Great Saltee

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 🙂 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 😉

gannet

Saltee Island Great

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

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 Islands – the colours of May

Kilmore Quay

This time I visited Great Saltee island in May, a month earlier than I usually do.  Kilmore Quay marina is busy as always, and Razorbill, the boat we will travel on, is moored at her usual place near the slipway.

I have a couple of minutes to take a few pictures. Love the name of this fishing boat 🙂 Once again I remember my good intention to purchase myself an inflatable float vest… Next time for sure!

Kilmore quay

The sea is smooth, and our 5 km trip lasts only 15 minutes.

“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

Great Saltee

Michael the First, then farmer’s son Michael Neale, bought the islands in 1943.

“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

From the bird’s view Obelisk is in the shape of the Maltese Cross. Each side of the Obelisk has inscriptions, and on the front, under the image of the Prince, it reads:

“Nothing is impossible to the man who can, will, then do. / This is the only law of success. This monument was erected by Prince Michael the First as a symbol to all children that be hard work, perseverance, their dreams and ambitions  may also be realised”.

Saltee Islands

The Chair, or the Throne, is dedicated to his mother.

” This chair is erected in memory of my mother to whom I made a vow when I was ten years old that one day I would own the Saltee Islands and become the First Prince of the Saltees. Henceforth, my heirs and successors can only proclaim themselves Prince of these Islands by sitting in this chair fully garbed in the robes and crown of the Islands and take the Oath of Succession”. Michael the First

Saltee Islands

The Islands have a long history and they used to be inhabited and farmed. There is a rumor that the Islands were accidentally made by the Devil himself while he was being chased by St Patrick. The evil creature took two handfuls of rocks from the Comeragh Mountains between Lemybrian and Kilmacthomas,  and then dropped them on the run in the Celtic Sea.  St Patrick built a causeway, just a mile from Kilmore Quay, to connect the islands to the mainland. It is dangerous to swim around the St Patrick’s causeway because of the very strong riptides. When the tide is in, the causeway is almost completely submerged. Don’t try to walk in the shallow water – the current is very strong and will sweep you off your feet.

But let’s get to the point. I am here to see the puffins 🙂

Saltee Islands

puffin

puffin

This trip was different, and I only saw four puffins. Every year they return to the same place.

I took off across the island to see the Gannets. The island looks beautiful in May. Bluebells and Sea Campions painted it in blue and white.

Saltee Islands

Saltee Islands

I saw two Eurasian Rock Pipit couples in exactly the same place as the year before.

Saltee Islands

Rock Pipit

I also saw unusually many Cinnabar butterflies, all over the place. On a closer inspection, they were all dead! This one was being consumed by a spider…

The path turned to the edge of the cliff. This is a young Lesser Black-backed gull.

Gracious Guillemots don’t mind posing for a picture.

Guillemot

Saltee Islands

I am approaching the highest point of the island. An almost vertical climb will take me to the land of Great Black-backed gulls. More pictures next week.

Thank you for your company! You are the best.

Saltee Islands

Here you can find some of my previous post about Saltee Islands.

2014, 2015, 2016

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 – sea 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 – you 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 🙂

Thank you for joining me in my trip!

More to follow.

inese_mj_photographyHave a wonderful weekend!

Saltee Island: off to see the Puffins

Kilmore Quay

It is the time of the year when I go to see the Puffins. I have written four blogs about Saltee Islands, and I don’t want to repeat myself writing about the birds and their biology again. If you love sea birds, you might be interested in reading the following links to my previous posts:

https://inesemjphotography.com/2014/06/28/saltee-islands-a-place-where-birds-rule/

https://inesemjphotography.com/2014/06/30/golden-faces-silver-eyes-and-blue-eyelids/

https://inesemjphotography.com/2015/06/23/saltee-islands-treasure-bigger-than-money-part-1/

https://inesemjphotography.com/2015/06/27/saltee-islands-treasure-bigger-than-money-part-2/

In the opening picture, you see the Kilmore Quay port. The red boat is our trusted An Crosán, or Razorbill in Gaelic.

I have a half an hour before the boarding to walk around and take some pictures of the fishing gear.

fishing gear fishing gear

The weather is mild and the sea is smooth. With the back wind, we make the trip in 15 minutes.

Saltee trip

A group of photographers are waiting for the boat to pick them up – they came to the island before the sunrise. It is what I am going to do next year.

Great Saltee

We walk up the steps, pass the owners house, walk to the throne and turn left. It is where I always start my walk to the Gannet cliff and back. This time I decided to explore some other parts of the island too. Later I will share with you what came out of that idea.

Great Saltee

My first Puffins this year! These birds are too young to start a family, so they are hanging out with their neighbours.

puffin

When I see Puffins, there is no force in the whole Universe that could stop me from taking pictures! I don’t own a telephoto lens, so I have to get as close as I can to the birds. For that, I sit down and slowly slide to the cliff edge, inch by inch.

puffin

saltee 1 070 saltee 1 099_1

This face is one of the funniest and sweetest faces on Earth. A grey eye looks at me knowingly and intelligently. ‘A human with a camera, another one? Want me to stay still do you?

puffin

The water changes color as the sun pops out of the clouds, all the shades of cobalt blue, turquoise  and aquamarine twinkling like precious stones.

Great Saltee

We are slowly moving along the cliff edge in the direction of the Gannet nesting site, taking photographs on the way. I like this cove and always take a picture. The cliff drops down to the ocean almost vertically.

saltee islands

Another puffin, another picture. We keep to the path away from the cliff edge and begin our climb to the highest point of the island.

puffin

On the left from the path, all is green and looks like lush grass. It is not. Most of the island is covered with ferns that can grow up to the height of 4.5 f. Between the ferns, there grow briars and brambles of all sorts. I will tell you more about that part of the island later.

Great Saltee

From here, the path climbs through the ferns up the hill almost vertically. A tiny rabbit, not bigger than my fist, springs from under my feet.

The real view from the summit is much more beautiful than any photograph I have ever seen.

Great Saltee

We turn around and resume our hike to the Gannet Cliff. The sight of thousands of nesting birds and the sound of their voices is one of the Nature’s  most magnificent  spectacles. My heart is beating in anticipation as I walk closer to the cliff edge where we start our descent down to the Gannet colony.

More to follow. Thank you for loving the Puffins! 😉

inese_mj_photography Have a wonderful weekend!