Month: June 2015

Saltee Islands – treasure bigger than money -part 2

Saltee_Islands

(Click on the photographs to enlarge them)

First three hours were gone in a blink. It is the magic of Puffins.  I was on my way to the Cat Cliff on the Southern end of the island – the land of the Northern Gannets.

Great Saltee island ascends from 3-5m high shore on the mainland side to 20-30m high cliffs on its south-eastern side. The Southern Summit rises to an altitude of 58m.

Saltee_Islands

I was walking along a stone wall, and after it ended the path took steep up through the waist-high ferns.

saltees

On the summit I made a stop to take a picture. It was still foggy.

Saltee_Islands

A Great black backed gull was standing on a rock. I came closer. It is a large bird, a predator attacking and killing even the far larger animals and birds, and I didn’t want to take a risk. Yet, I didn’t notice the chicks until they ran and hid themselves, and only then I knew I was in trouble.  The last thing I needed was to be struck by a gull! I turned back and walked away as fast as  I could without running in panic, while the gull’s partner repeatedly flew over my head diving low enough to touch my hair.  With its wingspan of 150-170cm the attacking gull was as good as a small aircraft.

Saltee_Islands

I caught up with the other photographers and we headed to the Cat Cliff barely visible in the mist.

Saltee_Islands

There was another gull – a male with no chicks around ( we will see them later).

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

To get to the Cat Cliff takes an effort, but it was a fun climb because of the many species of the sea birds and their young we met on our way.  Look at these Razorbills with their soft fluffy bellies.

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

A young Common shag looks from under the rock…

Saltee_Islands

…and makes a careful step with his clumsy webbed foot.

Saltee_Islands

An adult bird is different, all shiny and beautiful.

Saltee_Islands

This is the place. A small colony of Gannets are settled on the left from the Cat Cliff. We don’t go there  – it is a steep cliff and very little room for a tripod.

Saltee_Islands

This is the Cat Cliff itself.

Saltee_Islands

I sat there enjoying the sight, and took this panorama. Unfortunately there is no sky because of the thick fog.

Saltee_Islands

We came very close to the nesting birds, but they didn’t mind. They have lived a long life, and have seen it all…

In my previous posts,  there are more facts  and more different photographs. If you are interested, you can go back and read these post –   I have reblogged them.

Here you can listen to the gannet call. Multiply it by couple of thousand  🙂

Saltee_Islands

The sky is crawling with Gannets.

Saltee_Islands

After landing the birds perform a “dance”.

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

Sometimes they bring some weeds.

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

Under every rock there is a chick. I have no idea what bird they belong to.

Saltee_Islands

This one looks different.

Saltee_Islands

And finally I see them – the chicks of the Great black backed gull I photographed in the flight. Their mother is standing next to them and looking at me with the menacing red eye. They are so tiny and innocent, but the fact is that three more killers will join the party soon. Sorry for the Puffins…

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Look at this tiny wing 🙂

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Who can find the chicks in this photograph in 10 seconds?  🙂

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On the way back the sky cleared for a few minutes and I took another picture of the island.

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We also got to see the seals.

Saltee_Islands

The boat was coming in an hour.  I started getting nervous.  This photograph of a tiny rock that stuck between the big rocks forever shows exactly how I felt.

Saltee_Islands

We went down to the Boulder Beach and sat there looking in the mist. Our motorboats finally came, the inflatable boats took us six at a time on board, and off we went again. Lucky me. The wind was not that strong, and I had never left the deck this time, all soaked in seawater but perfectly well and happy.

Thank you for reading about my adventures!

IneseMjPhotographyHave a great weekend!

Saltee Islands – treasure bigger than money -part 1

Saltee_Islands

“All people young and old, are welcome to come, see and enjoy the islands, and leave them as they found them for the unborn generations to come see and enjoy.”      –  Michael the First

Even after I shared two posts on my Saltee experiences I still have a lot to say. I love this place.

When we arrived to Kilmore Quay to catch our motor boat, the sea looked rough. In the days of sail, the area around the Islands was known as “the graveyard of a thousand ships”.  I cannot tell that I have a brilliant memory, but this sort of information somehow always gets stuck in my head.

We boarded our boats – twelve in each – and off we went.  Not wanting to get soaked in salty wate, I went inside the boat, and it was a grave mistake. The waves were rolling over the boat; a few times the wave hit the bottom of the boat so hard that I though it would break up in pieces. Half way to the island, fighting sea sickness I had to get out, and there I stood another 15 minutes all soaked but unable even to move to make myself comfortable.  I barely remember the short trip on the inflatable boat; I was focused on staying conscious. It took me some six hours to completely recover – right before our trip back.

We walked up the steps, passed by the owners’ house and headed to the Puffin place. The island was wrapped in fog.

Saltee_Islands

The cliffs surrounding the first bay  near the cave known as the Wherry Hole are the nesting place for Atlantic Puffins.

I am very glad to tell you that there were remarkably more puffins this year than the year before.  Knowing that the birds return to their old burrows, I went to check out my buddy who made such a great model for me last year, and there he was – with some more neighbours, possibly his own grown up chicks from the previous years.

Saltee_Islands

Puffins start breeding when they are five years old.  They use their pre-breeding years to learn about feeding places, choosing a mate and nest sites.

I went around for some more shots. The fun will start in the afternoon when the puffins go fishing and return with the bunches of the Sand eels in their beaks.

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

During winter, the beaks and feet of puffins fade in color, and every spring they turn  bright orange again in preparation for the breeding season.  The beak increases in size as the bird matures.

Here you can listen to a puffin  –  you will love it 🙂  Puffins usually make noises when sitting in their burrows, and the acoustics are very impressive.  I will post the link separately to give a credit to ProjectPuffin : http://projectpuffin.audubon.org/sites/default/files/audio/atpu.wav

In this photograph you can see two cameras set up by the Ornithologists to watch the puffins.

Saltee_Islands

We came a couple of weeks too early: most of the puffins young haven’t hatched yet,  but still we got lucky to see some feeding birds that afternoon.

The puffin’s beak can hold up to 60 fish.  The raspy tongue holds fish against spines on the palate allowing the puffin to open his  beak to catch more fish.

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

We were lucky with the weather also. It was a dry day,  a little bit overcast. It is difficult to take photographs of puffins in the sun because of their black and white plumage.

A few more puffins. The couples stay together all their life. Males are usually slightly larger than females, otherwise there is no difference.

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

This family is still working on their nest.  Puffins lay one egg per year.

Saltee_Islands

Puffins are very clumsy on the ground and in the flight. They are rather falling than landing, with a thud. In this photograph you can see some spots around the puffin. You might think it is some dirt on my lens, but it is the sand in the air. When a puffin is taking off he beats his wings and lifts up all the dust and sand.

A puffin can fly 48 to 55 mph (77 to 88 km/hr) though.  The wings can move so fast that they become a blur.

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Great Saltee Island is some 2-3 km long.  I am leaving the Puffins’ place and start hiking to the Southern part of the island along the well-trodden path.

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

The islands  were used as a base for pirates and smugglers for centuries. The gain of these folks could very well be hidden in the many caves, like the one in the image above, but there are treasures bigger than money, and they are not hidden anywhere.

More from the Saltees in the end of the week. Hope you loved the puffins.

IneseMjPhotographyHave a peaceful week!

Golden faces, silver eyes and blue eyelids

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.

Making memories

saltees

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…

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Saltee Islands, a place where birds rule

I have been to Saltee Island again. I thought I would re-blog my two old posts before I share some new photographs with you. Never too many puffins for me 🙂 Hope you enjoy the trip!

Making memories

Saltees

Our Camera Club had an outing to Great Saltee island for bird photography. Before the trip I did a research as I always do, which helps me not miss anything important and regret it afterwards. There is a website with beautiful photographs where you can learn more about the owners of the Islands. I don’t know if anybody ever met them when visiting Great Saltee, but I am sure they are wonderful and hospitable people. They have a shelter behind their home: a kitchen packed with bottled water and basic utensils for those who might get stuck on the island because of the weather, and two beds upstairs. We used the shelter while waiting for the boat to pick us up: the rain shortened our visit by two hours…

If you plan this trip you might find useful the Trip Advisor comments and Captain Declan Bates’ telephone number to arrange the boat and…

View original post 540 more words

Meet the Past: Dolmens and Fairy Raths

fairy_rath

The past and the present in rural Ireland are balanced and closely tied up together. I want to share some photographs of ancient things taken in different years and seasons, and thank the thoughtful farmers who are the guardians and protectors of the balance.

There are about 190 dolmens in Ireland.  Dolmens have an entrance – the portal. Another name for dolmens is Portal tomb, because most of them are associated with graves.

The most visited dolmen is Poulnabrone portal dolmen  – a fine megalithic monument in the Burren, Co Clare .

dolmen

The site was excavated in 1980, and the bones of 21 people – 16 adults and 5 children –  were found. The bones were dated from 3800-3200 BC. There were also many other finds like stone tools, arrow heads, beads and even the head of a bone pin.

dolmen

The natural limestone formations in the Burren are called grykes and clints ( you see them in the image below) 

dolmen

The magnificent Proleek dolmen is also known as the Giant’s Load. It is situated in Co Louth near Dundalk, in the grounds of   Ballymascanlon Hotel.

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The dolmen  is about 3 m high and has a round capstone weighing approximately 35 tons. Legend says that a wish will be granted to anyone who can throw a pebble on its capstone so that it stays there.

dolmen

Another impressive megalithic structure is Knockeen  dolmen located near Tramore, Co Waterford.

dolmen

The dolmen is about 3 m high, and has two enormous capstones.

dolmen

Next to the dolmen is an old graveyard, quite overgrown. This is what it looks like in the end of December…

old_graveyard

A few minutes drive from Knockeen dolmen, there is another amazing megalith – Gaulstown dolmen. If you are interested, here is a Tramore area Dolmen map,  but you have to know that some of the dolmens cannot  be seen from the road.

dolmen

This is one of the dolmens that is accessible the whole year. Kilmogue dolmen, or Harristown dolmen, or Leac an Scail, is Ireland’s tallest dolmen at almost 5 meters or 15 feet from the ground to the tip of the capstone. It is situated near Templeorum, Co Kilkenny.

dolmen

dolmen

Another fascinating structure is a Fairy rath.

There are about 50.000 Fairy  raths, or Fairy forts in Ireland –  the remains of the Bronze Age – Iron Age circular dwellings. It is what the archeologists say. The ancient books say that the raths are the portals to the magical world of the Tuatha Dé Danann little people,  the fairies.

As you see, the trees grow only on the edges of the circular wall  and the central section. Why? No one knows.

fairy_rath

The ditch, or moat, is very deep, and there is no growth. Who can explain it?

fairy_rath

No one in their sound mind would cut a tree or even break a branch from a rath. Most of people believe that  if they do so, they would be followed by bad luck. Here you can read what happens if you don’t respect the fairies.   

fairy_rath

The Fairy raths were used as burial grounds for the  babies who died before they could be baptized, and had thus been denied  a burial in the Church grounds.  If the Catholic God would not accept the little ones, the ancient Gods would accept them. Babies buried in raths were thought to be protected by the fairies.

Thank you for taking a trip to the ancient places with me! Hope you enjoyed the reading.
IneseMjPhotographyHave a great week!