Saltee Island: lost in the ferns


This young European Shag was a juvenile when I saw him last year, almost in the same place, and here is his mama and his new brother or sister. I recognized him because of his distinctive shyness, in opposite to his mama who is bold and ill-tempered 🙂


I have never seen a puffin chick. Something to look forward to.

All sorts of  seagulls in the island also have chicks around this time. The parents are standing on the top of the rocks watching their young, ready to swoop and attack an intruder.

Four species of seagulls breed on Saltees. Herring gull is on the Irish Red List of the most threatened bird species. In the 1980s there were about 500 pairs on Great Saltee, and now just over 50 pairs. Good that they can live up to 30 years.

sea gull

This Herring gull clearly enjoyed posing for a portrait.

sea gull sea gull

Two species of the Black-backed seagulls are nesting on the island. We didn’t want to upset the male perched on the rock and took pictures of the chicks from a distance. This is a Greater Black-backed gull, one of the largest gulls in the world. In one of my previous blogs, I have pictures of this gull in flight.

sea gull

Two fluffy Black-backed gull chicks enjoying the sun.


After leaving the Gannet colony I suggested that we should explore the north side of the island. It looked like a green meadow sprinkled with some white flowers. Off we went, and on our way we came across some nests with the eggs and the chicks wandering around. The eggs belong to different species of the gulls. Later I googled ‘seagull eggs’, and was shocked as all the pages that came up were related to cooking and eating these eggs!

Most of the seagulls lay three eggs. One must be stolen from the nest.

sea gull eggs

These are the eggs of a Great Black-backed gull. The pair of them is nesting in exactly the same place as last year. You can enlarge the picture to see the chick use its egg tooth to break through the egg shell. It might take 24 hours or even longer.


This speckled blue eggshell is quite big which means that it belongs to a seagull.


A chick is hiding in the weeds and playing dead.


After that, our detour took a bad turn, literally. We turned to the East and gradually entered the area covered with the ferns. In the beginning we managed to keep to the frail path but it led us nowhere. The seagulls hated us. Then the thorns and brambles came into the picture, and the path completely disappeared. My companions suggested that we keep moving along the coast no matter what, but the green sea of ferns might hide dangerous holes and who knows what else – I didn’t want to dive in it again.


We were right in the middle of the green area in the picture below. If you zoom it, you will see a stone wall crossing the island, with the seagulls perched on top of it. I suggested we walk to the wall, climb on it, and walk on top of the wall until we reach a surface free of vegetation. So we did. The wall wasn’t flat on top, of course. The rocks were sharp and slippy, I fell, and my backside stuck between the rocks like a keystone. If I were alone I would cry. Thankfully, I was lifted up and put on the straight and narrow again. After a while we reached the main path and thus escaped being consumed by ferns. Lesson learned – keep to the main path because there is no other.


Beautiful weather had changed and the drizzle started to thicken. Suddenly the dark clouds opened in the middle revealing a perfect rectangle. Was it some sort of a message?


Another surprise – two pairs of ringed pigeons. How did they make it to the island?


On our way to the boat we returned to the Puffin cliffs.


I just cannot stop taking pictures of puffins. This one came running – sweet, funny bird!

puffin puffin

Thank you for sharing the dangers of this trip with me! The last blog about Saltee Islands is coming next Saturday!

inese_mj_photographyHave a wonderful weekend!


    1. Thank you for your comment, Margaret! I have learned so much from it. The protective wire nets is something I have never heard about 🙂 I love to learn from other bloggers about the life in their land.
      We have Cormorants too, but they are always at some distance. European shags living on the island let me come very close.

  1. I learn so much from your experiences, Inese. Sticking to the path is a great reminder, also take it slow on crooked rocks which are slippery. Your description made me chuckle (sorry) about your bum being in a keyhole. 🙂
    Your seagull photos are so unique with the ringed wings seagulls beautiful in their uniqueness.
    The puffin coming running and the shy graybird with a cranky mother really touched me in how truly perceptive you are, Inese. Someday soon I will post a series on a singular cicada whose one dwarf wing caused him to wobble and fall, I talked to him and gently put him in the shade. I saw a comment of yoyr talking even to bugs. This one’s throat looked scaly like a frog. Poor little handicapped creature touched my heart. ❤

  2. Your photos are so beautiful and vibrant, Inese! I love your vision! I think you are doing a wonderful job when showing us the beautiful things that surround us and of which we forget sometimes.

  3. Awww.., I love the first image so much! You captured the spirit, or should I say, the shyness of this little fellow! He might be shy but elegant too!

    Vivienne X

    1. Thank you so much! Yes, elegant and very quiet. He doesn’t hiss like his mother does when we walk past their rock. I call him Little Prince.

  4. Thanks so much for even more fantastic images of the islands and for taking us with you. I’m terrible at taking pictures so this is an excellent second best for me. Have a good trip. I’ll be thinking of you and your family.

  5. I, too, am glad to know you didn’t injure yourself, Lady Inese!

    Saltee Island certainly has a nice assortment of birds. How many hours did you spend traversing the island? You must have been exhausted afterwards! Such a full and glorious day, and good thing you took all those lovely shots before it rained. Thanks for the lovely photographs, and I look forward to reading more about your adventures next Saturday!

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by, Dead D! I had spent five hours on the island. I wish I were there right now, perching at the edge of the cliff in a company of puffins instead of packing and thinking about horrible flights and crashes. Thank you so much again, you are so sweet.

      1. 5 hours in paradise sounds great to me. Hey, have a safe flight! You’ll be fine — just think of the Puffins, and that should make things more bearable. Bon Voyage, Lady Inese!

  6. I’m glad you were all right from your fall! It’s a good thing you don’t venture by yourself during these escapades. I’d never think to eat Seagull eggs — who in the world would make such an effort to find the nests and then steal them from the poor mother?

    Ah, I believe the sweet Puffins were happy to see you and rushed over to say “hello!” Lovely post and enchanting photos, Inese. Thank you for these gifts! 🌹 🌷 🌼 🌸 💐

    1. Thank you so much, Rose! The fall was rather comical than dangerous. I am still laughing at myself stuck between the rocks 🙂 I wish everybody had a chance to visit a bird sanctuary. It is like a different world.
      I was in shock about the eggs. I just wanted to google and match my photographs to a certain bird, but the ‘seagull eggs’ search gave me links to these cooking pages. I have never understood people who eat such stuff if they are not starving. Don’t we have enough farms?
      Thank you again for your visit! Have a lovely week, safe and happy! xx ❤

      1. I’m glad your fall was only comical! 😀 I agree with what you’re saying about the birds. I believe that your posts about animals help others see their beauty and value. Although not everyone can have the opportunity of visiting a bird sanctuary, your photos and words are the next best thing! I say thank you again, dear Inese — I believe you’re doing so much more than you realize in helping these beautiful creatures.

        Have a wonderful week and no more falls! ❤ xo

        1. Thank you so much, beautiful Poet! I probably won’t be much around another two weeks, but the blog is scheduled so that you can see some more puffins 🙂 ❤ xx

  7. I was glad you managed to sneak a few more puffin pictures in at the end of the post. I always think they are wonderful looking birds. Incidentally, I was surprised to learn that herring gulls can live for thirty years. That strikes me as pretty ancient by bird standards. 🙂

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Bun! I think that the record is 49 years, actually. Puffins can live 20- 30 years too 🙂 In captivity they might live even longer. It is what I have read.

  8. Inese, wonderful pictures, as ever. I can almost smell the salt in the air from looking at them. That island looks so clean. The seagulls are making a great deal of noise outside my window, as I’m typing this comment. I think bad weather is on the way. Here’s the link to a photo of a seagull on my garage roof, with accompanying haiku. From what I remember, we hadn’t linked up in Blogland when I posted this one. If you’ve time to type “seagull” in my search box, you’ll find many more related posts that you might enjoy.

    1. Thank you, I found some seagulls I haven’t seen before 🙂
      I too have a small colony of seagulls living nearby. I don’t see them ‘fishing’ in the garbage bins, so I think they do it in the river, just a minute walk from my house.

  9. Ah Inese, I was sad coming back from the hills but seeing your lovely post has quite cheered me my darling. I spied your favourite birds on it too. All your nature photographs are such I feel I can reach out and touch the eggs, the grass. They are amazing. Thank you special lady. A real treat xx

    1. Thank you so much! The Dudes were running your blog well in your absence. Glad you had fun in the hills. They are beautiful. Sure there is some wildlife too. xx

  10. Beautiful eggs, beautiful birds, beautiful chicks, Inese. What a wonderful adventure (other than your fall!). The last photo is my favorite – made me laugh 😀

        1. Sheri, I will do my best to post photo-stories about Ireland. We cannot lose our connection with the beautiful things of the world. Everything else is temporary.

    1. Thank you Bernadette! No harm done to my bum 🙂 It was just like pieces of puzzle came together, seamlessly, and then thankfully were taken apart 🙂

  11. Your photographs and commentary are superb….I haven’t been to this Island but did spend time on Lough Foyle on the Inishowen Peninsular where I encountered so many of the birds you mentioned here. I loved the place and did a whole series of paintings based on it. Also, having lived and worked in Wales for 12 years, I love puffins…..oh what comical little creatures they are. Thank you and wishing you a lovely Sunday…janet. :)xx

    1. Thank you so much, Janet! I have been to Inishowen too, and I am in love with the place. Last year I put up a blog or two about Inishowen, and I plan to return 🙂
      Puffins are almost as beautiful and charming as hummingbirds, aren’t they 😉
      Thank you for stopping by! Wishing you a lovely day! xx

  12. You managed to see such a lot on this trip, Inese, and your descriptions of the many species are so interesting. I hope you’ve now recovered from your fall! That sounded rather painful. I also hope things start to improve for the herring gull. I’m now wondering whether this bird is endangered in other areas as well as Ireland. Your photos are as stunning as ever. I love the ones of the puffins, but the one of the chick pecking its way out of the egg is excellent. Oh, they’re all so good, it;’s hard to say which I like best. The posing Greater Black-backed gull is superb. Lovely post again, and I’m already looking forward to next week’s post. 🙂

    1. Millie, thank you, it was not painful at all 🙂 I slipped and just sat on my bottom that very conveniently lodged itself between two rocks 🙂 Then I couldn’t stand up because my feet couldn’t touch the surface of the wall. The situation was more comical than dangerous.
      The chick in the egg made my day. I have never witnessed anything like that. A miracle of life.
      Herring gull has always been a pest everywhere, but the latest improvements in waste management cut off their main food source. I think it is the reason that general population of these gulls has declined.
      Thank you again for stopping by!

  13. Thank you, Inese. there is so much variety of views, and the colors have the kind softness of silk. I have seen once a rectangle in the sky with my eyes, certainly is an intriguing phenomenon, as it should mean something concrete. : )

          1. I am afraid that in this phase I only can be a reader, Inese. Still replacing the stolen items I just cannot have chance to write. Although that gives me more time to appreciate the blogs I follow, being yours one of the most appreciated by me. 🙂

  14. The amount of ground you cover both on your adventure as well as in this post is admirable 🙂 The Saltee Island has so much to offer ~ is it possible to also camp there as well?!? It must be beautiful to experience ~ and while all your photos stand out, the one of the gull posing so elegantly (seagulls really are photogenic), it is your last photo of the Puffin that makes me again dream of being on those shores you just described (lost or not!). Cheers to a great Sunday.

    1. Thank you so much! 🙂 No camping allowed there, unless you get stuck because of the weather – then there is a shelter and even a gas stove. It is solely a bird sanctuary, and for me personally it is just – a sanctuary 🙂

  15. With your photos and words — this is a beautiful adventure, Inese. But what a dangerous fall. I’m so glad you weren’t hurt, or alone. Not as exciting as an ancient rock wall or cliffs, but I’ve fallen down my stairs several times (three different flights), and last time (the brick stairs outside) I was lucky to be alive… So I really understand what you said about how you would have felt if you’d been alone. It’s frightening.
    I’m amazed that the Herring gull lives so long. I only knew about the very long lifespan of parrots. Interesting. And so very charming about the puffin running toward you. Thanks very much for this delightful journey. Mega hugs.

    1. Teagan, thank you for your kind comment. The fall wasn’t bad, I was still on the wall, just slipped and fell back, and my bottom stuck between the rocks, and I couldn’t move. Didn’t hurt anything. If I were alone, I would have to turn onto my side and slid off the wall. It would take time though. A good lesson learned ( hopefully).
      I am off to your blog. We have a street festival going on, so I am in and out today. Many hugs!!!

  16. I especially liked the photo of the ringed pigeons….and that rectangle in the sky? It makes me think of word etymology…”rect” being from Latin meaning “right”….keep to the right path? It will all turn out all right? A beautiful journey, as always, Inese.

    1. Cynthia, thank you so much for reading the sign! Exactly, you are absolutely right. This rectangle appeared just a minute after we came out of the ferns. So mystical! 🙂
      One more post from Saltees next Saturday. Hope I will keep you all entertained until I am back home in October 🙂

  17. Oh dear, I hope you’re feeling better! I just had to share your pictures with my daughter. She was a little bummed you didn’t capture the entire hatching, but when I told her how long it takes, she seemed to understand. 🙂 “I like the puffins! They’re a lot like penguins, only they don’t…they don’t waddle.” Well, they ARE colored similarly. 😛 Lovely inspiration here, as always, my friend. xxxxx

    1. Thank you so much, and I wish I could stay there and see the chick emerging out of the egg. The egg tooth is visible in the hole if you have a closer look.
      Yes, the puffins look a bit like penguins, but they fly a little, from their home down to the water and back. xxxxxx

      1. So they do fly! I’ll tell Blondie that in the morning. 🙂 Yes, I showed her the egg tooth–then she asked where the rest of the chick was. I told her it takes aaaaaall day and aaaaall night to come out. She sighed a little, and told me to scroll on. 🙂 xxxxx

  18. This is a little adventure that I enjoy and learn few things. I have not seen eggs galls. Even young bird or new hatch has instinct to hide from unknown. That is interesting. How could one resist not taking pictures of cute puffins and you had great captures of them.

  19. Again the most georgous pictures, Inese!!! 🙂 My mom ones fell into brambles because she was so busy picking the berries, and she had no chance to get out of it on her own! Luckily my aunt and I got her out, just a little bit scratched 😉 But this told her that even the ripest and most beautiful berries are not worth the risk 😉 Glad you didn´t hurt yourself too much! Though I do understand why you took the risk and climbed that wall 😉 Already looking very much forward to your last part of your Salttee Island trip!!! 🙂 Have a beautiful weekend! xxxxxxxxxx ❤

    1. Thank you so much, Sarah! Your poor mom! These scratches are wickedly sore, and tend to inflame. I didn’t get any scratches, luckily, because I didn’t fall from the wall, just slipped and fell back on my bottom that stuck between the rocks. It was some sight…

      1. Did anyone make a picture? 😉
        Yes, those scratches were quite nasty, luckily my mom has a very good healing skin – unlike me! Take my mosquito bites this summer for example, they swell up like nothing you´ve ever seen 😉
        The thing that annoyed her most was that she couldn´t get out of that mess on her own. This sense of helplessness… Those thornes really had a tight grip on her! Of course, we laughed it off, but actually it was a little bit scary too…

          1. I´m sure they didn´t 😉 Such moments are best relived in memory only 😉
            My mom was also laughing her head off 😀 Have a beautiful sunday, Inese!!! 🙂 xxxxx ❤

    1. Yes, exactly. Good there was that 200 years old stone wall, otherwise it is just a sea of ferns that are quite high in June, up to your waist, at least.

    1. Thank you for stopping by! I din’t know either, because they are actually considered pests everywhere, but probably improved waste management in the cities cuts off their main food source, and diminishes their numbers.
      We spent an hour wandering in the ferns. Never again 🙂

  20. Fast becoming one of my most favourite blogs! My interest in geography and wildlife isn’t too shabby, but i have to say, I wasn’t aware of these islands till I came across this blog. And the photo quality of the birds is stunning. 🙂

        1. I have a short lens, 70-200, have to crop. The scenery is amazing, and usually I keep two pictures – the whole composition, and the cropped one.

    1. Thank you so much, Bob! This mama shag has her nest under the rock for years. One of her eldest has a nest nearby, and this shy fellow is two years old but still sticks to his/ her family 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Mike! I am all busy getting ready for my long trip, and now something happened to my internet connection 😦 Hope to visit your blog tonight. Have a blissful weekend! 🙂

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