puffins

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 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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā

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: big adventure 2016

puffin

Sweet puffin looks at me with his wise grey eye. ¬†Another hour on the island and the boat will come to pick us up. I don’t want to leave. I want to stay there, on the edge of the cliff, and see what he sees.

puffin

The aquamarine blue water turns a shade darker.

saltee

There is a dark cloud coming from the East, and it means rain.

saltee

Before long it was raining lazily, and the¬†raindrops sat on the puffin’s back and head, like diamond beads.

puffin puffin

I have had a fabulous time and took many photographs. I photographed¬†birds perched¬†on the cliffs, and in flight, from the front and from behind, …

saltees

seabirds

… single and in groups.

saltees

We even saw a family of partridges and a rabbit.

rabbit

It is time to leave.

saltee

Enjoy this short video from Saltee Islands website .

We take the stairs down to the rocky shore, and walk along the water edge taking photographs of everything that lies around.

saltees 2 152

saltees 2 143

Huge thanks to the Neale family who have turned the islands into the bird sanctuary, and set up a shelter for those who might get stuck on the island overnight.

saltee islands

Our boat arrived with more photographers on board. This group will stay until the dark to take pictures of the sunset. The rubber dinghy is speeding towards the shore. It is also named after a bird. Guess which? A Puffin! ūüôā

saltees

This is Declan Bates, the captain of  An Crosan, The Razorbill. Last August Captain Bates spotted an overturned boat that capsized near Great Saltee Island. Ten people had been in water for five hours. They were rescued and taken by An Crosan to Kilmore Quay. Nine of them survived.

Thank you for the safe trip, captain!

Captain Declan Bates

I do hope you enjoyed this trip, extended over so many blog posts ūüôā

Don’t lose connection with the beautiful things of the world. Everything else won’t last long.

inesemjphotography Have a wonderful weekend!

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 ūüôā

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.

sea gull

This Herring gull clearly enjoyed posing for a portrait.

sea gull sea gull

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.

seagull

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?

saltees

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

saltees

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

saltee

I just cannot stop taking pictures of puffins. This one came running Рsweet, 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 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! ūüėČ

inese_mj_photography Have a wonderful weekend!