Nature

Robin, little creatures and a Royal Fern in the woods

robin

There are so many Robin pictures in this post that I decided to link it¬†to Robin’s blog Witlessdatingafterfifty ūüôā Please visit and follow!

So, I met this handsome little Robin, distracted him with a small talk and took out my camera. I kept talking and shooting, and he didn’t mind much and didn’t fly away because he was in his mid-moult at that time. It takes energy to build new feathers…

robin

…¬†and it is itchy too.

robin

Robin changed his position and turned back to see if I still was there.

robin

I still was. He looked at me disapprovingly, and I quietly retired blowing him a kiss for a ‘thank you’.

robin

Here is another example of moulting – a grasshopper ‘skin’ we found in the backyard.

moulting

It is not a skin, of course, but his exoskeleton. To know more about grasshopper moulting, ¬†watch this short video accompanied by¬†romantic music.¬†ūüôā

I saw this colorful piece of land in my car window and made a note to visit it on my way back. It wasn’t easy to find it again but after the¬†series of U-turns I finally parked on the opposite side of the road and took many photographs for a future use.

meadow

In this meadow, there are three weeds in bloom: Meadowsweet, Purple Loosestrife and unwelcome Ragwort.

This is Meadowsweet, a very popular herb of many uses I wrote about in my blog in 2014.

dropwort

The other plant is Purple Loosestrife. This is a closer look. Loosestrife is a very effective cure in case of chronic diarrhea and dysentery.

suir

From a distance, Loosestrife looks very similar to Rosebay, another great herb. If you struggle to put a name to a plant, here is a very good website Irish Plants by Color.

rosebay

The Ragwort seems like being good for nothing since it is toxic for the cattle and horses. Yet, Ragwort provides food and home for at least 77 species of insects, including Cinnabar moth.

cinnabar

Cinnabar moth’s larvae absorb toxic and bitter tasting¬†alkaloids from Ragwort, and predators don’t eat them.

cinnabar

Another two little creatures I want to share –¬†a¬†funnel weaver¬†spider…

spider

… and a hunting¬†wasp Ammophila.

Ammophila

Both insects are great builders. Ammophila wasps even use small pebbles to hammer the earth when they make their nests. They hold the pebbles in their jaws.

Some creatures and plants are so amazing, that they get immortalized in mythology. Like Fern. Or, rather, Fern Flower. This magic flower from Finnish, Baltic and Slavic mythology can be found around the Summer Solstice. According to different myths, it can either give you an access to earthly riches and hidden treasures, or be a symbol of fertility and relationship, and searching for the fern flower in the dark of the shortest night of the year is a big part of celebration.

In fact, ferns are not flowering plants. However the clusters of sporangia of Royal Fern do resemble flowers. Especially in the dark ūüôā

royal fern

Such fern grows¬†in the Carey Castle woods, where I took this photograph. It wasn’t exactly the Summer Solstice night¬†though ūüôā


James Herriot, the most famous veterinary surgeon, was born 100 years ago, on October 3rd 1916. If you didn’t read his books yet, please do! I celebrated his birthday by rereading All Creatures Great And Small.¬†

James Herriot

Thank you for stopping by¬†! ūüôā

inesemjphotography  Have a wonderful weekend!

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!