I am so glad you like the birds. Aren’t they amazing? I have never seen gannets before, except in the books. They let people come so close… It is why their chicks get killed by ignorant barbarians. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

      1. They are amazing. There is a gannet colony not far from where I live; on a tiny almost-island that’s sheer rock. It’s inaccessible to humans but close enough to the mainland to watch the birds. Ideal really. 🙂

  5. Absolutely Breathtaking! They absolutely all took me right there with you! Especially the EYE… I am so glad I can follow your unbelievable photos and journeys!
    Thank you for your interest in my blog as well! Heart to Heart Robyn

    1. Thank you for this very kind comment Robyn!:) The place is actually an hour and half drive from where I live. Lucky me:)
      Thank you again! Hope you have a wonderful week!

  6. What a beautiful post and excellent photography. So inspiring. If I did not have what I do on my plate currently how I would love to just go off into similar ventures and just follow my heart with photography. Lovely work

    1. Thank you for your kind words. That was a one-day trip, and only one hour and half drive for me. I made two posts: this one and the previous one, about the puffins, so you can check it out too. Thank you again!

    1. Thank you! 🙂 No I didn’t have a chance and I don’t know if they are nesting around here. I have to do some research. Huge birds, I wouldn’t miss one if I see it:)

    1. Thank you! I would stay there longer and see more but the rain was getting stronger so we had to call the captain to pick us up two hours earlier…

    1. Oh no, I didn’t mean to add attraction. It is not a tourist place. Ornithologists, photographers, dedicated bird watchers are usual visitors, and they treat the island with reverence. Of course some people might come there in their private boat, from the other side of the island, and stay over night unnoticed. Things happen. To get there legally, there is one boat and one captain who does the ferrying, and there are the rules set by the owners ( I posted a link). Did you also check the puffin post? The previous one? I think there is that link to the owners page. People can go there, of course, but they have to obey the rules; there is no toilet, and you are not supposed to leave your waste on the island; 25 minutes long boat trip can be tough: the waves go over the boat, so you have to have a waterproof outfit; hiking is ok, but still… it is not a flat place. So, the best thing is to discuss everything with the captain: you have to call him anyway.

  7. I’m amazed that you are allowed to get so close to the birds, to set foot on the Island at all! That being said, your photos of the gannets and their chicks are fantastic, sharp, and superbly composed (or cropped.)

    1. Thank you for stopping by! One of the photos shows how close we were standing. The birds are used to the visitors: there is always somebody on the island. There are no casual visitors or campers though, and the place is always left as it is found.

      I did crop, I don’t have a telephoto – not really necessary for me. The pictures mostly taken with 70-200.

    1. LOL Did your read this reblogged? I saw there was something about girls and make up:) Well, the most amazing eyes, I wonder why the Nature made them this way?

  8. Inese, these are absolutely amazing. How well done and sharp and light-filled! Thank you so much for sharing!

    I want to become a better bird photographer, but I’m not sure what equipment is best. Do you have any suggestions?

    I must run out on an errand, but I will be back to follow the link to the sad story and see what’s up with that. Be back shortly. 🙂


    1. Thank you for stopping by! Any SLR camera would do, but if you have a camera with changable lenses, get a zoom up to 400, telephoto. Would cost under $2000. I only own the lenses that are good for portrait, it is why I have to get as close as possible to my little model:) But there are some things which are even more important than your gear: good luck, patience, light conditions, composition and your model. When the bird is doing something funny or special, when it is sitting in a cool place with cool background, you picture is a winner. So, the “good luck” is crucial:)

  9. Dear Inese…

    I am really Blown away by this post…
    (The expression makes sense here I guess)…
    Wonderful set of photos. Thanks for sharing.
    Best wishes, Aquileana 😀

          1. Well you can always decline it if you don’t have time to spot it… Just a little uplifting gift to your ego…
            Hugs, Aquileana 😀

            1. No I won’t decline:) I see it as an opportunity to promote great blogs I follow. It is a community, and we have to support this community:)

            2. I agree with you… It is also a good way to Get more traffic and feedback, I think…
              I hope you have a nice night ahead, Aquileana 😛

    1. Thank you Andrea! I can see myself in that eye:) These beautiful birds were nesting 2 feet from the path. I have never seen a bird colony before.

      1. Amazing aren’t they, we have a place called the Farne Islands in Northumberland, not too far from where I live, which is similar in terms of bird colonies and also seals.

  10. You not only give us wonderful photos of these majestic birds, but also an excellent nature study. I can barely imagine the awe of being there – surrounded by nature, and beauty, and noise. I hope the man will leave these creatures alone.

    1. Thank you Imelda! I so glad you enjoyed the photos. We had the island for ourselves because of the nasty weather. Sometimes there are about a hundred people on the island at a time, but I have never heard about any incidents so far: people respect this place, and the fact that it is privately owned also helps. Hope it stays like that.

  11. The gannets are wonderful and you captured them so beautifully. They almost remind me of my favorite bird- penguin, in their mannerisms. Unfortunately my penguins are flightless, but the wings on the gannets are quite exquisite! Loved the photos as always!

    1. Thank you for your kind comment Alisa. I agree with you about the mannerism of the birds. In my previous post there are some pictures of Razorbills, and they too look very penguinish. All of these birds have problems taking off: they rather dive from the edge of the cliff. It reminds me of penguin inability to fly:)

  12. Wonderful images – thank you for sharing your pictures and thoughts on what must have been a wonderful experience. I’m envious!

  13. Beautiful, they remind of a bird we have here on Bonaventure Island, on the eastern coastline…and of course they look familiar, it is the same bird, thanks Wikipedia…., but here they are called ‘Fou de Bassan’…:)

      1. Yes I guess they can be found on both side of the Atlantic, always surprising to find the same species spread all over the ocean.

  14. I did enjoy the trip! 🙂 What a blast that must have been!
    A National Geo Special one-frame-at-a-time.
    Nature urged me to speak.
    Cheerz, UT

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