Baby bird boom in Great Saltee, Part II

I have never seen a baby Puffin, or pufflingΒ  – my heart melts at the sound of this word! πŸ™‚ 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 theΒ unborn generations to come see and enjoy.”Β  Β  –Β  Michael the First

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

108 comments

    1. It’s not that close – the closest pictures are taken from some 2 m away ( 6-7 ft). I just sit there quietly, that’s all πŸ™‚ The island can be reached by boat which departs once a day. There are 12 people at a time on the island, or 24 for a short over-lap if there is an additional boat. The birds are not bothered, unless there is a neanderthal who would harass the birds on purpose.

  1. Wow, thanks so much, Inese, for this rare visit to the Saltee Islands, I thoroughly enjoyed both parts. There are so few opportunities in this world to see these particular nesting birds, and you did such a great job of photographing them, and bringing us to them. Fantastic puffin photos. The kittiwake photos…chicks…I about fell off my chair. Fulmars, nearly impossible to see this bird, and never ever up close; so close you could see their unusual tube nostrils. Loved hearing about you eating your lunch, and could easily see and imagine the heaven you were in on the cliffs here. I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed your trips to the Saltee Islands, but this time I’m closer to actually wanting to go there too. Thanks so very much.

    1. Thank you so much, Jet! I hope you do go to the island some day. Mid June would be a good time. You could stay in the village for a couple of days and explore the beach, dunes and St. Patrick’s Bridge (today’s blog post). There you might see some rare gulls and waders. Also, there is the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve nearby, the place I haven’t visited yet. https://www.visitwexford.ie/directory/wexford-wildfowl-reserve/

      The fulmars hover very close just out of curiosity. They are funny birds πŸ™‚

    1. He would fit in the palm of your hand. πŸ™‚ They are small birds, and so pretty.
      It is amazing the way they return to their burrow and meet each other again.

  2. You have a gift for capturing our natural world. You see so much beauty and translate it in your work. Love it. The puffins look so cute. Thank you for taking me along. xoxo

  3. Once again Inese, your bird pix are totally stunning. I liked them all! All those birds in the same area looks a little like the Rookery at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm – not sure where to look or photograph first. I would love to see a Puffin in its natural habitat. Great blog!

  4. Such beautiful pictures Inese, it’s a treat to see these birds. I’m lucky to have seen puffins and shags at the Farne Islands, I’ve watched fulmars fly by when I’ve been on ferries, but I’m very lucky that a few kittiwakes nest by the river just down the road – I love their call which immediately makes me think of the sea, even more than herring gulls.

    1. Delighted to know you have seen all of these birds, Andrea! And the kittiwakes! Like puffins, they are real oceanic birds, spending most of the year far away in Atlantic. It is wonderful they found a safe place to nest so close to your home.

      1. We actually have the biggest inland nesting population of Kittiwakes upriver at Newcastle, under the Tyne Bridge, but we also have a few nesting on a couple of buildings near the mouth of the river.

  5. What a neat bird. It’s nice you’re able to go to the island and see them, around here it would probably be off-limits or inundated with clueless tourists.

    1. Dave, I just discussed a video in the comments. There are ‘clueless’ people who visit Saltees, unfortunately. Majority of visitors wouldn’t do any harm to the birds though. It is a disgrace to disturb these birds for a ‘good shot’, especially the nesting birds. They trust people enough when nest near the paths. They live here for decades and know that 90% of the visitors just quietly walk past or sit and enjoy what they see. If I want to take a picture of a bird doing something more than just sitting in the nest, I will wait and look around. There is so much action going on in the colony, that I don’t have to poke a bird with a selfie stick to make it act defensively or something like that. They fight a lot among themselves and do stuff. It is such fun to watch them. I left a link to the video in the comment. It is not acceptable what the author did.

  6. What a wonderful place to visit and see all those beautiful animals and birds..I bet it’s such a pleasure sitting there and watching everything around you..Hope you are well Inese x

  7. Hello dear Inese ❀
    What amazing views! And how lucky we are to "share" the moment with you.
    I agree, it's important to not take it for granted… How wonderful that these beautiful creatures can and do remember humans who simply want to admire them and mean no harm. Even those with cameras πŸ™‚ πŸ˜€ Wishing you a happy day, my friend.

    1. Thank you Takami! ❀ I do think they remember the cameras πŸ™‚ If they live up to 30 years and spend each summer on the island, they should remember a lot. I have never seen a gannet being aggressive towards photographers who sometimes set up their tripods quite close to the nests, but I have seen them almost kill each other when landed in the wrong place. This only means that the visitors don't do any harm to the birds, and I hope the birds won't be disappointed in humans, ever.

      1. Thank you for the clarification!
        I also sincerely hope that the human visitors will continue to view the birds with respect and that they will not be tired of our presence πŸ˜‰ ❀

            1. I was in shock. Bet he is not alone. I also disapprove tank photography of birds – like kingfishers. I think it is a bad ethics.

  8. You have such a talent, along with huge quantities of patience to get such fantastic photos. Thank you so much for generously sharing your wonderful insights with the rest of us…

  9. Love that photo of the last chick. It has some serious ‘stomping off in a temper’ attitude going on! πŸ˜€ … all wonderful photos, truly, but that one hit my funny-bone. πŸ˜€

    1. Cindy, it is quite a steep cliff, especially from the east, and I have to sit on my bottom and slowly move sideways, inch by inch πŸ™‚ Puffins have a huge lifespan and they sure remember and recognize harmless humans with their cameras πŸ™‚ Only the youngest birds make a few steps away from me when I get too close – like 2 m or less. Gannets let me come even closer. I just sit still, put my camera away and enjoy what I see. I have a theory that these birds are happy to have us humans around – we scare the predators away.

    1. There is also a great trail along the shore on mainland. I will share some pictures in my next blog, but I do want to come back and walk the whole 6 miles. I have met people who stay in Kilmore Quay for days, go to the island every day, go for a walk in the dunes, and enjoy the best seafood meals ever πŸ™‚

  10. Thank you for sharing these wonderful images. Some of the birds I had not known about before. And to see puffins and seals as well! What a beautiful experience to capture with your camera.

    1. Thank you so much! It is sort of the same thing every year since the breeding season is quite short and the birds are generally in the same places and even in the same nests and burrows, but they are so beautiful, I cannot stop sharing πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you so much! I am talking to them, that’s for sure. The birds are coming back to the same nests, it is why they seem to be accustomed to the people around. They remember us πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you so much! It is a delight to visit the island. I have written about the owners before, don’t want to repeat myself in every post :). Just thought it is important to remind that we shouldn’t take all this beauty for granted. This was the first time I came across two empty crisp bags on the path in two different places. I hope it wasn’t intentional littering.

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