gannets

Saltee Islands – All Things Beautiful

As I said in my previous post, to get to the Gannet place we have to first cross the Black-backed gull land. Great Black-backed gull is the largest of the gulls, and is described as a “merciless tyrant”. They can be fierce and aggressive at their nests, but I have no intention to bother them, and I know there are no chicks that early in the year. The gulls are perched on the rocks and become agitated as I get closer. Apparently they don’t understand the message I am sending them with my body language. One of them is trying to attack me. I keep walking and pretend I don’t hear, so he finally leaves me alone and returns to his rock. I turn around and take a picture ūüôā Then I hurry away.

Saltee Island Great

Just before the Cat Cliff comes into sight, I see another Black-backed gull with a tiny crab in its bill.

Black-backed gull

Finally I reach the Cat Cliff. This place always makes me emotional and fills me with reverence for the mystery of life. Beautiful big birds are so vulnerable here keeping the eggs warm, protecting the young.

Saltee Island Great

While climbing down the cliff, I have to pass by a clan of European Shags whose matriarch is an ill-tempered bird that starts hissing way before I come close. This year her young and very shy son finally has his own family. Now there are three nests altogether. I didn’t want to bother the hissing mama and the shy lad, and took a few pictures of the third Shag with two chicks and a Razorbill in background. Shag looks similar to Cormorant, but they are two different birds, easily distinguished from each other: Shag is smaller and has emerald green eyes and green sheen on the feathers. Also the European Shag’s tail has 12 feathers and the Great Cormorant’s 14 feathers. European Shag chicks hatch over a two day interval – it is why one chick looks much bigger than the other.

Saltee Island Great

These two Gannets are familiar to me. Their nests are perched at the very edge of the cliff so I always have to pass by them.

Saltee Island Great

I make myself comfortable on a big flat rock, and when the Gannets take off and land I feel like on Maho beach ūüėČ

gannet

Saltee Island Great

This is not a fight, but an act of affection ūüôā

Saltee Island Great

A perfect bird.

Saltee Island Great

Synchronized flight.

Saltee Island Great

Watching gannet landings, I forget about time.

gannet

gannet

gannet

I would sit on that rock and admire the gannets until dark, but it is time to start moving as the boat is back in an hour.

I safely pass the Black-backs territory and stop at the highest point to enjoy the beautiful view. You can see the Little Saltee in background.

Saltee Island Great

I walk through the carpets of blue and white.

And of course, Sea Pink.

Oystercatcher’s loud, panicked voice calls me back from my daydreams.

I take one last glance around. This is the Makestone, the largest islet at the southern side of the Great Saltee.

Makestone Islet

Little Saltee looks close when zoomed out. In fact, the channel between the islands is about a mile wide and 30 f deep.

At this time of the year, puffins spend most of their time at sea. I have only seen four puffins during this trip. They will return later, after we leave the island. I am glad they are safe here.

Saltee Island Great

Saltee Island Great

An Crosan – The Razorbill – will take us back to Kilmore Quay. Two seals bathing in shallow waters are not afraid of Cap’n Declan and his dinghy.

Saltee Island Great

Thank you for visiting, exploring and discovering all things beautiful. Hope you put Saltee Islands in your itinerary for next June.

Saltee Island Great

www.inesemjphotography.com Have a wonderful week!

Saltee Island: meet the Gannets

gannet

Visiting the Gannet nesting site was so much fun. I didn’t get the picture I wanted, but I got something really cool, anyway.

Sometimes Gannets bring in nesting materials Рsea weeds, grass, any rubbish they can pick up in the water. This one had got a great catch!

His lady wasn’t impressed though.

gannets gannets

Their body language was so expressive and funny that I couldn’t stop smiling. I know, I humanize them too much, and it could be that the gift was totally accepted and relationship established. As to me, I have got many funny pictures.

The Gannet dances is something to see. I have some pictures of the courtship dances in my previous blogs, but this time I caught a single young male Gannet dancing like no one is watching.

gannets

I hoped to get a good picture of a landing Gannet, but they all landed in an opposite direction or sideways. Gannet is a huge bird that takes a whole frame to fit in, even diagonally.

gannet

gannet

gannet

gannet

I have got many ‘portraits’ and played with them in¬†Photoshop.

gannet

This photograph of a landing Gannet is here to show you¬†what exactly I wanted to capture: the bird ‘stalling’ in the air, its legs positioned towards the rear of the body, and its¬†webbed feet stretched forward. ¬†Everything like in this picture,¬†but¬†from the front.

gannet

Another dance.

gannet gannet

On every ledge of rock there is a nest made of seaweeds, feathers and multicolored bits of rope and fishing net. This female has a very young chick, featherless, with the dark blue skin.

gannet

This chick is at least two weeks old ball of fluffy down.

gannet

Gannets could be very aggressive, both males and females. In this picture you see two gannets trying to kill the third one. Its neck is almost snapped in half, and I don’t know about the outcome because we were leaving the colony at that time.

gannets

It is what I saw from the cliff when I turned back to look at the Gannet nesting site one more time. The main colony looks much smaller than last year. May be the sub-colony on the left side is growing bigger? I hope so. I stood there in awe Рyou cannot get used to the sight like this one. The air was filled with the sound of the wind, breaking waves, and the distant harsh cries of the Gannets. See you next year, beautiful birds!

gannet rock

A Youtube video for you to enjoy ūüôā

Thank you for joining me in my trip!

More to follow.

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 Рthe 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.

Saltee_Islands

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

saltees

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

Saltee_Islands

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.

Saltee_Islands

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

Saltee_Islands

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

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

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.

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

A young Common shag looks¬†from under the rock…

Saltee_Islands

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

Saltee_Islands

An adult bird is different, all shiny and beautiful.

Saltee_Islands

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.

Saltee_Islands

This is the Cat Cliff itself.

Saltee_Islands

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

Saltee_Islands

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 Р  I have reblogged them.

Here you can listen to the gannet call. Multiply it¬†by couple of thousand ¬†ūüôā

Saltee_Islands

The sky is crawling with Gannets.

Saltee_Islands

After landing the¬†birds perform a “dance”.

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

Sometimes they bring some weeds.

Saltee_Islands

Saltee_Islands

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

Saltee_Islands

This one looks different.

Saltee_Islands

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…

Saltee_Islands

Look at this tiny wing ūüôā

Saltee_Islands

Who can find the chicks in this photograph in 10 seconds? ¬†ūüôā

Saltee_Islands

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

saltees

We also got to see the seals.

Saltee_Islands

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!

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!