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!


  1. Oh dear, I have been away from WordPress for a while, too long, apologies!!! But seeing your beautiful photos made me smile, I love way you see animals, birds, such a lovely feeling shines through ❤

  2. My fav after the first, is 8 down. the feet are wonderful. I see why you call these babas pufflings.

    1. Thank you! This one is a grown up bird. Pufflings are black 🙂 I have never seen one in the wild. Something to look forward.

  3. Thank you so very much for the tour, puffins, gannets, bunny and all. Your photograph is beyond excellent and I envy your obvious rapport with the birds. Again, thank you.

    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 🙂 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.

  4. 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.

      The fulmars hover very close just out of curiosity. They are funny birds 🙂

      1. Thanks so much for the tips and link, Inese, much appreciated. I have pasted and copied them into my Ireland folder for future reference. 🙂

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

  5. Thanks so much for this delightful post full of lovely puffins and lots more, Inese!! A puffling! – now that’s a new word I’m in love with!! 😄xxxxxxxxxx

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