bird photography

Birds of River Suir

stonechat

Looking into the viewfinder I spotted a tiny bird flitting about in the waist-high vegetation before it landed on top of the cement pole.

stonechat

The bird looked like a young female, and later I learned it was a European stonechat. It was flipping from one pole to another, and finally settled so I could take these pictures. After about a minute of chirping there came a male stonechat.

stonechat

I don’t know if they were a couple; they rather looked like a dad and a teenage daughter.

stonechat stonechat

stonechat

Dad? Dad?????!!!!!

stonechat

Your pole looks nicer. Can I come over?

stonechat

No way. Stay where you are!

stonechat

Didn’t you hear me? Don’t even try!

But she already took off and landed almost on top of his head.

stonechat

Daddy! Wait!

I walked about a mile and sat on a bench to rest and enjoy the evening light. A Grey heron was standing in the middle of the river, quiet and patient skinny bird looking grave and funny at the same time. I thought I might stay and wait for him to catch a fish.

heron

No such luck. He changes position, striking at imaginary prey.

heron

heron

heron

heron

heron

heron

Maintaining his dignity he takes off and departs. So do I.

heron

heron

Another half an hour back to the parking lot. Stress management: accomplished 🙂

river suir

Photography tip of the day: There is a link to the page where professional photographers share their advice. I have noticed ( and not only in this article) that the younger photographers often use the word “confidence” . Their older colleagues don’t seem to care:)

inese_mj_photographyHave a great week!

Golden faces, silver eyes and blue eyelids.

saltees

It started raining. Creeping from one rock to another I was finally done with photographing the puffins willing to pose.

I looked around and saw that my peeps took off and started to disappear one by one in the sea of ferns. So I hurried after them.

Saltee islands

Our next destination was Gannet Headland, a nesting ground for the Northern gannets. You cannot see the place before you climb up to the highest point of the island through the high ferns and then walk down to the rugged cliffs. Then you just stop there, speechless.

gannet colony

gannet colony

The gannet is Europe’s largest sea bird with a wingspan up to 2 metres. The adults are white and the young birds are very dark  brown. It takes 5 years for them to reach maturity and start breeding. They say there are two thousand couples nesting there on the island. The gannets make their nests from seaweeds, feathers and human made materials found in the water.

gannet

gannet

gannet

Gannet with a bunch of seaweed to furnish the nest.

gannet

Gannets hunt fish by plunge-diving from a remarkable height into the sea and then using their wings and feet to swim deeper. After returning from the sea they have this gentle ritual of affection with the other partner, preening and touching the bills.

gannet

The young chick reaches deep into its parent’s throat for its meal of partially digested fish.

gannet

The parent birds take turns warming the eggs and protecting the chicks.

gannet

The gannets are very vocal:)

gannet

As you can see, there are some couples with very young chicks, naked and helpless, and some with the older ones, covered with soft white down.

gannet

gannet

Gannets have very interesting features. For example, they have no external nostrils: they are located inside the mouth. Their eyes are positioned slightly up to the front which gives them a better view.

There is my reflection in the gannet’s eye:)

gannet

Clumsy on take-offs and landings the gannets are powerful fliers with an impressive wing span.

gannet

gannet

Now I want to share something sad. Please read this article…

Gold-faced, silver-eyed, gracious birds… Isn’t there anything else to eat in this century?

There are also other species of birds on the island. This is a Herring gull in its flight.

herring gull

This is a Fulmar.

Fulmar

These are the  Blackback gull chicks.

great blackback gull chick

great blackback gull chicks

This angry bird is a Shag. Shags breed colonially between the rocks and in sea caves.

shag

shag

This is the island owners’ house. We were heading to the shelter to hide from the rain and wait for our boat.

saltees

The ferrying boat could not come closer, so we had to  be carried over there by an inflatable boat.

saltees

Little and Great Saltee islands on the horizon.  It was one of the most memorable trips in my life.

saltees

saltees

I hope you enjoyed this trip with me. You can click on the pictures to make them bigger. They are all resized for the web with resolution 72, so you won’t have problems opening them. Same for the previous post about the Puffins.

Photography tip of the day: When you are going to take pictures of sea birds, not having a telephoto shouldn’t stop you – the birds let you come close enough.  These pictures were taken with a 70-200, but you can bring any lens you have.  The settings matter, as I wrote in the previous post, and your vision matters. I wanted to get dreamy, a little bit grainy pictures with blurred background. Also watch your white colors. It is important  to see the details on the white feathers,  otherwise they look like burnt-out spots.

inesemjphotographyHave a great week!

 

Saltee Islands, a place where birds rule

Saltees

Our Camera Club had an outing to Great Saltee island for bird photography. Before the trip I did a research as I always do, which helps me not miss anything important and regret it afterwards. There is a website with beautiful photographs where you can learn more about the owners of the Islands. I don’t know if anybody ever met them when visiting Great Saltee, but I am sure they are wonderful and hospitable people. They have a shelter behind their home: a kitchen packed with bottled water and basic utensils for those who might get stuck on the island because of the weather, and two beds upstairs. We used the shelter while waiting for the boat to pick us up: the rain shortened our visit by two hours…

If you plan this trip you might find useful the Trip Advisor comments and Captain Declan Bates’ telephone number to arrange the boat and ask your questions:  353-53 9129684, mobile: 353-87 529 736. The boat leaves from Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford. Late May – mid June would be the best time for the trip.

I found this 1837 report about the Saltees; was surprised to learn that the islands were populated in the past. There  even used to be a church on Great Saltee, but now the island is a home to thousands of sea birds. I have never been so close to any bird except may be some ducks, and this closeness to the beautiful, gracious creatures filled me with sense of awe and reverence.

Some of the  birds are nesting on the side of the path. Great Saltee is a busy place, sometimes about a hundred people are wandering around the island all the day, and having a nest on the side of the path sounds like a strange choice. But it is their island, their nesting ground, and they can do as they like. We are their guests and we are the ones who have to respect their rules.  Earlier this week I had two conversations and one argument about the same subject: tourists/ immigrants/ temporary residents and their behavior in a foreign country. Here is my opinion: 1. If people are rude, stupid, arrogant, selfish, irresponsible, annoying while abroad, you bet they are the same at home. 2. Before judging the locals and their ways remember that you can leave when you please but they will have to stay and keep that country going as did their ancestors. You are not the one to teach them how to, and you would only benefit if you learn something from them 3. They might don’t like you. You can sometimes complain if you are not happy, it is OK, but don’t be a fool, don’t do it on Facebook or any social media! And never over-generalize and call a whole nation names.

So, this is what I was thinking about as I watched a colony of Gannets as they go about their routine. 200 species of birds have been recorded on Saltees, most of them migratory. Many species are nesting there, and I took pictures of some.

I have got many nice shots, so I though I could make two posts instead of one. I leave the Gannets for my Tuesday post.

I will start with the Razorbills, the first birds I saw as we walked towards the cliffs. The smaller, brownish birds in the pictures are Common guillemots.

Saltees

Saltees

Saltees

Saltees

Puffins. My dreams fulfilled! I was dreaming to see a puffin since I was a child. When I saw my first puffin from the boat my heart skipped a beat. Neat little fellas with comical faces and clumsy manner of flying mate for life and dig a burrow where they return every year to raise a chick. They feel more comfortable in the water; flying isn’t their forte. Probably it is why they take as much fish as they can hold.

Saltees

Saltees

Saltees

Saltees

Saltees

A Fulmar photobombing:)

Saltees

Saltees

Saltees

Saltees

Puffin’s  home.

Saltees

Saltees

Saltees

Saltees

Saltees

Saltees

To be continued.

Photography tip of the day: Taking pictures of birds be patient, focus on the eye, use the fastest shutter speed you can ( you might want to increase ISO) or use “Sport” setting.

inesemjphotographyHave a great weekend!