Day: July 27, 2019

Baby bird boom in Great Saltee, Part II

I have never seen a baby Puffin, or puffling  – my heart melts at the sound of this word! 🙂 It is unlikely that I will see one. Puffin fledglings leave their nests at night to escape the sharp eyes of predators. A tiny chick makes it down the cliff to the water and paddles out to sea, alone, to return in 2-3 years.

The cliffs are high and steep here in Great Saltee.

Most Puffins leave the island in mid July.

You only realise how small they are when you see one tucked for a nap.

These adult birds will winter in the ocean alone, hundreds of miles from the shore, and come back next spring to get reunited with their mates.

Kittiwake, a small cliff-nesting gull, has a fluffy chick. This is a great news – Kittiwakes are globally threatened.

Kittiwakes have three toes, whereas other gulls have four. Their legs are short which makes walking difficult. The same like puffins, kittiwakes spend most of their life in the Atlantic Ocean. They do not scavenge like other gulls, and feed on small fish and crustaceans. This doesn’t mean that a bird would dive from the cliff and catch a fish straight away. Unfortunately, food is scarce, and the birds have to fly many miles to find adequate amounts of food to sustain themselves and their chicks. This means they leave their nests unattended for long periods of time, and their eggs and chicks are preyed on by big gulls.

In the picture below – another kittiwake with a chick, and a couple of Fulmars.

Fulmars are not gulls. They are related to Albatrosses, fly on stiff wings and have tube-like nostrils. Being a curious bird, fulmars hover nearby and observe you with their obsidian eyes before drifting down the cliff.

This fulmar has a chick! I saw it for a moment but couldn’t get a picture. Fulmars reach sexual maturity after 8-10 years, and lay a single egg once a year. Their chicks defend themselves from predators projectile vomiting a foul smelling gastric oil.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, the Shag colony ( three couples including the always angry matriarch) relocated to some other nesting place. Before I learned about it, I saw four Shags on the cliff, out of my reach. This beauty hiding behind the rock has the family resemblance.

It is unclear if the Rock doves have chicks at this time. This one looks too relaxed to be a provider for a family.

This is the last chick for today.

I don’t know if this bunny has a family, but it sure has a burrow in which it disappeared in a blink.

Grey seals will give birth in September-December. In the picture below there are three females and a male.

A very cute seal was looking at me with those puppy eyes of his for at least a minute. I wonder if people feed them or something.

I was sitting on the edge of the high cliff, eating my packed lunch when the seals came along. This seal was clearly aware of what I was doing. I hope people don’t throw any leftover food in the water.

“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

“It was never my intention to make a profit from these islands.  Day visitors are welcome to come and enjoy at no cost.  Bird watchers will always remain welcome.”  – Michael the First

This is the Saltees flag, with the stars representing Michael’s children. His second youngest son Paul died last year. He inherited his father’s adventurous spirit and continued to live life to the fullest after his cancer diagnosis.

This is what the Great Saltee island looks like from the shore (distance 5 km).

Thank you for joining me on my annual trip. In my next blog post, I will share some more pictures from Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford.

www.inesemjphotography Have a wonderful weekend!