Saltee Islands – All Things Beautiful

As I said in my previous post, to get to the Gannet place we have to first cross the Black-backed gull land. Great Black-backed gull is the largest of the gulls, and is described as a “merciless tyrant”. They can be fierce and aggressive at their nests, but I have no intention to bother them, and I know there are no chicks that early in the year. The gulls are perched on the rocks and become agitated as I get closer. Apparently they don’t understand the message I am sending them with my body language. One of them is trying to attack me. I keep walking and pretend I don’t hear, so he finally leaves me alone and returns to his rock. I turn around and take a picture 🙂 Then I hurry away.

Saltee Island Great

Just before the Cat Cliff comes into sight, I see another Black-backed gull with a tiny crab in its bill.

Black-backed gull

Finally I reach the Cat Cliff. This place always makes me emotional and fills me with reverence for the mystery of life. Beautiful big birds are so vulnerable here keeping the eggs warm, protecting the young.

Saltee Island Great

While climbing down the cliff, I have to pass by a clan of European Shags whose matriarch is an ill-tempered bird that starts hissing way before I come close. This year her young and very shy son finally has his own family. Now there are three nests altogether. I didn’t want to bother the hissing mama and the shy lad, and took a few pictures of the third Shag with two chicks and a Razorbill in background. Shag looks similar to Cormorant, but they are two different birds, easily distinguished from each other: Shag is smaller and has emerald green eyes and green sheen on the feathers. Also the European Shag’s tail has 12 feathers and the Great Cormorant’s 14 feathers. European Shag chicks hatch over a two day interval – it is why one chick looks much bigger than the other.

Saltee Island Great

These two Gannets are familiar to me. Their nests are perched at the very edge of the cliff so I always have to pass by them.

Saltee Island Great

I make myself comfortable on a big flat rock, and when the Gannets take off and land I feel like on Maho beach 😉


Saltee Island Great

This is not a fight, but an act of affection 🙂

Saltee Island Great

A perfect bird.

Saltee Island Great

Synchronized flight.

Saltee Island Great

Watching gannet landings, I forget about time.




I would sit on that rock and admire the gannets until dark, but it is time to start moving as the boat is back in an hour.

I safely pass the Black-backs territory and stop at the highest point to enjoy the beautiful view. You can see the Little Saltee in background.

Saltee Island Great

I walk through the carpets of blue and white.

And of course, Sea Pink.

Oystercatcher’s loud, panicked voice calls me back from my daydreams.

I take one last glance around. This is the Makestone, the largest islet at the southern side of the Great Saltee.

Makestone Islet

Little Saltee looks close when zoomed out. In fact, the channel between the islands is about a mile wide and 30 f deep.

At this time of the year, puffins spend most of their time at sea. I have only seen four puffins during this trip. They will return later, after we leave the island. I am glad they are safe here.

Saltee Island Great

Saltee Island Great

An Crosan – The Razorbill – will take us back to Kilmore Quay. Two seals bathing in shallow waters are not afraid of Cap’n Declan and his dinghy.

Saltee Island Great

Thank you for visiting, exploring and discovering all things beautiful. Hope you put Saltee Islands in your itinerary for next June.

Saltee Island Great Have a wonderful week!


  1. An appropriately titled post, Inese. The birds are magnificent, as is the blue, white and pink carpet of flowers. Fabulous photos all round and those of the gannets in flight are stunning.

  2. we are visiting western Ireland in the autumn near Connemara, looking forward to it – found a place overlooking the sea and it has a piano, will make my son happy i hope

    1. I have been in Connemara in October – wasn’t too bad but the wind in Clifden almost blew us off the cliff. Just mind yourself. You will love Connemara.

  3. Your carpets of blue and white are so very, very stunning, Friend. The Petal definition–just wow! And I love the capture of the process of movement with Gannets. Fluid elegance. xxxxx

    1. Thank you! The white flowers are Sea Campions. Three colors were domineering – white of the campions, blue of the bluebells and terracotta of the sheep sorrel.

    1. Gabe, never mess up with the black backs if you meet one 🙂 They do attack and can hurt. Some of them are huge, and they are bloodthirsty predators. The only black-backs nest on the island I dare to come close to is right beside the gannet colony. Apparently the gulls have learned to respect those who are bigger than them 🙂

    1. Thanks! You guys have to come over next year to see the puffins. It is only a boat from Fishguard to Rosslare, and another hour or even less to Kilmore Quay.

  4. Great shots of the birds in flight! I certainly wouldn’t want to be attacked by one of those black-backed gulls, they look huge and very fierce 🙂

  5. I was going to add that your “European shags” look a lot like our cormorants… then I looked it up and indeed they are a type of cormorant. Wonder how they ever got a name like that!!!

  6. What… no blue footed boobies? Just kidding! As always, wonderful photography and “travelogue” on a lovely part of planet earth. Thank you for the pleasant moments and sighs!

    1. Oh I would love to see the Blue Footed Boobies. Our Gannets are actually green-footed. At least the stripes on their webbed feet are green 🙂

  7. The Black-backed gull has the gaze of a bird with an attitude, nice to end with puffins. Gotta love puffins. Lots and lots of splendid photos. Thanks for sharing. (P.S. I am always impressed with people who the name for all floral and fauna.)

    1. Thank you so much! I am going to the island once a year, and every trip is different 🙂 Never get bored. As to the names, it is old ( and already fading) knowledge 🙂

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