black backed gull

Saltee Island: lost in the ferns

conmorant

This young European Shag was a juvenile when I saw him last year, almost in the same place, and here is his mama and his new brother or sister. I recognized him because of his distinctive shyness, in opposite to his mama who is bold and ill-tempered 🙂

cormorant

I have never seen a puffin chick. Something to look forward to.

All sorts of  seagulls in the island also have chicks around this time. The parents are standing on the top of the rocks watching their young, ready to swoop and attack an intruder.

Four species of seagulls breed on Saltees. Herring gull is on the Irish Red List of the most threatened bird species. In the 1980s there were about 500 pairs on Great Saltee, and now just over 50 pairs. Good that they can live up to 30 years.

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This Herring gull clearly enjoyed posing for a portrait.

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Two species of the Black-backed seagulls are nesting on the island. We didn’t want to upset the male perched on the rock and took pictures of the chicks from a distance. This is a Greater Black-backed gull, one of the largest gulls in the world. In one of my previous blogs, I have pictures of this gull in flight.

sea gull

Two fluffy Black-backed gull chicks enjoying the sun.

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After leaving the Gannet colony I suggested that we should explore the north side of the island. It looked like a green meadow sprinkled with some white flowers. Off we went, and on our way we came across some nests with the eggs and the chicks wandering around. The eggs belong to different species of the gulls. Later I googled ‘seagull eggs’, and was shocked as all the pages that came up were related to cooking and eating these eggs!

Most of the seagulls lay three eggs. One must be stolen from the nest.

sea gull eggs

These are the eggs of a Great Black-backed gull. The pair of them is nesting in exactly the same place as last year. You can enlarge the picture to see the chick use its egg tooth to break through the egg shell. It might take 24 hours or even longer.

egg

This speckled blue eggshell is quite big which means that it belongs to a seagull.

egg

A chick is hiding in the weeds and playing dead.

seagull

After that, our detour took a bad turn, literally. We turned to the East and gradually entered the area covered with the ferns. In the beginning we managed to keep to the frail path but it led us nowhere. The seagulls hated us. Then the thorns and brambles came into the picture, and the path completely disappeared. My companions suggested that we keep moving along the coast no matter what, but the green sea of ferns might hide dangerous holes and who knows what else – I didn’t want to dive in it again.

butterfly

We were right in the middle of the green area in the picture below. If you zoom it, you will see a stone wall crossing the island, with the seagulls perched on top of it. I suggested we walk to the wall, climb on it, and walk on top of the wall until we reach a surface free of vegetation. So we did. The wall wasn’t flat on top, of course. The rocks were sharp and slippy, I fell, and my backside stuck between the rocks like a keystone. If I were alone I would cry. Thankfully, I was lifted up and put on the straight and narrow again. After a while we reached the main path and thus escaped being consumed by ferns. Lesson learned – keep to the main path because there is no other.

ferns

Beautiful weather had changed and the drizzle started to thicken. Suddenly the dark clouds opened in the middle revealing a perfect rectangle. Was it some sort of a message?

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Another surprise – two pairs of ringed pigeons. How did they make it to the island?

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On our way to the boat we returned to the Puffin cliffs.

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I just cannot stop taking pictures of puffins. This one came running – sweet, funny bird!

puffin puffin

Thank you for sharing the dangers of this trip with me! The last blog about Saltee Islands is coming next Saturday!

inese_mj_photographyHave a wonderful weekend!

Saltee Islands – treasure bigger than money -part 2

Saltee_Islands

(Click on the photographs to enlarge them)

First three hours were gone in a blink. It is the magic of Puffins.  I was on my way to the Cat Cliff on the Southern end of the island – the land of the Northern Gannets.

Great Saltee island ascends from 3-5m high shore on the mainland side to 20-30m high cliffs on its south-eastern side. The Southern Summit rises to an altitude of 58m.

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I was walking along a stone wall, and after it ended the path took steep up through the waist-high ferns.

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On the summit I made a stop to take a picture. It was still foggy.

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A Great black backed gull was standing on a rock. I came closer. It is a large bird, a predator attacking and killing even the far larger animals and birds, and I didn’t want to take a risk. Yet, I didn’t notice the chicks until they ran and hid themselves, and only then I knew I was in trouble.  The last thing I needed was to be struck by a gull! I turned back and walked away as fast as  I could without running in panic, while the gull’s partner repeatedly flew over my head diving low enough to touch my hair.  With its wingspan of 150-170cm the attacking gull was as good as a small aircraft.

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I caught up with the other photographers and we headed to the Cat Cliff barely visible in the mist.

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There was another gull – a male with no chicks around ( we will see them later).

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To get to the Cat Cliff takes an effort, but it was a fun climb because of the many species of the sea birds and their young we met on our way.  Look at these Razorbills with their soft fluffy bellies.

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A young Common shag looks from under the rock…

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…and makes a careful step with his clumsy webbed foot.

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An adult bird is different, all shiny and beautiful.

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This is the place. A small colony of Gannets are settled on the left from the Cat Cliff. We don’t go there  – it is a steep cliff and very little room for a tripod.

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This is the Cat Cliff itself.

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I sat there enjoying the sight, and took this panorama. Unfortunately there is no sky because of the thick fog.

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We came very close to the nesting birds, but they didn’t mind. They have lived a long life, and have seen it all…

In my previous posts,  there are more facts  and more different photographs. If you are interested, you can go back and read these post –   I have reblogged them.

Here you can listen to the gannet call. Multiply it by couple of thousand  🙂

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The sky is crawling with Gannets.

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After landing the birds perform a “dance”.

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Saltee_Islands

Sometimes they bring some weeds.

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Saltee_Islands

Under every rock there is a chick. I have no idea what bird they belong to.

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This one looks different.

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And finally I see them – the chicks of the Great black backed gull I photographed in the flight. Their mother is standing next to them and looking at me with the menacing red eye. They are so tiny and innocent, but the fact is that three more killers will join the party soon. Sorry for the Puffins…

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Look at this tiny wing 🙂

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Who can find the chicks in this photograph in 10 seconds?  🙂

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On the way back the sky cleared for a few minutes and I took another picture of the island.

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We also got to see the seals.

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The boat was coming in an hour.  I started getting nervous.  This photograph of a tiny rock that stuck between the big rocks forever shows exactly how I felt.

Saltee_Islands

We went down to the Boulder Beach and sat there looking in the mist. Our motorboats finally came, the inflatable boats took us six at a time on board, and off we went again. Lucky me. The wind was not that strong, and I had never left the deck this time, all soaked in seawater but perfectly well and happy.

Thank you for reading about my adventures!

IneseMjPhotographyHave a great weekend!