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, 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. 🙂

  2. 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 🙂

  3. 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!!!

  4. 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 🙂

    1. Thank you so much! Did you see the chick inside of one of the eggs? I have never seen anything like that before. A miracle of life.

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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 🙂

  8. 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.

  9. Oh Inese, they are the most beautiful birds, I love their way they seemed to be watching you. My favourite is the Shag, they are fantastic.

    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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